Borikén (Puerto Rico) and the initial colonization of the Taíno people

Indigenous peoples of Borikén are known as the Taíno (translating to good, noble) people or Arawak people that inhabited many islands of the Caribbean and parts of Southern so called Florida.

Culture, day to day life, Cemis, etc.

Areitos, or war dances

Taíno - Taino Museum

In 1493, Juan Ponce de León invaded the country of Borikén under the Spanish crown. Ponce de León was known for leading the invasion of so called Florida and for becoming the first illegitimate governor of Borikén. He became a top military official in Hispaniola, where he was tasked with crushing a rebellion of Taíno people. He then moved onto colonizing Borikén, where he was authorized to “explore” the country in 1508. He grew wealthy from plantations and mining. After a conflict with the son of Cristobal Colon (who would go on to become governor in 1511), Ponce de Leon decided to colonize more of the Caribbean Sea. During this time, the Taíno people were beginning to really question the validity of the Spaniards’ claims that they were immortal. In 1510, Cacique Urayoán and Cacique Agüeybaná II decided to test the idea that Spaniards were immortal. They carried a Spaniard by the name of Diego Salcedo to the deepest part of the river and held him under water until he drowned – proving that the Spaniards were not immortal, but the Taíno people were still not convinced.

Cacique Agüeybaná II, born around 1470 in Güeybaná and often referred to as Agüeybaná El Bravo, was one of the two principal and most powerful caciques of the Taíno people in Borikén when the Spaniards first invaded our country on November 19, 1493. Agüeybaná II led the Taínos of Puerto Rico in the Battle of Yagüecas, also known as the “Taíno rebellion of 1511” against Juan Ponce de León and the Spanish colonizers.

Cacique Urayoán
Cacique Agüeybaná II

After a majority of indigenous peoples in our country were killed off, mostly by disease, the colonizers decided to bring enslaved Africans to the country of Borikén to harvest sugarcane and coffee with the first arriving in 1509.

It is crucial to recognize the importance that the Haitian Revolution had not only for the people of Borikén, but for all oppressed peoples being the first and only successful slave revolt in the world’s history. Beginning on August 22, 1791 and ending January 1, 1804

Toussaint Louverture

The Haitian Revolution

Tying this into what was happening in Cuba at the time…

1866 – delegates were sent to ask for abolition of slavery

Emilio Castelar

Rafael de Labra

1868 – Cuba was fighting for independence and the abolishment of slavery.

The End of Spaniard Rule

Ramón Emeterio Betances y Alacán born in Cabo Rojo on April 8, 1827, Puerto Rico, was an independence advocate and medical doctor. He was the primary instigator of the Grito de Lares revolution and is considered to be the father of the Puerto Rican independence movement. Since the Grito galvanized a burgeoning nationalist movement among Boricuas, Betances is also considered “El Padre de la Patria” (Father of the [Puerto Rican] Nation). Because of his charitable deeds for people in need, he also became known as “El Padre de los Pobres” (“The Father of the Poor”). In late June 1867 Betances and at least 12 more potential “revolutionaries” were exiled from Puerto Rico by then governor Gen. José María Marchessi y Oleaga as a preventive measure, including Goyco and Ruiz. 

Betances was responsible for numerous proclamations that attempted to arouse Puerto Rican nationalistic sentiment, written between 1861 and his death. The most famous of these is “Los Diez Mandamientos de los hombres libres” (The Ten Commandments of Free Men), written in exile in Saint Thomas in November 1867.

Ramón Emeterio Betances y Alacán

Antillean Confederation, a regional entity that would seek to preserve the sovereignty and well-being of Cuba, Ayiti, Quisqueya, and Borikén.

Lola Rodriguez de Tio wrote “La Borinquena” written during el Grito to move Boricuas towards independence. → The original version talks about Cuba 

Eugenio Maria de Hostos – Puerto Rican League of Patriots

During his stay there, he taught at the University of Chile and gave a speech titled “The Scientific Education of Women”. He proposed in his speech that governments permit women in their colleges. Soon after, Chile allowed women to enter its college educational system. On September 29, 1873, he went to Argentina, where he proposed a railroad system between Argentina and Chile. His proposal was accepted and the first locomotive was named after him.[4]

In 1875, Hostos went to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, briefly visiting Santo Domingo. He conceived the idea of a Normal School (Teachers College) and introduced advanced teaching methods, although these had been openly opposed by the local Catholic Church as Hostos opposed any sort of religious instruction in the educational process.

