On Puerto Rico’s southwestern corner, the sleepy seaside town of Guanica is where, nearly 120 years ago, the U.S. relationship with the island began during the Spanish-American War. The town’s museum director, Francisco Rodriguez, takes visitors to the town’s waterfront where the invasion began. In Spanish he says, “This is Guanica Bay, where the American troops commanded by General Nelson Miles landed on July 25, 1898.” At the site, a stone marker engraved by the 3rd Battalion of the U.S. Army commemorates the invasion.
Nearly 19 years after the invasion, President Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act, granting citizenship to people born on the island. But it’s a limited form of citizenship. The law puts Puerto Rico under federal control but doesn’t allow the island voting representation in Congress. Residents also can’t vote for president. That law started a debate that continues today over what exactly the island’s relationship with the U.S. should be. And now in Puerto Rico, there’s a new push to fix what many see it as a deeply-flawed relationship.
Photo: Greg Allen/NPR