The Failure of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement

Guest Commentary
The Failure of the
Independence Movement
Puerto Rico is a laboratory of failed
political movements. Estadolibrismo
and annexation do not matter to me.
 Let them drown in their swamp.
By Wilda Rodríguez
El Nuevo Día (November 27, 2017)
translated from Spanish by NiLP
Convinced that independence is the only option for Puerto Rico, it matters to me that  independentistas recognize the failure of the political project that we have tried to carry out and the need to undertake a new one.
The time has come to accept this without seeking excuses or feeling guilty. How much does it costs us to realize that losing a battle does not mean losing the war!
The old battle plan is not taking us to where we set out to be. We have an army in disarray with riots on the margins. New strategies are required, fresh battalions, new weapons.
We have to verbalize failure and exorcise guilt. With our flashes of glory and our heroes being very evident, but without romanticism.
Accepting a failure is not a weakness. It can be a strength if we become masters of it and forgive ourselves without guilt. We must accept the ability and the tricks of the enemy to build new weapons and better tricks. Discard the resentment that produces frustration and makes us our worst enemies in a fratricidal scuffle of exclusion. Discard those who cannot get rid of resentment. Let them fight alone. We are fully capable of fighting with love.
Many of us feel better independentistas every day, but that satisfaction is as individualistic as the ideology and ethics of the enemy we fight.
We should start by recognizing that the terms that are common and necessary do not make sense to many people outside of us.
Some call it narrative, others call it speech. Whatever you want  to call it, the independentistas have to update it.
For many Puerto Ricans, independence means that to drink milk they have to go out every day to milk the cow. The call is for “valor and sacrifice.” We have to change that for the idea of independence as the pursuit of common happiness, as a joyful project whose goal is for us all to enjoy a better country.
That has been our Achilles heel. That we cannot simply explain independence as meeting the needs of the people, except by our intellectual rhetoric of socialism and patriotism, which can be quite dismal.
When we are asked to explain what the economy in the republic would be like, we cannot respond with an economic treatise. We have to talk about rice and beans but we have not been able to do it because we insist on explaining first what is the class struggle and neoliberalism. In that, they make first the professing of faith against the colonialism and for the death of the tyrant. When we arrive at aconcrete answers, our countryperson is snoring or has left us to the side.
Better the other way around The conclusion first and how we come to it later. In any learning process, the best method is the one that provokes the questions for the next explanation. The “And why?” of children who determine what they want to know and when – their pace of learning.
I dream simple? Well, that simplicity is what we need to offer independence as an option.
By the way, organizations have to admit their failure and consider disappearing or transforming themselves. Otherwise, they will have to be pushed aside, majing us ;pse so much time that unites us in attacking them and defending them.
I propose to start with three points of consensus:
  1. How to decolonize without proposing a perfect independence;
  2. What is the economic project that we can propose in rice and beans terms; and
  3. How to integrate the diaspora into the project to push the change by pushing all together.
The independence movement has been successful in surviving the bloodiest of battles. It survived but it lost it. Now it has to prepare to use that life to win the war.
Wilda Rodriguez is a veteram journalist based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She can be reached at