By Carlito Rovira
This week we will see many Boricuas proudly displaying our solemn symbol, the Puerto Rican Flag, in preparation for the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, a spectacular annual celebration that takes place along a 40 block stretch in New York City’s 5th Avenue.
To Puerto Ricans the flag represents many things. It is the one aesthetic that compels us to express our aspirations and deepest sentiments as a people, connected to history, culture and heritage.
In light of the devastation that occurred in Puerto Rico following the destructive force of Hurricane Maria the flag has also become a symbolism of hope. But the destructiveness of nature can never compare with the outcome of a recent study made that revealed a death toll of 4,645. This report can only serve to accentuate in our minds the intentional neglect by the U.S. Government. The criminality of the Jones Act and the full spectrum of U.S. colonial policy in Puerto Rico affirms the charge of genocide.
When we wave the Puerto Rican Flag in the annual events of this week let’s do so without taking the flag for granted, as what we are always encouraged to do by the mainstream in the general culture. The Puerto Rican Flag came about as a result of the sacrifices made by many who fought for the freedom of our people; freedom fighters who struggled against the predatory aims of first the Spanish and then the U.S. colonizers.
Puerto Ricans in the Cuban Revolutionary Party, created the Puerto Rican Flag at Chimney Corner Hall in New York City on December 22, 1895. Leading this effort among the Boricuas was Manuel Besosa. They chose to invert the colors of the Cuban Flag following the traditions of the “Two Wings of the Same Bird” – a poetic metaphor of the legendary Lola Rodriguez De Tio and later on used in musical rendition by Cuban revolutionary leader Jose Marti.. Revolutionaries of both countries collaborated with each other for centuries in a mutual struggle against Spanish tyranny.
On March 24, 1897, the present-day flag of Puerto Rico was flown for the first time in the municipality of Yauco in an uprising called “Intentona de Yauco.” The aim of this revolt was the independence of Puerto Rico from Spanish colonial rule.
After the U.S. invasion and colonization of Puerto Rico in 1898 use of the flag was discouraged and stigmatized as something evil by U.S. officials. But it was during the imposition of Law 53 of 1948, better known as the Gag Law, ( in Spanish: Ley de La Mordaza), anyone caught displaying or possessing the flag was immediately arrested by the colonial authorities. Thanks to the nationalist fighting spirit of the Puerto Rican masses the U.S. rulers were forced to withdraw this law.
If we are to display the Puerto Rican Flag with meaningfulness know that our right to do so came at a cost that involved the lives and imprisonment of many who loved the homeland, Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican Flag is not for displaying in vain, it is a symbol of defiance and the highest representation of a people’s revolutionary traditions.
QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!