1873 – slavery was abolished


1890 – Baldorioty of Autonomist Liberal Party believes in a war for independence like Cuba

Sagasta PR Autonomist Party

Intentona de Yauco (the “Attempted Coup of Yauco”) of March 1897 was the second and final major revolt against Spanish colonial rule in Puerto Rico, staged by the island’s pro-independence movement in the second half of the nineteenth century.

1897 – Jose de Diego, independence. Fought for autonomy from Spain and it was granted. 

Spanish-American War

Theodore Roosevelt – Assistant Secretary of the Navy was already talking about the importance of seizing Boriken and the Philippines. Once President 

Good Neighbor policy

The US Invasion of Borikén

On July 25th, 1898, the US invaded Borikén at Guanica. General Miles announces occupation of Boriken. 

    US troops claimed to be there to liberate Borikén. from Spain, 15,000 troops. Named the ‘Puerto Rico Campaign’

 The Treaty of Paris 1898, Spain then released power of Cuba, Guam, the Philippines

Shortly after Juracán (the Taíno word for Hurricane) Ciriaco devastated Borikén. The U.S. offered no aid and in 1901 passed the Hollander Bill, a land tax that forced farmers to mortgage their land with U.S. banks. The rates were too high so many jíbaros lost land. Banks made what was once diverse island harvest into one cash crop, sugar. Not coincidentally, the first U.S. appointed governor was Charles Allen. He was president of what is today known as Domino Sugar. 45% of all arable land would eventually be used for sugar of which 80% was US owned.

The arrival of the US in Guanica, Borikén in 1898

The 1900s

Luisa Capetillo – an anarchist socialist became a newspaper reader for cigar workers and wore suits often. An important and very respected position considering a large percentage of the agricultural workforce at the time was illiterate. She became a labor organizer with the Federacion Libre del Trabajo (Free Federation of Laborers). From 1905 and on she would organize agricultural workers in their labor strikes in NY, Tampa, and Cuba. As a feminist she fought for gender equality, labor rights amongst many other things. In 1911 she published Mi Opinion. In it Capetillo is laying out the first feminist exposition in Puerto Rico and one of the very first in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the book, Capetillo writes about the urgent need to make drastic changes in “all structures of social and economic domination so women could be truly liberated,” including in the areas of work, education, marriage, and religion. She is widely overlooked but you can find more info on her in the works of Boricua scholar and philosopher Dr. Stephanie Rivera Berruz

Antillean unification, visit Ayiti, Cuba DR etc

The Boricua Independence Movement

In 1912, Rosendo Matienzo Cintrón founded the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño, known in English as the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP). Founding a party asking for independence and released a manifesto. 

Woodrow Wilson – 

1917 – The US sought to impose citizenship on the Boricua people through the Jones Act. It is crucial to note that we were not given citizenship for an other reason than to fight in the Empire’s invasions. Boricuas were forced to fight in WWI, 

José de Diego y Martínez analyzes the coloniality and unjust conditions of Boricuas 

Luis Muñoz Rivera founded the Unionist Party in 1904, the first mass political party to push for independence from the U.S. In 1917 his dying wish was to accept the consortia of the Jones Act with a hope that eventually we would move towards autonomy. 

In 1922, Antonio Rafael Barceló of the Unionist Party was threatened and changed his party’s position to exclude independence. Instead asking for an autonomous form of government reflective of the Irish Free State. Leading to the foundational grounding of what would later become known as an Associated Free State (Estado Libre Asociado). Leading to the US Supreme court declaring Borikén a ‘territory’.

ELA and change in platform

drew criticism as being bourgeois, especially from more radical factions within the UPR. So, September 17, 1922, the Independence Association merged with Coll y Cuchí’s Nationalist Association of Puerto Rico and the Nationalist Youth (Juventud Nacionalista) → forming the Partido Nacionalista de PR. 

1926 – Coolidge appoints Fredrick Holcomb as auditor of Borikén. Why is this important? He served as the Auditor for United Fruit Company → Cold war acts of war against indigenous and working class people in LatAm & Caribbean

1927 – La Operación ⅓ of the women were sterilized without being told it was a permanent procedure. It was so common that inside the factories where women worked there were clinics on site so women could get the surgery for free during their lunch break. Dr. Cornelius Rhoades, allowed his Boricua patients to die. Letters revealed he thought we were degenerate, dirty, lazy, etc. 


