EUGENIO MARIA DE HOSTOS’S TEXTS WRITTEN in NEW YORK- INTERVIEWS WITH THE AMERICAN PRESS
- The Evening Post, New York, Sept., 1898.
VIEWS OF PUERTO RICANS
ANNEXATION A DISAPPOINTMENT TO EUGENIO DE HOSTOS
Acceptable, However, for Its Vast Improvement Over Spanish Rule – The New Expansion Policy of the United States Deplored as a Sad Mistake – Admission to Statehood Desired at the Earliest Possible Moment
At this juncture in the relation of the United States to Porto Rico the views of representative natives of the Island are doubtless both interesting and valuable. Probably no Porto Rican in this country -according to testimony of his fellow-islanders resident here- is better qualified by education, career, and eminence to speak with weight on the theme than is Eugenio M. de Hostos. In his unchanging fidelity to a political principle apparently foredoomed to lasting defeat, his life is regarded by his friends as at once pathetic, impressive, and distinguished. He is one of the few Puerto Ricans who, through a long life, have preached in season and out of season the doctrine of emancipation from the rule of Spain; who have irreconcilably held to this attitude in the face of all examples of surrender, refusing submission to Spanish authority, abandoning residence in the Island which they passionately love, and passing into a long exile abroad – an exile which would have been a voluntary choice if it had not been an enforced necessity.
A native of Mayaguez – the last of the towns to be occupied by the American troops – Mr. Hostos was educated in Europe, and in his youth became a evolutionist upon whom the eyes of Spain were speedily [illegible] tened. The abortive uprising of 1868, which he actively promoted and abetted, drove him into the exile which has lasted until now. Before and after that event he spent much time in Paris, where he became acquainted with
all the disaffected Spaniards residing there. Among them was Sagasta, which whom Mr. Hostos became personally intimate and it may be noted in passing that he bears in personal appearance a strong likeness to the Queen Regent’s Preminister far as pictures of the Liberal statesman allow one to judge. One would say that the two faces belonged to the same type or that the type was genuinely Spanish. No withstanding their almost daily intercourse and cordial friendship, the two men had radically different political ideals and aspirations. The dream of Hostos was the establishment of a republic in the mother country – a republic whose ample liberty would extend in equal measure to every colony. Failing that, his desire was the emancipation and independence of Porto Rico. Sagasta’s enterprise, on the other hand, contemplated no change of system, but merely the substitution of the monarch for another. He had what were called “liberal tendencies,” but they were rather theoretic than practical, and in his scheme was embraced no substantial alleviation for the miseries of the colonies- if, indeed, he ever thought of them in his preoccupation with the burning question of who should occupy the Spanish throne, and what his own relation to that occupant should be. So in personal amity they pursued their different ends.
To Sagasta, with the more feasible ambition, the larger opportunities and means came at least a great measure of individual success; to Hostos was decreed weary years of waiting and watching for the opportunity which never arrived, and which, in all seeming could never arrive. His faith in the suppression of tyranny, and triumph of liberty in Puerto Rico was sorely tried, but he remained unfaltering in his open rejection of Spanish sovereignty. At last he sees his Island emancipated form the yoke of Spain, but at the same time he sees an end forever to his lifelong vision of independent Puerto Rico. He is, however, and has been, an ardent admirer of the American people and American institutions, and he accepts the actuality as one accepts a fruition which is indeed good, but which is far from that which the enthusiasm of youth had consecrated. A man who has loved his island-country so ardently for so many years, and
with such supreme and self-sacrificing faithfulness to his ideal for that country, he certainly, in the opinion of his fellow Puerto Ricans, entitled to speak for her, and in a voice which will find response. To a representative of the Evening Post, Mr. Hostos said:
“I have just been reading in your newspaper some remarks, attributed to ex-Secretary Sherman, with which I find myself in perfect accord. He raises his voice against colonial expansion, against an imperial policy, for the United States. How right he is! How sound has been the Evening Post on this same topic. Ah, that policy of expansion, of imperialism-it is a tremendous mistake, it is a sad departure! No one more than I has reverenced the United States for its high mission in the world; none has more fervently cherished the hope that the great country would be faithful for ever to that mission, executing it to the end of time, and filling the earth with the rare blessing of a pure and noble national example. I had always trusted that I should never see the republic diverted form the path marked out for it by the wise
fathers, to tread in the broad and downward way of the conquering empires of the past, and of the insatiable empires of Europe today. I had desired for the United States to see it preserving the even tenor of its established way, setting the world and example of peace, of moderation, of freedom, and of freedom from the lust of land and dominion. I had desired that if America ever unsheathed her sword again, it should be only for the preservation of her own liberty and integrity, or for the extension of liberty to the grossly downtrodden without demand for, or thought of, self aggrandizement with soil and peoples. This ideal for America has been rudely shaken, almost dispelled. I will not yet abandon it altogether, but have grave forebodings I cannot resist.
