History of American Citizenship in P.R.


On July 25, 1898 American Troops landed in Guanica, a small town in the southern coast of Puerto Rico. From Guanica, the troops moved until the Island was under American control. So, over one hundred years ago, the United States has had a direct relationship with the island of Puerto Rico.

Since the arrival of the American troops in 1898 many political changes have taken place in Puerto Rico. Some claim that through the years Puerto Rico has gained more "autonomy". While this is true in many ways, the truth of the matter is that the bonding of the Puerto Rico-United States relationship has continued to grow and strengthen through the years. Even with the creation of E.L.A., or our Commonwealth status in 1952, no changes were made to all the articles and provisions that regulated the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States under the Jones act of 1917. What the new Commonwealth, or E.L.A. status gained was a degree of internal administrative freedom pretty much the same way most states of the nation enjoy. Puerto Rico ceased to be a simple territory with absolutely no internal power. While Puerto Rico continued subject to the control by Congress under the Foraker and Jones Acts, the island pretty much enjoyed the freedom provided to any other state.

Puerto Rico becomes part of the United States, as a territory, under the "Treaty of Peace Between the United States and Spain" of December 10, 1898, known as the Treaty of Paris. Under its Article II it reads;

"Spain cedes to the United States the island of Porto Rico and other islands now under Spanish sovereignty in the West Indies, and the island of Guam in the Marianas or Ladrones."

On April 12, 1900, under the presidency of William McKinley, the Foraker Law was approved. The Foraker Law is the first organic law approved by the United States Congress for Puerto Rico. Under the Foraker Law, Puerto Rico regains its civil government, but the island remains as a mere colony of the United States. Under this law, Puerto Rico was governed by a Governor, a Secretary and five cabinet members, all who were named by the President of the United States. A 35 member Legislative Assembly represented the people. This law also provided for the election of a Puerto Rican to represent the island in the Congress of the United States.

On March 2, 1917, under the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, the Jones Act was approved. This new organic law which granted numerous rights for residents of the island also included the granting of American citizenship to persons born in Puerto Rico.

On July 25, 1952, on the 54th anniversary of the arrival of American troops to Puerto Rico, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico goes into effect. In the Constitution under the preamble it reads in part;

"That we consider determinant factors in our lives the citizenship of the United States of America, and the inspiration to continually enrich our democratic will in our individual and collective enjoyment of its rights and prerogatives; the loyalty to the postulates of the Federal Constitution; the living together in Puerto Rico of two great cultures of the American hemisphere"

Puerto Rico has enjoyed a great, beautiful relationship with the United States since 1898. Our people in Puerto Rico enjoy American citizenship since March 2, 1917. This relationship has allowed Puerto Rico to develop economically, raise our standards of living, enjoy all the freedoms under the Federal Constitution, and to convert Puerto Rico into the real"shining star of the Caribbean".

John A. Regis Jr, August 1998

Additional ARTICLES on the History of American Citizenship in Puerto Rico:

[ English Home | Spanish Version ]
[ American Citizenship | History of American Citizenship in P.R. ]
[ View of Congress, the Courts and the Federal Government ]
[ View of the Political Parties: PNP | PPD | PIP ]
[ American Citizenship in the process of Self Determination ]
[ Much has happened since July 25, 1898 | Notable Quotes ]
[ Suggested Links and Bibliography | Conclusions ]

This web page is maintained by John A. Regis Jr.
For more information please contact us at prusa@puertoricousa.com.
Copyright 1998, Puerto Rico USA Citizenship Foundation.