Requiem for the Puerto Rican Independence Movement

Thoughts from a disappointed nationalist…

The results of the 2008 election in Puerto Rico may have officially signaled the demise of the Puerto Rican independence movement. The Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) garnered a mere 2.0% of the vote. It was the worst showing ever for Puerto Rico’s major independence party. In the 13 general elections and 3 political status plebiscites held since 1960, the independence movement has never surpassed the 6% mark and has averaged a pitiful 3.3% in the three elections held this century.

It is obvious that leaders within the independence movement have failed to articulate a coherent, all inclusive message. Too often, the movement remained stagnant and too closely associated with fringe elements of extremism. The 1960’s notion of revolution became dependent on the idea that a modern independence uprising, like the 1868 “Grito de Lares” would materialize. It never did. Attempts to create a national awakening of sorts never took hold. We never came close to a Polish-style Solidarność,  a Czech Velvet revolution, nor a Filipino People Power movement.  Lolita Lebron never quite achieved Mandela-esque stature. The 1978 police entrapment and murder of two independence activists on El Cerro Maravilla galvanized the movement. Tragically, even their  martyrdom failed to become a catalyst for collective action. Only the dispute with the US Navy over the island of Vieques received world wide attention but failed to evolve into a much broader issue of national sovereignty. The “struggle for liberation”  became passé and with little momentum, became more a nostalgic novelty than an actual cause.


Sadly, it appears that Puerto Rican independence has become an irrelevant consumer choice; victim of mismanagement, misdirected advertising, and poor marketing strategies. The PIP is not entirely to blame for the current state of the movement. The pro-statehood party (PNP) and pro-commonwealth party (PPD) masterfully instilled unfounded fears about the dire consequences of independence upon the general electorate. For decades, the independence movement failed to counter these tactics. The recent emergence of a “Green Party” on the island may have sealed the fate of the independence movement. Green politics is the new form of expressing electoral non-conformity. The Green Party (PPR) received nearly 14,000 (.8%) more votes than the PIP in 2008.

It may be time to finally realize that Puerto Rican independence may be nothing more than a melancholic dream of years past. After nearly a century and half of efforts against Spain and the United States, it may be time to just simply cede to the inevitable, pack up our things and sadly go home. The question is; Where exactly is home now?

Feel differently? Leave a comment and let’s discuss it!


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