“What I had desired for Puerto Rico was that, since her own arm was too weak to achieve her independence, it might be won for her by a noble and powerful neighbor no longer able to endure the spectacle of old-world tyranny at her very door; that this liberator should tarry long enough to see the infant republic born and assured of a vigorous beginning of life; that the
emancipator should then withdraw with the love and gratitude of a new nation, rightfully bearing a gladly yielded paramount influence with that nation in all continental and international matters. This conclusion, I am sure, would have been better in the end for Puerto Rico as well as the United States. For America it would have meant so much the less of the fatal imperial policy, and so much the more of adherence to the wholesome traditions of the past. For the Island it would have meant development according to the genius of the people -not development which must encounter at every step the difficulties raised by difference of race, of temperament, of language, and of education.”
The population of Puerto Rico are totally ignorant of the federal system of this government; even those who fancy that they understand it are, for the most part, mistaken. It will be difficult for them to comprehend it; it will be still more difficult for them to adapt themselves to it and enter into it. An obstacle, and to my mind a serious one, will arise in the introduction of a language foreign to the people as the official language of the Island. It will tend in a measure to the creation of caste; to the rise of an official class sharply set off from the rest of the inhabitants.
The passing of the Spanish language will in itself be viewed with regret, for, Spanish as it is, it is dear to all who speak it. Impediments in the transaction of affairs, business as well as governmental, will also necessarily be produced by this difference in language, and their tendency will be more or less towards irritation and friction.
“How many of my countrymen may agree with me in the views I hold I cannot state with positiveness, but that there are not a few I am confident, and it seems to me that it should be easy for all to comprehend where their best interests lie. The American press has rightly made a great deal of the open arms with which the Puerto Ricans have received the army of Gen. Miles. All those manifestations of delight – the resending addresses of welcome, the flowers, the tears of joy, the embraces of unrestrained enthusiasm -were questionlessly honest and sincere. Yet- and I assert this with absolute conviction -they were founded upon
a serious misapprehension. The Puerto Ricans have taken for granted that the purpose of the United States was, first, to strike a military blow at Spain, and, second, to seize the opportunity to put and end for ever to Spanish misgovernment in the Antilles, by erecting on the Island a free and independent government.
The policy of annexation, the imposition of sovereignty upon a people without its solicitation and even without inquiry as to its desires, they never suspected for one moment, opposed as it was to the fundamental principles which had hitherto guided the republic. What revulsion of feeling may follow a recognition of the true intention of the United States no one can foretell.
“But what avails it now to talk in this strain? The die is cast.
The policy of the United States has been declared to the world and it is doubtless inalterable. This being so, it behooves Puerto Ricans to consider the future in the fixed light of annexation.
Whatever disappointment may be felt, however acute it may be at first, I expect that it will give way to a general and heary acceptance of the status. The infinitude of good involved in the change from Spanish to American allegiance forbids any other conclusion. But since our lot is cast with the United States, we shall now desire with intense eagerness to be admitted to full participation in all the prerogatives and privileges of a sovereign unit of the republic. We aspire to reach as speedily as possible our station among the states -to be that element in the affairs of the Union which such a status implies. The continuance of a military government will be particularly unpleasing to Puerto Ricans, reminiscent as it will be of the odious shape of Spanish rule. A territorial government will be viewed as a necessary stage, it may be, but with impatience for its termination. Since we must be Americans we cannot be blamed if we are anxious to become at once as American as the most American of the Americans. At present we are not the best material for such transformation, but immediate conversion will perhaps be for us the best educative process. ”
Entrevista con The Evening Post, de Nueva York, 6 de septiembre de 1898