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There’s no such thing as Puerto Rican pride

Puerto RicoThousands of Puerto Ricans marched through Midtown Manhattan waving Puerto Rican flags of all sizes. Admittedly, I wasn’t there, but growing up in Humboldt Park, I know with certainty that the atmosphere was thick with puertorriqueñidad.

The Puerto Rican Pride Parade (as it’s known) has been an annual feature in N.Y.C. since 1958 – a harmless fact for the uninitiated in Puerto Rican history.

Nineteen fifty-eight was the year after the infamous Ley del La Mordaza was repealed. Referred to in English as “the Gag Law,” it placed a ban on all displays of the Puerto Rican flag, any patriotic music and any talk of the island’s controversial political status.

Yet, even before the Gag Law was enacted in 1948, the “Star and Stripes” was already a subversive banner. The flag was first introduced in the 1890s by the Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico, a group of patriotas led by Ramón Emeterio Betances (among others) who fought for separation from Spain (the same group that organized the Grito de Lares rebellion in 1868.)

After U.S. troops invaded the island in 1898 and installed a colonial government, federal law prohibited all flags except the flag of the United States. For the next 50 years, the Puerto Rican flag would be displayed at pro-independence gatherings as a show of defiance against U.S. control of the island. It became a rebel banner for the militant, pro-independence Nationalist Party led by Don Pedro Albizu Campos.

When the Puerto Rican Constitution was ratified in 1952, Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín adopted the flag as the official banner of the newly-created Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. As historian Nancy Morris wrote in 1995:

“The official adoption of ‘the old separatist flag’ has been interpreted by some as a ploy by Muñoz Marín to ‘neutralize the independentistas in his own party.’ The Independence Party itself, with which the flag had been associated, accused the Puerto Rican government of ‘corrupting beloved symbols’ and ordered that the flag be flown at half-mast for two days … in protest of the new commonwealth arrangement and the ‘captive’ flag.”

To see the beloved banner of their revolution co-opted by the colonial government must’ve been unbearable for the men and women who dedicated their lives to Puerto Rican independence – people like Nationalist leader Lolita Lebrón, who in 1954 shouted “¡Viva Puerto Rico libre!” while unfurling the flag in the U.S. House of Representatives, before she opened fire.

I am an American of Puerto Rican descent on my father’s side, and as such, the history of Puerto Rico and its current political status makes me less proud to be an American and a Puerto Rican. How can I be proud of a government that claims to be the shining light of democracy in the world and yet has imposed an undemocratic government on a people for over a century? And how can I be proud of an island that has been no more than a piece of someone else’s property for over 500 years?

That’s why I say with regret that there’s no such thing as Puerto Rican pride, because property isn’t proud – nor is the slave, who is bought and sold like a hat.

As a Puerto Rican, I can’t even look at the Puerto Rican flag without feeling anything but deep sadness. As an American, I wave it in defiance against all colonial governments, including my own.

About Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.

Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., is the associate editor at Being Latino and a native son of Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. He received a B.A. in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States. While at UIC, he worked first as a staff writer for the Chicago Flame and later became the newspaper's Opinions editor. He contributes to various Chicago-area publications, most notably, the RedEye and Gozamos. He's also a cultural critic for 'LLERO magazine. He has maintained a personal blog since 2007, YoungObservers.blogspot.com, where he discusses topics ranging from political history and philosophy to culture and music.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

Comments

  1. Daniel Ruiz says:

    Spoken like a true Independentista de afruera. I have heard it all from your type and its tired. “America is an Imperial Power” “Boricuas are slaves” “a mere colony” “dumb jibaros who need to be told what to do by mainland Ricans “. Mainland Ricans crack me up. You think because you spent maybe a summer with your family in PR you have the right to insult its people and tell them how to live.