Luis Muñoz Marín – Starts as part of the Partido Liberal alongside Barcelo which formed in 1932. He gained recognition by U.S. politicians while in Washington DC. He championed the New Deal, thinking Borikén would benefit economically no from it. When independence was proposed el Partido Liberal had a falling out because Muñoz Marín and his followers rejected independence because they believed Borikén would benefit economically by remaining a colony of the U.S. Furthermore, the FBI had reports of on him, Carpetas, that they used as leverage to force him to make decisions. Eventually, the Partido Popular Democrático (PPD) was founded. 

The living conditions moved many poor and working class Boricuas to support the Partido Nacionalista. 

The PNPR believed in fighting for the independence of Borikén and a very important figure rose to power, Pedro Albizu Campos. He served 2 yrs in the US military where he experienced racism. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he spoke 6 languages and had the highest gpa of his class. He was grounded in international solidarity, helping draft the constitution of the Irish Free State and worked alongside Mahadev Desai, a leader in the Indian anti-imperialist movement. 

Don Pedro Albizu Campos in 1936

He does the only logical thing someone in his position could, moves back to Ponce and becomes a people’s lawyer (mostly serving sugar cane workers and jíbaros). 1927-30, he traveled to Cuba, Panamá, México Venezuela, Peru, DR, and Ayiti to advocate for Borikén indigentes and revolution. In 1930, he was elected as the president of PNPR, which took the stance of armed struggle for unconditional independence of Borikén from the US and to bring international attention to the colonial status. 

Unemployment rates, starvation, dehumanization, etc. Land was taken from farmers and factories were built creating sweatshops for the industrial progression of the U.S. mainland, and there were no unions. Capitalists had free reign to exploit Boricuas without any fear of repercussions.

1933 – Francis E. Riggs is appointed police chief of Puerto Rico. He also worked in the Military Intelligence Department in DC and shortly before being appointed was advising the soon-to-be dictator of Nicaragua, Somoza whose family controlled the country for 43 years. Riggs family owned Riggs Bank, now PNC Bank located in Washington, DC and known for funding right wing coupes throughout the global south.

1934 – Pedro Albizu Campos gave a fiery speech to thousands of sugar cane workers that were on strike against employers and labor leaders. Riggs calls for a meeting with el Maestro, who refuses a $150,000 donation for the PNPR, a guaranteed seat in senate, and the opportunity to be governor of Borikén. Albizu Campos ends their meeting by saying “Puerto Rico is not for sale, at least not by him.” (Muñoz Marín) From then on Hoover would ensure he was followed and watched.

In October of 1935, 5 members of PNPR were on their way to a meeting at UPR-Rio Piedras as they were stopped by local police. Police claimed that PNPR opened fire, and killed 4 of the 5 members. 

In 1936, police chief Francis Riggs was shot to death by two members of the PNPR (Elías Beauchamp and Hiram Rosado), sending a clear political message that Boricuas were ready to kill and die for self determination. They were taken to jail and murdered with no trial. This led many Boricuas to be enraged, whether they agreed with the militant actions of Partido Nacionalista.

1937 – The Ponce Massacre. PNPR planned a march through the city of Ponce, which would be led by the Liberation Army of PR , the militant branch of the Partido Nacionalista. As they started to march, police opened fire, using: revolvers, tear gas, shotguns, submachine guns. Even shooting into the crowd of women, children and bystanders that came to see the parade. By the end, 18 people were killed, 2 police officers were killed in the crossfire, and an estimated 150 people were wounded. Cadet Bolívar Márquez Telechea used his own blood to write “¡Viva la República, Abajo los asesinos!” (“Long live the Republic, Down with the Murderers!”)

An investigation later shows, with pictures as evidence, that no one in the parade was armed. No one was charged with the murder of innocent Boricuas that day.

Albizu Campos and 8 others were arrested. The first jury was made up of mostly Boricuas, but the second was mostly white Americans. Rockwell Kent, a known member of the Socialist Party of America, had evidence that there would be a handpicked jury for Albizu Campos’ case. The media ignored this entirely and later that year el Maestro was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Atlanta, Georgia.

1945 – 57% of elected representatives favored independence brought forth by the Tydings Bill. 

1947 – Albizu Campos returns to Borikén and gives a speech to 14,000 Boricuas. During this time, Operation Bootstrap is under way, creating tax exemptions and industrialization of the island. Men were drafted into war, women were forced to work in factories.

