of Puerto Rico
By 1930 the population in
Puerto Rico had grown to more than 1.5
million. Many people still lived in "bohios" (aborigines
style huts) and there was a lot of poverty and unemployment.
Large US corporations bought most of the flat
land in Puerto Rico which was used for the sugar industry.
Salaries were very low.
In 1928 Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane San Felipe, in 1932 it was Hurricane San Cipriano. Many people died, others were left homeless. Most of the sugar, coffee, tobacco and other crops were lost.
In reaction to all the poverty and the American presence the ideal of
independence began to grow. Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, a Harvard
graduate who had studied chemical engineering, military sciences,
philosophy, law and an X-US military
officer, was elected President of the Puerto
Rican Nationalist Party. Clashes between protesting Nationalist
and police brought deaths to both sides but mostly to
Nationalists. Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was sentenced to jail.
On March 21, 1937, Palm Sunday, the Nationalist Party was to celebrate a march in Ponce (city on the southern coast of the island) in support of Puerto Rican independence. The activity had been authorized by the mayor, but suddenly, pressured by the police chief, he canceled the authorization. The Nationalist decided to go on with the march. Police surrounded the Nationalist and right when the march was to begin there were gun shots. It is not known who shot that first shot, but the toll of the shootout was 18 Nationalist and 2 policemen dead. 200 people, Nationalist and bystanders, were injured. This incident is known as "The Ponce Massacre".
In 1940, headed by Luis Muñoz Marin, the Popular Democratic Party was formed. Their logo was Bread, Land and Liberty. Although the party favored independence, the need for social and economic reform was the priority, the status was not an issue. In 1946, the Puerto Rico Independence Party was formed by dissidents who saw the Popular Democratic Party shifting away from the ideal of independence for Puerto Rico. Also that same year Harry S. Truman appointed the first Puerto Rican governor, Jesus T. Piñeiro.
In 1947 the US Congress passed a bill which established that Puerto Ricans could vote every 4 years for governor of the island.
In 1948 the Popular Democratic Party received 64% of the vote and Muñoz Marin became the first democratically elected governor. After much debate, on July 3, 1950 the federal Government approved the 600 Law authorizing Puerto Rico to draft it's own constitution. The Puerto Rican Constitution was drafted and a referendum was celebrated for approval by the Puerto Rican people. 81% of the voters voted in favor. Afterwards the USA made some changes and approved the Puerto Rican Constitution. On July 25, 1952 the "Estado Libre Asociado" or Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was officially implemented and inaugurated by Governor Luis Muñoz Marin.
In 1950 though, Nationalist, believed that the "Estado Libre Asociado" was really a colony in disguise. In an attempt to stop the creation of the new government they attacked "La Fortaleza" (the Governors Mansion). In the town of Jayuya the police station was attacked and burnt down. In the town of Utuado, Nationalist used a house as a fort and resisted the Puerto Rico National Guard which had been called out by the Governor Muñoz Marin. Other suicide attacks took place in other parts of the island. Two days later Nationalist attacked President Truman's home, the Blair House in Washington DC. 14 Nationalist, 4 policemen, one National Guardsman and 4 civilians were killed and around 50 people were wounded before the National Guard took control of the situation. Finally four years later in a suicidal attempt to get the attention of the world, Nationalist attacked the House of Representatives in Washington DC. No one was killed, but five Congressmen were wounded. All of the attackers were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms.
During the years that Muñoz Marin was in power, he took on the task of developing Puerto Rico's economy into an industrial economy. The infrastructure was improved through government agencies. Tax breaks were offered to companies that would establish themselves on the island. The result was the industrial Puerto Rico of today.
In 1964, after 4 terms and 16 years, Governor Muñoz Marin decided to step down. Once again that year The Popular Democratic Party won the elections but this time Roberto Sánchez Vilella was elected Governor of Puerto Rico. In 1967 the people of Puerto Rico voted between Statehood, Commonwealth and Independence, resulting in an overwhelming preference for the Commonwealth option.
Two more plebiscites have been held in Puerto Rico since the 1967 plebiscite. One was held in 1993 where out of the three options (Independence, Commonwealth and Statehood) the Commonwealth option received more votes than any other option. In 1998 another plebiscite was held, in this case the Popular Democratic party (pro-commonwealth) did not agree with the definition of Commonwealth which was to be presented on the ballot. After much debate, the Popular Democratic party decided to call it's voters to vote under the "None Of The Above" column. "None Of The Above" received more than 50% of all the votes casted.
Between 1950 and 1980 Puerto Rico went through a great transformation. The economy changed from mainly agricultural economy to an industrial economy. Literacy went up dramatically. Many Puerto Ricans of all walks of life, poets, writers, actors, musicians, athletes and more have achieved world recognition.
As a people, Puerto Rico has a distinct culture and history. Puerto Ricans feel proud of this. For this reason the Puerto Rican culture and language have not dissipated despite more than 100 years of American influence. The vast majority believe that our political goals should be achieved through peace. Puerto Ricans believe that our culture and race are the result of the mixture of Aborigines, Spanish and African cultures and races. You never hear of racial disturbances.
A courteous tourist or foreigner can feel free to be himself or herself while visiting our beautiful island. Visitors soon notice that most Puerto Ricans on the island are friendly and courteous also.
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