As a follow-up to a series of pro-independence marches for Puerto Rico that happened across nine U.S. cities on August 9, the San Juan counterpart —originally postponed that day due to a pending tropical storm— happened this past Sunday.
Demonstrators marched past the island-colony’s Capitol and then headed into Old San Juan, accompanied by a caravan of vehicles, according to a release by the march’s organizers.
“This demonstration shows that there is a very large and determined part of the Puerto Rican People that opposes statehood and favors freedom for our country,” rally spokesperson Eugenio Hopgood Dávila said in the release.
Organizers noted that two of the island’s pro-independence organizations —the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) and Hostosian Independence Movement (MINH)— participated in the march, along with organizations that support a free association territorial relationship with the United States. Diaspora organizations like Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora also participated.
“As long as people here are willing to take to the streets and claim their right to be free and not subjected to colonial rule nor annexed as a state, Congress will not be able to impose statehood,” Hopgood said. “Congress realizes that it is impossible to make Puerto Rico a state without a very clear consensus —which means over 90% of public support— and our opposition is the real guarantee that it won’t happen.”
Last November, a non-binding plebiscite of voters in Puerto Rico resulted in a 52.34% margin for statehood with 47.66% voting against statehood as a viable status option. Since then, two separate congressional bills —a statehood one and a self-determination one— have gotten more than 170 bicameral and bipartisan cosponsors combined.
Recently, two prominent Puerto Rican legal scholars on both sides of the political status debate argued for a compromise bill, explaining that Congress must act on resolving Puerto Rico’s current territorial status, which was rejected in the first part of a 2012 non-binding plebiscite.
“Statehood is enhanced colonialism and we oppose it,” PIP leader Juan Dalmau said. “Colonialism is what keeps Puerto Rico in poverty, under an undemocratic system that has allowed the imposition of a Fiscal Control Board with powers that punish our people.”