HATO REY, Puerto Rico — James came all the way from the western city of Arecibo on his bike to march with hundreds on Sunday who were demanding action from the U.S. Congress on the issue of statehood for Puerto Rico.
He said he moved to Puerto Rico with his wife and that he had been convinced that the island territory should be admitted as a state of the Union. A native from Nebraska and a veteran, James explained that veterans living in Puerto Rico received less care than those who reside in any of the 50 states.
James wasn’t the only veteran to march on Sunday, a demonstration that was not a partisan activity promoted by the island’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP). The Movimiento Revolución Estadista (MRE or Statehood Revolution Movement) is composed of registered Republicans, Democrats and Independents, mostly young people who saw the Puerto Rico Summer Revolution as a wake-up call.
Dan Santiago, one of the organizers, said in a written statement in Spanish given to Latino Rebels that “It’s time to create the conditions so that we are recognized.”
During the march to the federal court house in Hato Rey, loudspeakers blared and messages against alleged media bias were shared. At one point, one announcer said that “we are a movement of law and order”—a clear reference towards groups that reacted to police aggression and fought in Old San Juan during the #RickyRenuncia July protests.
The statehood march began around 10:30 a.m. at the Sacred Heart metro station. Latino Rebels estimated that several hundred people attended, ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 people.
Supporters led the march with a banner that read “Statehood Revolution” in Spanish. A combination of veterans and young people marched with the banner. A massive U.S. flag was also used in the march, which included several local PNP politicians.
Once the march arrived at the federal court house, members of the Sociedad Civil Estadista (Civil Society for Statehood) organization gave speeches, vowing to create momentum for the movement and plan a march in Washington, D.C. Supporters demanded that Congress immediately incorporate the territory of Puerto Rico (just like D.C.), which would be a stepping stone on the path for statehood. Organizers also announced an online petition for this demand.
Supporters also said they would create pro-statehood assemblies for the island’s 78 municipalities so that citizens can propose ideas for the movement.
All in all, it was a short activity, and no PNP politician gave a speech—a clear sign that the island’s pro-statehood movement has grown beyond the PNP. March participants also expressed anger towards the ruling class, saying that the PNP has abandoned the statehood movement.
Edwin Jusino tweets from @erjusinoa.