Yesterday marked the 144th anniversary of el Grito de Lares, an uprising in Puerto Rico that called for an end to Spanish rule and independence for the island. While Puerto Rico is no longer a Spanish colony, calls for self-determination remain relevant with increased if myopic attention to the island because of upcoming local elections as well as a non-binding plebiscite regarding the political status of the U.S. colony.The U.S. media attention to island affairs in both mainstream and so-called progressive media that I have noted over the last week or so has failed to mention the history of independence movements. No Lares and certainly not the fact that September 23 is also the 7th anniversary of the FBI assassination of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, considered a leader of the modern fight.
Additionally while media is rightfully honing in on voter suppression efforts across the country and pushback against these efforts, little attention is paid to the fact that Puerto Rican citizens on the island have no vote in the U.S. presidential election, nor Congressional representation yet are subject to U.S. law. There has been buzz about how this year’s plebiscite is allegedly different from those of years past because of the wording of the option and a two step process, but not much discussion on how no matter how the vote turns out, a Congressional bill would have to be introduced to Congress to change the island’s status. Not one article or post I have seen has mentioned the numerous hearings before the United Nations Decolonization Committee and that committee’s recommendations. There also has been hardly any noise heard within the U.S. media about allegations of electoral fraud within the island. Just like during the 2008 presidential campaign, this year both candidates have made much ado about the influence of the Latino vote by campaigning in Puerto Rico and the media has focused on the participation numbers of voters on the island in the primaries there.
Meanwhile independent media makers remain focused on the not just the legacy of the struggle for Puerto Rican independence but carrying on that work today. A recent Kickstarter campaign attempts to finish a documentary looking at the life work of nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos.