By Carlito Rovira
On December 22, 1895 Puerto Ricans in the Cuban Revolutionary Party, created the Puerto Rican Flag at a meeting held in the Chimney Corner Hall in New York City. The leader of this effort was the prominent Puerto Rican revolutionary Manuel Besosa.
The Puerto Rican revolutionaries 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 Puerto Rican literary 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.
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 and the continued crisis of earthquakes followed by many tremors, the flag has also become a symbolism of hope. But the destructiveness of nature can never compare with the outcome of a study made after Hurricane Maria that revealed a death toll of 4,645. That 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 annual events let’s do so without taking the flag for granted, as what we are always encouraged to do by those who have colonized our homeland and who want us to interpret our national symbol as just a fad. 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.
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 eliminate this law.
Adding to the continued disrespect for the people, once Law 53 of 1948 was removed in 1957 and the ban on the Puerto Rican flag was lifted the original turcois blue on the triangular part of its design was replaced by the same dark blue used in the U.S. Flag. The reasoning for this imposed change was an attempt by the U.S. rulers to aesthetically create a resemblance between the Puerto Rican people and their colonial oppressors.
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.
That is why on this date, December 22nd, we cherish and celebrate the Puerto Rican Flag. Despite everything that the colonizers have thrown at our people — physically with police terror and psychologically in their attempts to destroy the Puerto Rican self-identity — Boricuas continue to raise their symbol with pride. Que Bonita Bandera!
QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!