OP-ED | Hartford Councilperson’s Speech At The Puerto Rican Unity March
Since 1898, we have been promised falsas promesas (false promises). When General Nelson A. Miles landed on the island of Puerto Rico to present the very first promise made on behalf of the United Sates to the people of Puerto Rico.
Our pueblo was not given a choice. When the General gave a Proclamation that stated, “We have not come to make war upon the people of a country that for centuries has been oppressed, but, on the contrary, to bring you protection, not only to yourselves, but to your property; to promote your prosperity, and bestow upon you the immunities and blessings of the liberal institutions of our government.”
These were mentiras (lies)
By 1917 President Woodrow Wilson signed the first Jones Act into law granting Puerto Ricans U.S. Citizenship.
Porque somos ciudadanos de segunda clase. We are second class citizens.
By 1920, the United States Congress enacted the Merchant Marine Act, the second Jones Act. But with another catch as la isla del encanto (island of enchantment name used to refer to Puerto Rico) became the modern day guinea pig of North America.
But there is always resilience in introspection.
They have forced our men to fight in war and they are among the most valiente (valiant).
They have raped our women and sterilized them and our mothers continue to fight, no hay nada que se compara al cariño de nuestras madres (nothing compares to the love of our mothers).
They tell us to bury our culture, to not speak our language y nuestras canziones son las más reconocidas todo el planeta (and our songs are the most recognized around the planet).
One hundred years later our 3.7 million fellow Americans cannot vote in the national elections, nor do they have voting representation in Congress.
Año tras año, decada tras decada, lo que vemos es un patrón de hipocresía. Year after year, decade after decade, what we have witnessed is a pattern of hypocrisy.
An entire country degraded by virtue of a peace treaty, into an unincorporated territory. For one hundred years our people have been treated as mere spoils of war. (El Tratado de Paris).
From this hallow summit Dr. Martin Luther King’s words still irradiate justice, equality, and freedom. Universal principles that are the foundation of our constitution.
Today, we stand united. We are gathered here to reaffirm those principles to confirm that the freedom of each one of us citizens of the most important democracy in the world, is inextricably bound to the freedom of each Puerto Rican.
We demand an end to the Maritime Jones Act.
We request full voting representation in Congress.
As citizens, we demand that our gente (people) en la isla (on the island) are able to vote for the President of the United States.
This is a defining moment today, as we continue to grow in numbers in the mainland. We are here setting the stage for what’s next to come.
Mientras que la isla esta en plena oscuridad, sabemos que lo que tenemos que hacer es encender la luz que llevamos dentro. While the island of Puerto Rico remains in darkness, we know that what we have to do each one of us ignite the torch within us.
And so we will rise like the sun, marching with the fire of conviction of our ancestors.
Wildaliz Bermudez is a Hartford City Councilperson. She participated in the Unity March in support of disaster relief for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico this past Sunday in Washington D.C.
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