    We get it. Independents are angry that millions of Puerto Ricans have not voted to become independent when given the chance. That they have the audacity to think differently than you. But like I have every other independentista I have met, just come up with a political plan to sell to Puerto Ricans. Insulting them because they have not voted for Independence will get you no where.

    If you have no pride that is all on you.

  2. Karen says:

    I understand where you are coming from with this piece. On the other hand, Daniel and Anthony both make excellent points. Before you make the charge “There’s no such thing as puerto rican pride.”, you must really set up your assumptions and explain the context. Judging this piece on writing alone–an irresponsible, half-assed article rife with self-loathing. Cuidado–cause I’m not even puerto rican. Daniel is correct in that, throwing insults will get you nowhere, and that your views are obviously limited. Anthony makes the point that there is more to puerto rican pride than the “Independence” argument. Surely, if the independence argument conjures shame, then you might have deeper issues about puerto rico than you let on. I for one frequent the puerto rican day parade in NYC, and am a fan of the culture with all its stereotypes and claims of authenticity and/or lack thereof. But in the face of all those screaming, exuberant dare I say Proud puerto ricans celebrating themselves–you make the claim no pride exists? You are incorrect sir, and you need to check yourself. Swimming against the current does NOT always make you cool…sometimes it just makes you tired–like your PR issues. Sad, because I normally like reading your contributions.

    -Disappointed.

  3. Very disapointed by this article, although i can agree to disagree. Pride is whithin you or its not, thats yur choice. But its unfair to make a blanket statement like this. Millions of puertoricans ,mainland or not….have pride, live with pride, and its justified whether you agree or not.

  4. Javier Lugo says:

    Heart, spirit, endurance, perseverance, faith, hope. These qualities help define how someone can feel pride in identifying themselves with a certain identity, be it homosexual, christian, democrat, poor, southerner, Met fan or puertorican.
    There is much more to being proud than just politics and a slanted view of the history of the island. It is the people and their dreams, desires and actions that define a culture. No matter what, puerto ricans can and do take pride in never giving up on their cultural identity. The way we speak, the way we cook, work and play, the way we party and the way we grieve, these help define our culture. We are proud because we can stand up and say “We are here! We change but we do not yield!”
    Remember that we are outsiders here in the US and strangers among hispanic countries. Perhaps only Hawaiians are in a similar situation: a unique culture that strives to preserve its cultural heritage while politically overthrown by the USA.
    While every country and culture has things that reflect the worst of their nature, there are also things that you can take pride in, as well.
    Puerto Ricans have served proudly in th US military since before WW II, we have produced great painters, writers, actors, performers, athletes, scientists, in essence we are a good people that have contributed to the society we live in, be it on the island or here in the States.
    You too can be proud of your PRican heritage. You just have to find the right reason. So go out there and find a raeson to be proud. Dont accept the negativity that you’ve been surrounded by without challenging its validity.

  5. RAIMUNDO ROSADO says:

    I totally disagree with your statement “that there’s no such thing as Puerto Rican pride”. First of all, you may not have any Puerto Rican pride, but please do not include me in your statement. You have no right to tell the millions of Puerto Ricans in their homeland or abroad that there is no Pride in being Puerto Rican. I see and live Puerto Rican Pride everyday of my life. I live among proud, hardworking and caring Puerto Ricans that make me proud everyday. I came to America at an early age and I have been working hard ever since I’ve arrived, just like many Puerto Ricans before me and after me. We have bled in the wars of this country with pride; we serve in the Armed Forces, we serve as Police Officers, Firemen, Nurses, Doctors, School Teachers, Laborers, and many other occupations that are the backbone of this country’s economy. We too have suffered, and still suffer, the injustices of discrimination and persecution in this country. We have done it all and paved the way for many other Latinos from many other great Nations to come to his country and prosper. So, please don’t ever tell us that we have no Puerto Rican Pride or no reason to be Proud.
    You are confusing the Island’s political status with Puerto Rican Pride, there is a great difference. And though the history of Puerto Rican and American relationships may have its dark side, you must realize that all countries have some dark history. In my honest opinion, opinion being the key word, Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States has been very beneficial. We are not starving, we live fairly well, we have access to education, medicine, and live protected. I, for one, do not feel conquered by the U.S., but I do feel appreciative of the opportunities that this country has afforded me and my family. So, I tell you with great PUERTO RICAN PRIDE that I am PROUD to be Puerto Rican and an AMERICAN also. Open your eyes, look around you, and if you are among your Puerto Rican people you will see that we are not defeated and ungrateful, but rather proud and hardworking.