1948 – La Ley de la Mordaza (Gag Law) was created making it a felony to display or have a Boricua Flag, sing the original Borinqueña, speak about independence, read and publish, or sell anything having to do with independence. This led to over 3,000 Boricuas being imprisoned, some spending more than 20 years in prison.

On October 30th, 1950, five nationalists tried to kill Muñoz Marín. 

Revolution summary: On October 30, the Boricua nationalists staged uprisings in the towns of Ponce, Mayagüez, Naranjito, Arecibo, Utuado, San Juan, and Jayuya. The first battle of the nationalist uprisings occurred during the early hours of the day of October 29th, in the barrio Macana of the town of Peñuelas. In Jayuya, Blanca Canales and Griselio Torresola Roura led the armed nationalists into the town and attacked the police station. A small battle with the police occurred and one officer was killed and three others wounded before the rest dropped their weapons and surrendered. The nationalists cut the telephone lines and burned post offices. Canales led the group into the town square where the light blue version of the Puerto Rican Flag was raised at a time where flying a Puerto Rican flag was deemed illegal.

 Arrests were made, Nationalists were killed, and after a day long shoot out and being tear gassed, Albizu Campos was arrested and taken to the prison called La Princesa.

1951 – Chemical torture. Blasting the jail cells with radiation waves to see the effects on the human body. Medical Apartheid. 64 released and died ‘65

1952 – The PPD pushes for ELA (Constitución del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico) status for Borikén and in 1952 Munoz Marin won the governorship of the archipelago and established the ELA, effectively making us a commonwealth of the U.S.

2 members of nationalist party attempted to assassinate President Truman.

Later that same year four members of the PNP living in NY traveled to DC. Rafael Cancel MirandaIrvin Flores, Andres Figueroa Cordero, and Lolita Lebrón. She yelled “Viva Puerto Rico Libre!” and unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and the four of them opened fire in the halls of Congress. The date for the attack on the House of Representatives was to be March 1, 1954. This date was chosen because it coincided with the inauguration of the Conferencia Interamericana (Interamerican Conference) in Caracas, Venezuela.

Pictured from left to right: Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andres Figueroa Cordero, Lolita Lebrón, and Irvin Flores

1960 – COINTELPRO – illegal surveillance, ‘las carpetas’ folders kept on about 100,000 Boricuas by the FBI

Young Lords (Black Panthers and Rainbow Coalition) 

The Young Lords and the Black Panthers march in New York City

PSP originated as the Movimiento Pro-Independencia (MPI), founded on January 11, 1959, in the city of Mayagüez. The MPI was formed by a group of dissidents from the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), former militants of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico and the Communist Party of Puerto Rico, and university students, some of them members of the Federación de Universitarios Pro Independencia (FUPI), including such figures as Lidia Barreto, Rafael Cancel Rodríguez, Loida Figueroa Mercado woman, a radical socialist, and nationalist, she openly criticized the government, leading to police surveillance. (Arenales, was published in 1961. A novel, the book evaluates social problems, such as colonialism, gender violence and machismo, labor exploitation, poverty and racism) and Juan Mari Brás, among others. At its Eighth General Assembly on November 28, 1971, the MPI transformed itself into the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. Had branches in NY & Chicago. To get information out and do true journalistic reporting for the working class Boricuas La Claridad was created and still exists to this day, though not exclusively socialist anymore. “La alternativa socialista”, the 1974 political thesis of the PSP, maintained that a workers’ power was necessary to provoke a crisis of the colonial system in Puerto Rico; independence would emerge from this crisis. Disbanded in 93. 

April 21, 1965 – Pedro Albizu Campos dies in La Princesa after nuclear radiation testing carried out by the US government.

1976 – Ejercito Popular Boricua aka as the Macheteros founded by Filiberto Ojeda Ríos

    Los Macheteros took 7.1 million dollars from a Wells Fargo on Sept 12, 1983 (Albizu bday) 

Filiberto Ojeda Ríos

July 25,1978 – Cerro Maravilla murder, Enrique Soto-Arriví and Arnaldo Darío Rosado-Torres two young independence fighters were planning to take over the control towers and read a manifesto about the political prisoners and about the anniversary of the Amerikan invasion of Boriken (which fell on this same day). They were tricked by an undercover police officer (Alejandro González Malavé) who was posing as a member of the party, and were ambushed and killed by multiple police officers. An investigation was led afterwards by the FBI and the US Justice Department who found no wrong doings in a murder they allowed to happen.

