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PUERTO RICO: Birth of a Commonwealth

2 minute read

Over Puerto Rico last week a new flag flew side by side with the Stars & Stripes. For 2,250,000 islanders, the single white star in a blue triangle against a field of red and white bars signified a nationalist dream come true. Puerto Rico had become a free commonwealth, autonomous in internal affairs, under its own constitution, recently approved by the U.S. Congress and President.

In every city and hamlet the people celebrated the new day of independence* with music, oratory, parades. In front of the Capitol in San Juan, oratory-loving Governor Luis Mufios Marin, the driving force in the making of the new constitution, looked up at the two banners flying together. “This emblem of the smallest country in the hemisphere alongside that of the U.S.,” he said, “means that the two nations, as well as the two peoples, are of equal dignity …”

A Puerto Rican U.S. Army sergeant, watching another flag-raising ceremony at San Juan’s old El Morro fortress, echoed the governor’s sentiment in other words: “The United States,” he said, “would never permit the flag of a lousy colony to fly beside its own. This means Puerto Rico has arrived.”

*July 25 was chosen as “Commonwealth Day” because Puerto Rico had observed that date throughout much of its history: under Spanish rule, as the day dedicated to St. James, Spain’s patron saint; later, as the anniversary of the landing of a 3,415-man U.S. liberation force under Major General Nelson A. Miles in 1898.

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