War among All Puerto Ricans: The Nationalist Revolt and the Creation of the Estado Libre Asociado of Puerto Rico

albizu-camposFollowing up on our previous posts on the wildly popular new book by Nelson A. Denis, War against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony (Nation Books, 2015)  [see previous posts New Book: Nelson A. Denis’  “War against All Puerto Ricans” and New book ‘War Against All Puerto Ricans’ tells unknown tale of U.S.-Puerto Rico conflict] here are excerpts from a three-part article recently published on U.S. Studies Online (British Association for American Studies) which examines in detail the Puerto Rican Uprising of 1950. The series of blog posts—War among All Puerto Ricans (riffing on Denis’ tilte)—is part of Harry Franqui-Rivera’s manuscript, Fighting for the Nation: Military Service and Modern Puerto Rican National Identities, 1868-1952 (to be published by University of Nebraska Press.) Here is an excerpt from “War among All Puerto Ricans,” Part Three:

The battle in Puerto Rico was over. By no means had it been bloodless. Eighteen Nacionalistas had been killed and eleven wounded. Seven policemen and a Guardsman were killed while twenty-one police officers and eleven soldiers were wounded. A fireman and two civilians also died during the gunfights. After his arrest, a still defiant Albizu Campos declared that the “nation was undergoing a glorious transfiguration.” By contrast, Muñoz Marín instead talked of the “tragic and useless death of 31 Puerto Ricans.” He was quick to also link the revolt to the “island’s Communists” since the local authorities claimed that a few had joined Albizu Campos and his diehard followers.  He admonished the Nacionalistas, claiming that “a government founded on votes cannot be destroyed.” He sought to link the revolt to what was perceived as the biggest enemies of western democracies: fascism and communism. During the post war years the West faced the spectrum of decolonization wars while the red scare took hold over the American public. Muñoz Marín presented himself and the Populares as offering a peaceful way, “a peaceful revolution” to remedy the island’s colonial status while remaining aligned with the West and upholding its values. Moreover, just like he had previously offered to turn Puerto Rico into a showcase of Point Four for the rest of the world, Muñoz Marín now presented the commonwealth formula as an example in decolonization and democracy for the whole world to watch and follow. Muñoz Marín’s “peaceful revolution” narrative was indeed attractive to the U.S. and other colonial powers.

The revolt also had an extra-insular chapter. On 1 November 1950, Nacionalistas Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola attempted to assassinate President Truman in front of the Blair House in Washington. Torresola was killed in the attempt, and Collazo was seriously wounded and captured.  Pvt. Leslie Coffelt, a White House guard, was shot and killed by the assailants and two other guards were wounded during the gunfight. During a press conference the next day, shrugging off the attacks and lamenting the unnecessary loss of life, President Truman reaffirmed his commitment to support the right of Puerto Ricans to write their own constitution. The continental press followed the White House’s line and quickly reported that these attacks did not reflect the will of the vast majority of Puerto Ricans. [. . .]

Dr. Harry Franqui-Rivera is a historian and Research Associate at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, City University of New York. He specializes in Caribbean, Latino and Latin American History and focuses on the 19-20 centuries. Among other interests he address the issues of nation building, national identities, military institutions and imperial-colonial relations.

For full blog posts see http://usstudiesonline.com/war-among-all-puerto-ricans-the-nationalist-revolt-and-the-creation-of-the-estado-libre-asociado-of-puerto-rico-part-one/, http://usstudiesonline.com/war-among-all-puerto-ricans-the-nationalist-revolt-and-the-creation-of-the-estado-libre-asociado-of-puerto-rico-part-two/, and http://usstudiesonline.com/war-among-all-puerto-ricans-the-nationalist-revolt-and-the-creation-of-the-estado-libre-asociado-of-puerto-rico-part-three/

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