Using tragedy to promote dependency

I wrote the post below in response to an attempt to use Camacho’s death for partisan purposes. The original post I read appeared in the otherwise admirable blog “Repeating Islands.” But it had first come from Time.com, written by Tim Padgett

“I am surprised to see such a partisan and pro-colonial (and ahistorical) post in this blog. The pro-statehood movement on the island has been on an evangelical-like impetus that ignores the facts for the “positive” vision.

The main reason Puerto Rico, as well as much of Latin America, has sunk into what it seems as social disarray (as seen in the surge of violence) is in fact because of its colonial status and the neo-liberal policies affecting the entire region. Adding Puerto Rico to the integral political structure of the colonial master (statehood) would not only miss the goal of producing a solution to the problems affecting the region, but it would simply be impossible.

Understanding the nature of nation-building and nationalism would help explain why the U.S. would find it impossible to assimilate the island as an equal. There are plenty of historical examples that would also highlight the foolishness of this idea. France in the Caribbean is perhaps the most salient one, where the colonial territories have been integral and full members of the French political apparatus (unlike Puerto Rico’s “commonwealth” status, which by the way, it reads radically different in the Spanish version).

And yet, the French “Overseas Departments” have not been nor will be in the same social or political level as the rest of France. They are rather dependencies “well treated,” or better yet, “people hanging from the borders of the more progressive nation that is France” (which happens to thrive at the historical expenses of their colonial possessions). No wonder the French have not accepted them as real social equals.

The U.S. seems farther behind the French in admitting this possibility with Puerto Rico–even less of accepting Puerto Ricans as full members of their society (in the continental U.S., they are considered “immigrants” in the process of becoming “Whites” as the Irish and Italians once were, if they are willing to shed away most of their cultural traits and join the “melting-pot”). So, there are enough evidences showing the final destination of the “statehood” pipe-dream.

Puerto Rico has a long history of reactionary and pro-colonial support, and this post seems to follow in such a tradition (this thought also relates to plantation owners in Cuba who sought union with the U.S., and discredited Dominican caudillos who wanted the U.S. to re-colonize their country in the 19th Century).

Yet, there are also traditions of more genuinely native and more creative lines of thinking that put a premium on emancipation, collaboration and fair equality rather than on pernicious social hierarchies. I suggest that we tap on these latter traditions, improve on them and rethink our future more brightly than joining a cause of futile begging for acceptance.”

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About Dennis R. Hidalgo
I am a historian of the Atlantic World. I am passionate about people, those alive in the present and those who left little trace of their past.

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