  6. Jutia says:

    I’m curious what being Latino means to you as clearly being Puerto Rican means suppressed and enslaved and being American means suppressing/ enslaving.

    Last I read all of the countries now in the Americas were populated by Native Americans and they have all undergone the same treatment of colonization, genocide, theft, cultural suppression/ destruction, and yet how many of those colonies have gone on to establish themselves on the international scene.

    Now take it specifically to those colonized by Spain — as we are collectively known as “Latinos”. Spain outlawed and suppressed Native language, culture, history, beliefs and entire self orientation. Why? Because if someone knows who they are they will have a thing called pride and it is hard to enslave a people who are conscious of who they are and what they are capable of. Without that mental seed being planted, you can be molded into anything desired simply because you don’t know any better.

    Clearly Puerto Rico is “one” of the last colonies in the Americas (Hawaii is a fine example — just ask the Royal Family who are still demanding their lands back) and it is only within the past 60 years that discussion about Puerto Rico on American soil has even become an option, and only an issue can be discussed can attempts to resolve it be made.

    In an effort to express enthusiasm, bring attention/awareness, and begin to rehabilitate some form of “Puerto Rican Consciousness” (historical or otherwise), a “cultural pride” parade was established in order to express ourselves, remember our shared experience as a people, and commune. It’s no different than any other parade, holiday, or custom celebrated/maintained by the peoples of another culture.

    There are still debates and votings on whether Puerto Rico should become an independent nation.

    Why has it not happened yet? Why has commonwealth been chosen time and time again?
    For this one needs to be aware of the social, political and economic activities on the island. Including who has the power to dictate what those conditions are, including the education system which is a huge building block. If you’re curious what those might be, consider reading — you might learn something.

    I was raised in the U.S — but after studying a subject called “Puerto Rican Studies” — I was able to acquire a fair grasp on the state of affairs on the island, and with issues faced by those living on the ‘mainland’. This further lead me into “Taino” tradition once I learned from my family history that I am of those ‘extinct’ Taino people who don’t exist anymore– which takes history back much further than the 500 years you so briefly mentioned.

    Why am I proud to be Puerto Rican? Because it is a mixture of tradition and innovation. There are aspects about us as a people that date back thousands of years and aspects that go back 10 years. My definition of culture includes: Language, History, Cooking, Dancing, Music, Art, and Religion. Aspects of culture are ‘alive’ and other portions are ‘re-emerging’, so new developments and evolution are occurring. I believe this is called progression… while your sentiment expressed in this article is an example of regression.

    Pride in being Puerto Rican is Pride in culture, the same as any other people, regardless of what challenges they’ve had to face in history.

  7. Christian Irizarry says:

    Morons, like the writer of this article, is a prime example of how Puerto Ricans begin to sell-out!!! He is not proud of his heritage, however, you have to ask if his father was proud to be Puerto Rican or not! EVERY nationality has a dark history and centuries of struggle – that is how we accomplish change, and a new day, so he should get with the program!!! If nothing else, he should realize how Puerto Ricans paved the way for EVERY other Latino to live and exist in this country, and have contributed to American Land and Culture! That in itself is something to be VERY proud of, you idiot!!!