1982 – El Colectivo de Medios y Propaganda del Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores (MST) was formed in 1982 by the merger of two important (and previously rival) socialist groups, the maoist Partido Socialista Revolucionario/PSR (Revolutionary Socialist Party) and the Guevarist/Marxist-Leninist Movimiento Socialista Popular (Popular Socialist Movement)

Later, in 1984, the Liga Internacionalista de los Trabajadores/LIT (Workers’ Internationalist League (Puerto Rico) also dissolved into the MST. Influenced by the Cuban Revolution, especially Che Guevara, the Chinese Revolution and Mao Zedong, and a number of similar revolutionary experiences worldwide, the MST began to replace the declining PSP. 

In 1990, the MST founded the Socialist Front along with the Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores Puertorriqueños-Macheteros/PRTP-Macheteros (Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers’ Party-Macheteros) and the Taller de Formación Política-TFP (Political Education Workshop), an alliance of radical-left groups.

Among its supporters are Rafael Feliciano Hernández, twice-elected leader of the Teachers’ Federation of Puerto Rico, on an openly socialist platform; Victor Rodriguez, student leader and spokesman of the UJS in the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras; Pedro Colon Almenas, former political prisoner.

Bandera Roja

1990’s – PNP y mano dura contra el crimen → war on crime (poverty) Crime is a side effect of capitalism. 

EARLY 2000s

In 2003, Vieques was returned to the people after decades of being used as a testing ground by the US Navy for decades. This did not happen by chance, but because of tireless organizing including multiple occupations of the Naval Base. Boricuas living in Vieques suffer higher rates of cancer due to the high levels of radiation on the island still to this day.

One year later, the Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano, or MINH, which is a leftist and pro-independence organization in Puerto Rico, led discussions on the importance of Boricua Solidarity and International solidarity.

A day that we will never forget… on September 23, 2005 Filberto Ojeda Ríos shot and killed by the FBI

2006 – US Code 936 ended, it was a tax credit for businesses operating in Borikén. Mostly attracting and benefiting foreign businesses. The result was that over 100,000 Boricuas became unemployed. The government shutdown for 2 weeks.

All in all Boriken’s unemployment rates are over 16%, and the poverty rate is about 45 %.

2010 – 33,000 people lost government jobs and the average utility bill is 300% higher than the US average. To date over +650 public schools have been closed and there have been multiple failed attempts to privatize UPR, thanks to effective but not very well known organizing of students (Juventud Hostianos). Led to a continuous exodus.

The current situation of Borikén

2016 – PR oversight Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) is a US federal law enacted in 2016 that established a financial oversight board, a process for restructuring debt, and expedited procedures for approving critical infrastructure projects in order to combat the Puerto Rican government-debt crisis. Through PROMESA, the US Congress established an appointed Fiscal Control Board (FCB), known colloquially in Puerto Rico as “La Junta,” to oversee the debt restructuring. With this protection the then-governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro García Padilla, suspended payments due on July 1, 2016. The FCB’s approved fiscal austerity plan for 2017-2026 cut deeply into Puerto Rico’s public service budget, including cuts to health care, pensions, and education, in order to repay creditors. By May 2017, with $123 billion in debt owed by the Puerto Rican government and its corporations, the FCB requested the “immediate” appointment of a federal judge to resolve the “largest bankruptcy case in the history of the American public bond market.

Oscar Lopez-Rivera – One of, if not the, longest held political prisoners. Serving 36yrs in prison for his political beliefs. Activist and militant who was a member and suspected leader of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña (FALN), a clandestine paramilitary organization devoted to Puerto Rican independence that carried out more than 130 bomb attacks in the United States between 1974 and 1983. January of 2017, he was released

2017 – Hurricane Maria y Irma hit Borikén

Ricardo Rosselló – governor of Borikén from 2017-2019. Son of former governor and ousted by the people after the Telegramgate scandal

    Under Rosselló…

Pedro Pirluisi, the current governor of Borikén who was ‘elected’ in 2020

    Under Pedro…

LUMA – American/Canadian company Wayne Stensby is the CEO, power grid privatized in 2018 under Rosselló. This has caused people to die because medical equipment does not work, high energy bills, fires at power plants, and blackouts that sometimes last for days.

Ley 22 and cryptocolonizers

Statehood vs. independence

Feminism today in Puerto Rico (highlight la colectiva)