27 November 2016

Spanish Rule 1493-1897

War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis, 2015, Excerpts

The abuse of the island started early. In 1493, Columbus made his second voyage to the New world with seventeen ships, 1200 men, horses, cattle, guns, and smallpox. When he finally reached a manor island, it happened to be Puerto Rico. The Taino Indians welcomed Columbus, but they made a big mistake: they showed him some gold nuggets in a river and told him to take all he wanted. Naturally, this started a gold rush.

Spain named the island Puerto Rico (meaning “Rich Port”) and invaded with embroidered bibles and African slaves. They enslaved the Tainos as well: every Taino over the age of fourteen had to produce a hawk’s bell of gold every three months or have their hands cut off.

Three centuries later there were no Tainos left, but the situation hadn’t changed much. Puerto Rico was still a political football. In 1812, the first Spanish ‘constitution, the Cadez Constitution, was extended to Puerto Rico, and the island became a province of Spain. In 1823, it was abolished. In 1824, the Spanish governor was given absolute power over Puerto Rico.

On September 23, 1868, nearly 1000 men rose up in the town of Lars to demand independence from Spain. By midnight they’d taken over the municipal seat of government, deposed the Spanish officials, arrested the Spanish merchants, and hauled them off to jail. The next afternoon, the Spanish militia from nearby Pepino routed the rebels. 

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