  8. Well, that’s because no one can give a clear answer to what puerto rico, boricua, taino, etc., means. Check this site out…http://israelunite.org/ephriam-manessah

  9. your about to offend alot of people with this post! im not boricua but there is history and thats what theyre proud of…js man dont piss anoyone off

  10. You can be proud of your culture. For the million Nuyoricans in New York that’s what this parade is about. The author of this article is from Chicago so clearly he wasn’t raised to see it that way.

  11. jamaicans…dominicans…haitians…all the caribe is slaves but look where its come from.

  12. And that title was poorly chosen just to catch attention.

  13. Fuck the USA and their colonial oppression. Want to be proud, burn the US Embassy and kick out the colonialists. Only a free Socialist Puerto Rico will instill the pride we need.

  14. I see the point but I can’t say I’m immediately on board with the ‘there is no pride’

  15. FYI Anthony Chi town has a huge latino and PR population. I am dying to go visit out there!

  16. I agree with the article it is an ongoing battle and it is hard to find pride in the culture that is being attacked, ignored and depleted as we speak. I am sad as well to see the elimination of my culture. We must teach our children about the culture and try to keep it alive.

  17. Anthony Leon has never been to Humboldt Park. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paseo_Boricua

  18. I’m not a big fan of the Puerto Rican parade… but I’m definitely not a fan of this article. As someone who grew up in Puerto Rico I know there are A LOT of reasons we should be proud — regardless of our political status. Puerto Rican pride is about the people… not the land. Apparently this Hector person knows nothing about Puerto Rico and used Wikipedia to find out what he needed to make this lame opinion “credible”. My thoughts about this article = BARF!

  19. So Yary what are some of these reasons we should be proud? Please elaborate, because I currently see an island that is in dire need of jobs, where violence is at a depressing high, the attempt to strip the land of the language and who knows what’s next.

  20. Yea I see what he was trying to get at and what he was trying to say, but I have to agree with Yary Gonzalez Ferrer that there are hundreds of years of history to be proud of, its U.S. political history isn’t the only thing to PR or the people of PR or the people of Puerto Rican descent. The U.S. history doesn’t define who we are, therefore doesn’t define what we have pride in. I also understand the first comment of the article by Daniel Ruiz and his sentiment toward ‘independista mainland Puerto Ricans’ and their tendency to speak only from the outside without knowing what life is like on the island. But I also never disregard a U.S. Puerto Rican as non Rican because you are who you choose to identify with.

  21. Katilia says:

    Do yourself the favor to expand upon your thoughts in more detail; to exercise context and serve your position by elaborating with a follow-up piece. I understand what you are trying to say, but your incendiary and short sighted diatribe does our community no good. Do the community a favor, acting as the voice you are, and fully commit to your sentiments by providing a piece that is not so self-indulgent. If you have chosen to be a voice for “us”, then do so with FERVENT Responsibility. Que te guien los Maestr@s, lo vas a necesitar….

  22. oh god, Jasmine. “In need of jobs, where violence is at a depressing high” So is this entire country… and every other country in the world… Puerto Rico is no exception to the shitty world economy. /end_rant

  23. “….And how can I be proud of an island that has been no more than a piece of someone else’s property for over 500 years?…
    That’s why I say with regret that there’s no such thing as Puerto Rican pride, because property isn’t proud – nor is the slave, who is bought and sold like a hat.”

    The most saddening lines of the whole article. smh what about the millions of PR’s that are proud to have preserved their history, culture, language, music, and food. All those things that matter have not been stepped away. Sure land got “stolen” but this happens everywhere…the thing that matters and the things that a group of people should be proud of, are who they are, where they came from and where they’re going

  24. * stripped away* not *stepped away* my bad typo =P

  25. Yary the unemployment rate in PR is double that of the US. You don’t find that troubling?

  26. LOL @ esa disparatosa Marisol… diske comunista viviendo en USA toda su vida… A “free socialist PR”? LMAO les ha ido tan bien a los cubanos verdad? Maldita idiota del diablo… Cuando entenderán esos brutos k el comunismo y socialismo no funcionan?

