Since the Pilgrims' landing in Plymouth Rock in 1620 and the 1776 Declaration of Independence, a spurious song of freedom kept non-whites under subordinate oppression in North America — particularly Africans that survived the gruesome transatlantic voyage. After the American Declarations elusive concept of equality, slavery remained legal for another century. And a century after the Emancipation Proclamation, non-whites in the United States still forcibly sat at the back of the bus.
Undoubtedly, there has been progress. More than three centuries after Plymouth Rock and more than 200 years after the War of Independence, a black man was finally elected president of the United States. But no referendum was held back then to achieve this progress. History's processes tend to overcome mankind's cruel and barbaric practices. Thus, when slavery was no longer convenient for slave-owners, the ethical struggle of abolitionists reached fruition When it no longer became practical for business and commerce to prolong the farce of "separate but equal," the moral strength of nonviolent civil disobedience vanquished that racist doctrine, and the American Supreme Court decreed desegregation with "all deliberate speed" And when colonies were no longer profitable, national liberation struggles forced universal recognition of Human Rights, outlawed colonialism, and turned the inalienable right of a people to self-determination and independence a peremptory norm of International Law.
At the April 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, the president of Nicaragua spoke for Latin America and the Caribbean in his keynote speech. It really wasn't a summit of the Americas; it could not be — he pointed out — so long as Cuba and Puerto Rico were absent.
The mention of Cuba was expected; but the denunciation of colonialism due to Puerto Rico's absence reportedly surprised some. It shouldn't have! That Latin Americans — Nicaragua publicly, others privately — should stalwartly defend Puerto Rico's right as a Latin American nation could only surprise those who read History through rigged scrap books of fabricated headlines.
After 400 years under Spain's colonial rule, Puerto Ricans began to perceive themselves as a distinct people. As Puerto Ricans strove to control their destiny, our struggle for national liberation began. Just like other distinct peoples throughout History! The 1898 American invasion of the island is but a long, detour in the natural flow of Puerto Rico's quest for freedom and self-determination.
Yet, it wasn't necessary to go that far back in history to understand Latin Americas claim. The past four decades alone dearly signal Puerto Rico's course. Despite U.S. objections, dozens of resolutions by the United Nations Decolonization Committee regarding Puerto Rico's colonial status have been adopted, with the Committee finally recommending that the UN General Assembly re-examine Puerto Rico's case. Support for Puerto Rico's right to self-determination and independence among non-aligned nations and social democratic political parties representing a broad ideological spectrum — including US. allies — is well established The 2006 Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Conference for Puerto Rico's Independence held in Panama and sponsored by, among others, Puerto Rico's Independence Party (PIP) proclaimed the willingness and good offices of Latin Americas 33 most important political parties — in government or opposition — to end to colonialism in our Hemisphere.
In his welcome, Panamanian President Torrijos noted that, "While several forums in the United States are already discussing the relevance and replacement of the Puerto Rican regime, Latin America and the Caribbean are still absent from that debate." He then added that, "Puerto Rico is the only Hispanic American nation that remains under a colonial regime. For Latin Americans, forever correcting this anomaly must be a matter of principle and a priority of continental proportions. What remains is to agree on whatever is necessary to consolidate the Puerto Rican right to constitute an independent republic."
In light of these developments, the denunciation of Puerto Rico's absence at the Summit was logical. Only the purposely naive or the uninformed could have been surprised. Surprised or not, Kenneth McClintock, the annexationist secretary of Puerto Rico's colonial state department, unreflectively inveighed against Nicaragua’s "uncalled for interference" in island-US, affairs.
Had the U.S. itself not repeatedly intervened politically, economically, and militarily in Nicaragua’s internal affairs? Is colonialism not a problem affecting international peace and security? Had the US, itself not officially recognized Puerto Rico's colonial status as a territory under its sovereignty? In setting new policy towards an assertive Latin America in the 21st century, would the U.S. not have to mend the fences brutally trampled by 20th century policies?
McClintock's argument against Latin Americas defense of Puerto Rico's right to sit at the Summit is utterly pathetic Even aware of decades of economic dependence and anti-independence persecution, repression, and discrimination, he contended that the PIP's poor showing in a colonial referendum would defeat our peremptory rights as a people. If this theory of rights prevailed, the Obama family would still be sitting in the back of the bus — with him.
Percentages will never matter, so long as Puerto Rico does not exercise the sovereign power to determine its own future. Perhaps the Puerto Rican official doesn't understand historical processes, or perhaps he is obsequiously trying to please those in Washington who rule over him. But I am certain his superiors know that the event at the Summit was part of the on-going historical process of a people's struggle for freedom. ... And the votes will follow!