(still being treated with disdain and contempt as a step-child nuisance)

Ever since we grabbed it from Spain back in the 1890’s, we’ve never figured out what to do with it, or how to really make it a part of these United States.

Ostensibly we were “liberating” Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the far-off Philippines, from oppressive Spanish colonial rule yet, for some reason, we soon let Cuba go its own independent way, but kept Puerto Rico and the Philippines, choosing instead to install our own brand of colonial rule there overlaid with a veneer of Americanization by installing our judicial, legal, educational, and political systems, for their administration and governance.

Our motives for doing so were probably more driven by a greed to have some rich trophies from that “splendid little war” with Spain than anything else; but also, to enhance our strategic position as a rising naval power in the world, first in the Caribbean, thereby controlling access to the Gulf of Mexico and the lands surrounding it; and, in the Pacific, where our hold on the Philippines gave us stronger trade leverage over the commerce between Asia and the Western Hemisphere.  In the context of those times, this was probably the major geopolitical consideration of the US for that decision.

Yet taking over some place for military purposes is one thing, but becomes a very different proposition when having to assimilate and take care of an entire population speaking a foreign language, having an entirely different culture, and with a racially mixed composition in its society which does not conform to your perspectives about such matters. All of which left America much conflicted with itself about how to treat both these new acquisitions, because its anti-colonial history and the principles set out for it by its founders thus came in direct confrontation with the reality of what acquisition of Puerto Rico and the Philippines really entailed.

With the Philippines things soon turned sour, initiating a drawn-out guerilla war against our “liberating” presence there, ultimately leading to outright conquest and the installation of a firm colonial establishment to govern it. Because of that status the Philippines received much closer attention and assistance than it would otherwise have gotten. After all, a colonial possession isn’t worth much…if you don’t invest in it and have it produce something of value to justify holding on to it. 

For some reason that did not happen with Puerto Rico. Instead it was just declared a “possession” of the United States, with the semi-right of self-governance (under the watchful eye of a Washington-appointed overlord governor) under the legal euphemism of calling it a “Commonwealth” meaning…it was expected to take care of its own needs with only a modicum of financial support and cost to the US Treasury.

With that form of “membership” with the United States…its people could be deemed citizens off it, and their collective polity having the right to be represented in Congress…but…without the right to vote on anything. In short, to be a collective of second-class citizens treated much like a Cinderella, before her fairy godmother intervened.

Some of that second-class handicap was offset, however, because that status incidentally gave it the benefit of being a legitimate offshore “tax haven” for both mainland American business enterprises, and individuals, as the economic equivalent of such a godmother. So, from that, at least for a while, Puerto Rico proved to be uncommonly productive, and if not wealthy, at least modestly prosperous, contributing much to the quality of America’s culture from its talents in arts and science, and contributing even more strongly by the bravery and prowess of its citizens serving in its military. But for all practical purposes it was left to its own devices, largely ignored as a backwater cabbage patch place under the US flag…with only canny mainland industry and business entities taking advantage of its “tax” benefits…and savvy individuals looking for a neat offshore retirement locale they could afford, foreign enough to be exotic…but without the need of visas, etc. In short, a place to live the “good life” without all the hassles and constrictions of the mainland.

But after WWII, things began turning sour again. In the Philippines, a growing clamor for independence became so intense Congress finally grudgingly gave in and let it go its own way (though long holding a grudge against it for such “ingratitude”). Meanwhile, a similar outbreak of independence fever broke out in Puerto Rico, which took a very nasty turn when some of its more extreme proponents made an armed assault on the Congress and attempted to assassinate President Truman as well.

That incident was the first time most folks on the mainland became aware of something called Puerto Rico being connected to the USA in some way. After the media furor over that event had faded away…it faded back from public consciousness as well…to fall back into its step-child nuisance status (even theatrical productions such as West Side Story not doing much to change that perspective).

While the devastation of hurricane Maria has left it prostrate, a much more damaging event occurred some ten years ago when Congress, frantically in search of more money to finance its own problems from the 2008 financial crisis, chose to eliminate that “tax benefit” which had been its economic mainstay almost from the moment we “liberated” it from Spanish rule. So, much like migratory birds, the moment that tax advantage disappeared…most of its major mainland businesses flew away as well, leaving borrowing as the only means of supporting itself…and accruing a $7 billion debt load as a result.

Now, several weeks after getting clobbered by Maria, Puerto Rico is still being treated with contempt and disdain as a step-child nuisance, by the President, while FEMA and other elements of the Federal apparatus ponderously crank up their massive relief and reconstruction machinery. None of that doing much good to all our “citizens” in the island’s hinterlands who remain in dire need of everything three weeks after that storm event, because none of those relief supplies piling up at the port of San Juan are getting to them since the entire surface and communications infrastructure of the island was largely demolished by it. No one at any level of authority seems to have considered alternative means to overcome that problem.




Given the island’s topography, the only means to overcome it…to bring in the desperately needed supplies of water, food, medicines, and emergency generators and communications services…means just one kind of equipment that can accomplish such a task…that is…helicopters. One would think therefore that, somewhere in the mass of bureaucratic minds tasked with bringing relief there, there might be just one with enough common sense to have realized that…but apparently not.

Well, since official “relief” authorities (civil and military) are not likely to figure that out any time soon, perhaps it’s time for some private deep pocket individuals such as…Gates…Zuckerberg…Coban…Musk…Branson…Buffet…and other assorted billionaires…formed a consortium to finance the temporary cost of furnishing such equipment for that purpose.

Meanwhile, time is not a friend. A lot of folks are dying…as will more…because Puerto Rico seems to be of less concern to this Administration than fixing a pothole on one of our crumbling interstate highways.