  27. I think some of you guys are in denial. Let’s address our dwindling culture.

  28. The article is all about politics. Not once is pride in culture mentioned in the article. He is discussing the issue from a political point of view. The article’s title is poorly chosen because it does not have anything to do with actually being Puerto Rican; only politics…

  29. Jasmine are you implying that there is nothing on the island to be proud of? There is no success, no good? Are you saying that currently all there is to the island is violence and jobless & halfway Spanish speaking people? I would disagree. While of course there is work to be done, as there is everywhere, because every country is a work in progress, there is still plenty to be proud of. At the very least I am extremely proud of my family in PR, of their character, their heart, their hard work, and their progress. I’m sorry if you can’t be proud of one thing from the island. I can also find 454,789,900 reasons to be proud of being of ‘Puerto Rican descent’ in NYC. Our people island and mainland have given me plenty of reasons to be proud.

  30. Does Hector Alamo Jr really care? Doubt it!

  31. I think some of you have internalized oppression and have fallen into the dislike your own people demeanor just as ‘the owners of our enslaved island’ are so desperately pleased to see…

  32. Viannca is that what I said? I’m pretty sure I said that our culture is dwindling and we have a lot of issues to address on the island and I was wondering through all of that what exactly is everyone proud of about our culture present day? Who controls PR? I’m pretty sure it’s not the people and that’s something I’m NOT proud of.

  33. Hector Luis Alamo, Jr. says:

    Thank you to everyone who read the piece and provided sound criticism. Admittedly, I plan on contributing regularly on the political status in the months ahead of this fall’s referendum, and I jumped the gun a bit with this piece, inspired by the proud displays of puertorriquenidad over the past weekend.

    I will not be speaking for anyone except myself, as an American of Puerto Rican decent and a firm believer in liberty and self-government.

  34. carmen hernandez says:

    Shame on you. I am a “mainland Puerto Rican” as well. My father was a “jibaro” from the island who came here with no skills, no english and a disability and here i stand IN THE “MAINLAND”…a proud Puerto Rican mother 40 years later — 40 years after my father came here and raised a family on blood and sweat…NOT ON GOVERNMENT…or political views! I look at that flag with pride because of my strong roots, my beautiful puerto rican face, my music, my beautiful latin curves and now my children’s…you’re entitled to your own opinion but this was a sad article that you dont think you have something to proud of…maybe you should dig a litle deeper (past your puerto rican roots and so-called knowledge of our history) and find out whats really bugging you. QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO!!!

  35. I can say with pride that I am Boricua, Taino, Puerto Rican. Came to New York at the age of 2 years old. Was brought up in the projects and went to public schools. My parents were poor, but I am proud of my parents and my Ancestors. I have seen more than most. The uprising of the Young Lords Party and the Black Panther Party. I’ve marched for our Boricua Pride. Now my focus is on uniting all Latinos that are going thru the struggles. Our cultures are very similar, because LATINOS are LA RAZA. Luis Albizu Campos, Cesar Chavez and many others have died because they stood up to the Imperialist Country. Now they want to make Puerto Rico a State by force and change the Language to English only ? My first language will always be Spanish and Engish my second. What the U.S. does not understand is that it’s a melting pot of a majority of Latinos, we as Latinos are becoming the Majority in the U.S. It’s time that we Unite and stop the Division. Let us not be against each other but help each other. This article was the opinion of 1, Latinos are many. (UNITE LATINOS) BE PROUD !!!

  36. E. San. says:

    Sir, I understand where you are coming from. After all, you are not from Puerto Rico. Our Pride stems not from any political situation, but from years of resiliency and ser “agusao”. This would be easily understood if you had lived in the island.

