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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

One nation, two flags?

By Gregorio Igartúa

The law establishes the colors and design of the Puerto Rican flag (LPRA Cap. 3-31). It also sets the simultaneous display of the United States and Puerto Rico flags. It requires their display in equal prominence in any government structure, municipalities, public corporations and by any official thereof (1 LPRA 3-33 b).

Former Gov. Luis Muñoz’ Marín’s Popular Democratic Party used both flags in all municipal committees and rallies. Ratifying it as a requirement of the party -- this is how it emerges from several of the leader’s writings (letter of Sept. 30, 1943).

With the passing of the years, the use of the U.S. flag has been reduced to almost zero. Even in pro-statehood activities, it does not stand out. On the other hand, the pro-independence movement, which has failed to win votes, has managed to project independence at the state and national level by leaps and bounds with the mere use of the Puerto Rican flag. Consider:

In Puerto Rico, there is no union labor activity where the Puerto Rican flag is not displayed. It gives the impression that the only ones supporting the workers are the independentistas. On the contrary, from 1900 to 1930, the unions led by Santiago Iglesias Pantín and Samuel Gompers, the British-American founder of the American Federation of Labor, brought us closer to statehood. In 1917, they managed to grant us American citizenship.

In 1952, Muñoz Marín, along with the founder of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party and eventual governor Luis A. Ferré and pro-statehood leader García Méndez, obtained the approval of our Constitution, such as the states of the union have. There, allegiance to American citizenship and Constitution is sworn. The two flags affirming the union with the United States are the American (I am American) and the Puerto Rican (I am Puerto Rican).

On the contrary, Puerto Ricans living in the States have projected themselves as if their residential areas were colonies or ghettos of a Republic of Puerto Rico, displaying the Puerto Rican flag without the American one. They are called the Puerto Rican diaspora, a term referring to citizens who have forcibly moved out of their country to another. In other words, they are called foreigners within their own nation, even though they can move between the states and Puerto Rico without a passport. Ironically, leaders like U.S. Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Rep. Luis Gutiérrez promote this anti-American Puerto Rican patriotic spirit. The press calls Olympic gold medalist Jasmine Quinn-Camacho (by her preferred) “Camacho-Quinn.” In the States, basketball players who are descendants (including grandchildren) of native-born Puerto Ricans are sought to play in the superior territorial basketball league (called National, as in Baloncesto Superior Nacional).

In sports events in the States, if a Puerto Rican participates, 300 Puerto Ricans go, even if the team is not from Puerto Rico, and every time they make a play, they display the Puerto Rican flag. They are the only ones in the nation, even if it is ridiculous, inadmissible and reckless and embarrassing for the public and for the team.

On local television and radio, they refer to Puerto Rico as the nation, not as a state or territory. In several states, a Puerto Rican parade is held annually, but to reaffirm that every day we are Puerto Ricans, not Americans. I mean -- I’m Boricua so you know it!!! They want to name streets in American cities after Puerto Ricans. I got lost on a street in Boston that turned out to be called Aguadilla.

How do the independentistas manage to promote their patriotic agenda?

Converting Puerto Rican neighborhoods in large cities into neighborhoods or ghettos identified with the Puerto Rican flag.

Refusing to use the American flag in their home states at sporting events, parades, professional meetings and elsewhere.

Turning the Puerto Rican flag into an idol of their patriotic movement.

They ignore the fact that millions of Hispanics would give the unspeakable to enjoy the benefits of U.S. citizenship. There are more than 4 million Americans of Puerto Rican descent residing in the States. They are benefiting, or have benefited from, public schools, universities, and serve in the military. They pay federal and state taxes, Social Security and Medicare. Many have excelled in industry, commerce, sports, the arts, journalism, education, science and government. Even so, they promote the idea that we are foreigners in our own nation.

In other words, the group behind this national scaffolding wants us, the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, not to vote for the president, for two senators and five representatives, while they do vote.

To all those patriots who reside in the States for better social benefits, I suggest they mitigate the damage they have caused us (of over $10 billion annually).

* Use both flags (I have both in my heart)

* Demand parity in federal funding for us

* Promote our vote in federal elections.

They should also return to Puerto Rico to reduce the shortage of plumbers, painters, electricians, doctors, police officers, teachers, firefighters, engineers, lawyers and nurses, albeit temporarily.

Who knows, maybe they will stay.

Meanwhile, Gutiérrez, la Ocasio y la Velázquez, Rubén Berríos, Calle 13, Ricky Martin, and others can dress up as Uncle Sam and enjoy their good life in statehood.

Gregorio Igartúa is an attorney with a private practice in Aguadilla.

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