Article excerpt by Dr. Antonio Grillo-Lopez
On the 19th of November 1493, Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Puerto Rico. San Juan was already a city in the early 1500s. One of the first universities in the New World was founded there. Puerto Rico remained under Spanish rule and was granted autonomy in the late 1800s. During the Spanish American War, the US defeated the Spanish Navy in the Pacific and the Atlantic. The American fleet then proceeded towards Puerto Rico. The 5,000 defenders surrendered to the U.S. landing force of 15,000. Thus, in 1898, Puerto Rico became a colony of the USA.
The Foraker Act of 1900 made Puerto Ricans “citizens of Puerto Rico, entitled to the protection of the US”. In 1917, congress passed the Jones Act granting US citizenship to all persons born in Puerto Rico. In 1950, congress enacted Law 600 that recognized Puerto Rico’s right to self-rule and authorized the organization of a government based on a constitution drawn up by Puerto Ricans. The constitution creating the “Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico” (Commonwealth of Puerto Rico) was effective on the 25th of July 1952. Since then, Puerto Ricans have elected their own governor, cabinet members, and congress. Puerto Rico elects a “Resident Commissioner” in Washington who sits in congress (and can be a committee member) with voice but no vote. Puerto Ricans can vote in the US elections if they reside in the continental US. However, they cannot be candidates for the presidency of the US if they were born outside the continental US.
Puerto Ricans have contributed as citizens of the US in many different ways. Did you know that the first shot of World War I (by the US) was fired by a Puerto Rican serving in the US Army, Colonel Teofilo Marxuach, in Puerto Rico?
Puerto Ricans in San Diego
Based on the 2010 U.S. Census, there are over 20,468 Puerto Ricans in San Diego County and over 189,945 Puerto Ricans in the State of California. These numbers continue to increase, not only in San Diego, but throughout the United States. The Commonwealth Government of Puerto Rico recognizes that there are now more Puerto Ricans in the U.S. than on the island.
Puerto Ricans whom have migrated to San Diego come from many places: the island of Puerto Rico, the U.S. east coast communities of New York City, Philadelphia, Orlando, etc. as well as members or descendants of the U.S. armed forces.
Puerto Ricans are deeply rooted in their culture and are thrilled to share its culture with everyone. The efforts here in San Diego were formalized through the leadership of Mrs. Casilda Pagan thus founding La Casa de Puerto Rico in 1972. The organization was re-incorporated as the House of Puerto Rico San Diego in 1998 when as a member of the House of Pacific Relations, it was invited to build a cottage in Balboa Park. The Puerto Rican community, its family and friends united through grass-roots efforts to raise the necessary funds and make this project——a reality.