After many years of colonialism by Spain, Puerto Rico was granted autonomy on November 28, 1897, but it did not last long. The Spanish American War broke out in the early months of 1898 and by July 25, 1898 Puerto Rico was invaded by the United States. The island was ceded to United States by Spain as part of the Treaty of Paris. Puerto Rico's government became an American military government. Puerto Ricans were not given the chance to sit down at the negotiating table, or were consulted in any way; they had no voice.
"… our military forces have come to occupy your pretty little garden."
|Military Bases in Puerto Rico|
United States invaded Puerto Rico for military reasons. Their invasion was designed to confiscate the island of Puerto Rico from the Puerto Rican people.They thought that Puerto Rico would be a good strategic location since it is the first big island that you come to when you are coming from Europe. Puerto Rico is really far out there, and it is about 1,000 miles into the ocean away from Miami. They use the island for military bases. Once the Americans first landed in Puerto Rico, they established all kinds of military bases and took most of Culebra, most of Vieques and many other places. Today there is only one active military base, Fort Buchanan, which is located in Guaynabo.
“The sole object of our presence will be to overthrow all your old and time-honored customs, and give to the people of your beautiful island, the largest amount of work and the smallest pay consistent with military occupation.”
|San German, Puerto Rico|
With this came the Foraker Act of 1900, which changed its government to a civil government. This new act gave Puerto Ricans a few provisions, and one of then was a citizenship in the island, but not in the United States. The Act also changed the name from Puerto Rico to Porto Rico, because as many said, it was easier to pronounce.
"You have no laws and customs that are what we would call wholesome…”
They not only created a legislature and a government that was control by the United States, because the governor was appointed by the president and the cabinet. They also imposed English as the official language, without caring that every single Puerto Rican spoke Spanish. For United States it was more about what we want vs. what they need.
|Central Mercedita in Ponce, PR|
The second reason for U.S. invasion was that there was already a lot of trade going on between Puerto Rico and United States. Puerto Rico had the products that the Americans were interested in developing. Such as sugar cane and tabaco. The Foraker Act allowed American corporations the chance to crete sugar mills (centrales) on Puerto Rican lands, but it limited their land to 500 acres. However, the U.S. government did not really enforce this, because the centrales were relatively unchecked.
Then in 1917, president Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act, which became the basis of Puerto Rico’s legal status until 1948. Now Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens and could freely travel to the United States. However, behind this act was the thought of drafting soldiers for WWI. Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens against their will, and around 250,000 Puerto Ricans were eligible to be draft. However, about 20,000 Puerto Ricans were drafted during WWI.