  37. Veronica says:

    Just reading this, is something I have to say that I feel the same. But the only way for anyone to understand, is media! I am half Puertorican and what really drives me insane, is that many dont know their history and they assume Puertoriccan pride incorrectly. I am at the moment to make both a documentary and movie about what this cointreau has done to the island. Therefore,we have to take responsibility of the future because now, America is winning depleading the history. So we must educate ourselves and learn what resources we can use. But most of all that I don’t see is Puertoriccans united here in the states with 5th to 6th generations. Why I say this because my sister and myself have been ousted by Puertoriccans because “we” don’t sound ghetto. Yes, ignorance is with the people so guess what we this generation must be reminded of the truth that had happened. And to see the different colors of the people.

  38. 1492

  39. The first Puerto Rican parade was held on Sunday, April 13, 1958.

  40. 1958

  41. Fantastic. Article! Gracias

  42. 1958 google pplo

  43. Esta heavy. I feel you.

  44. I Rodriguez says:

    Yes the title of the article was a bit incendiary to say the least. The writer was addressing the political status of the island and its dark past (post US invasion). I’m sure the writer is proud of his Boricua roots just like all of us. Yes it sadden me when I read the local paper (in Puerto Rico), hear via the web the local radio program the high rate of crime and unemployment. On the other hand when I’m with my family in Puerto Rico (I was very fortunate to spend my summers & holidays in the island as a child) my heart is filled with pride. I too wish political independence for the island.

  45. THERE IS PUERTO RICAN PRIDE! ALL INDEPENDENTISTAS, NACIONALISTAS, AND TRUE AUTONOMISTAS (FREE ASSOCIATIONISTS) FEEL IT. THE OTHERS STATEHOODERS AND CONSERVATIVE POPULARES DONT. THEY ARE THE SELF HATING, APOLAGETIC, COLONIAL MINDED, HOUSE SLAVE ASS KISSING SELF HATING PUERTO RICANS!

  46. raymedina says:

    It makes me laugh every time I read any article about PR and it’s political status, specially from people that do not live in the island..this rhetoric that PR is a colony of the US has to stop..Puerto Ricans have free elections and ONLY them have the right to make judgement on the island political status..the people that recommends independence for the island, in my opinion are those who are looking for self- serving interest in order to promote their own political agendas..When I see the political condition of countries such as Cuba, DR, Haiti, and how these leaders manipulate the poor to keep them in power, while on the other hand have hidden Swiss bank personal accounts,makes me proud to be an Puerto Rican American,,God bless Puerto Rico and the USA

  47. Eliel says:

    The writer is confusing political status and pride. My parents are Puerto Rican! I was born and raised in Hawaii. My parents are proud Puerto Ricans as I am proud being American. I have even more pride knowing my heritage is Puerto Rican.

    The Political status of PR has nothing to do with Pride. Just because a Puerto Rican does not agree to be independent does not mean they aren’t full of pride. Puerto Rican history is amazing. So many cultures. I personally think being a common wealthy of the U.S has its advantages versus being Independent.

    But that isn’t even the point. You (The Writer) might not have pride in an amazing culture but every Puerto Rican I have met does.

    Puerto Rico influences the world!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  48. Elliot Perez says:

    English is like a universal language, as a government language and only have about 15 dialects, is every difficult language to learn, there is said that is easier to learn Chinese than English, on the other hand, Spanish is straight forward langue and it is the official language of more than 300 countries in the world. Be only proud yourself to be what you want to be, be a human, educated and acknowledgeable is better than any race in the world.

  49. ‘Nice’ article. Why are ‘educated’ liberals so damn miserable, Latino/Hispanic or otherwise? Do you all find any happiness and joy in anything? As a former converted America-hater myself, I say grow the hell up and appreciate what this country has to, and DOES, offer you. Everyone of you should be shipped off to the Congo, North Korea or the depths of Haiti for a year and live like those who have no REAL choice or opportunity instead of complaining about this one with no real merit.

    @lunamartinmi – Twitter

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