EUGENIO MARIA DE HOSTOS’S TEXTS WRITTEN in NEW YORK- INTERVIEWS WITH THE AMERICAN PRESS
- The Press, New York, Dec. 28, 1898
AS A BROTHER, NOT A SERVANT
So Puerto Rico Wants to Be Treated by Uncle Sam.
SENDS A COMMISSION HERE
To Ask the President and Congress to Form a Territorial Government on the Island.
“Puerto Rico asks to be accepted by the United States as a brother, not as a servant,” said Professor E. M. Hostos, yesterday.
He is one of a commission sent by the people of Ponce and of San Juan, Puerto Rico, to ask for the establishment of a Territorial government for the Island.
His colleagues are Dr. M. Zeno Candia, E. Lugo Vina and Dr.
.J.J. Henna. They sailed from Ponce on Wednesday last and reached here on Monday evening. They are at the Westminster Hotel, and will remain there until next week, when they will go to Washington to visit President McKinley and confer with as many members of Congress as they can meet.
WANT TO BE A TERRITORY
They do not know how long they will remain in Washington, but their desire is to be assured that Puerto Rico will be allowed to have a form of government similar to that of our Western Territories.
“Of course,” Professor Hostos continued to a reporter of The Press, “we expect to be treated as a younger brother who must go to school and learn and must respect his elders until he grows up, but we want to feel that when we have grown and have been educated in self-government we can hope to become part of the American people and not always remain their servants. “We ask for home rule and public schools. We do not expect everything at once, but want to start right, and only ask that we be made a Territory the same as the Territories that have grown to be States. We do not want to be started as a colony which must forever remain outside the nation. We want to become a part of the American people.”
LIKE GENERAL HENRY
“The people of Puerto Rico do not yet understand much of the Americans laws and customs nor the feelings of the American people toward them. They do not know what is to become of them. We have no complaint to make of the government of General Henry. He is a good man and we all respect him and esteem him. But his government is the government of a man, not of the people, as all military governments must be. He may be taken away any day and a new man seat to take his place. We cannot know that the new man would be a good man, as General Henry is. We want to have a government of the people; that is republican; not a government of a man; that is monarchical. We have been told that such a government as we wish would be given to us. But we have heard also that we were to be made a colony. We do not want to be a colony. We were a colony of Spain, and the best we could be was second-class Spaniards. We do not wish
to be second-class Americans. We want to be first-class Americans.
“Four-fifths of the Puerto Ricans are white. They are not like the Cubans, the majority of whom are blacks. But, like the Cubans, we have suffered terribly from Spanish oppression. Not more than 15 to 20 per cent of our people can read and write. It is not their fault. The Spaniards gave no schools at all that were worthy of the name; none that the American people would tolerate. ”
GOOD SCHOOLS NEEDED
“Above everything, I want to see public schools started in my country, such schools as you have here. I have taken it as my part of the work for my country to try to have as many schools started as can be.
“The people of Ponce are anxious to know what you will do with us. We are already better off than we were under the Spaniards, so we do not complain. But so far it is only a change from a bad master to a good one.
“But you have promised us more. You have promised us liberty. We want freedom; not freedom from America, but freedom with America. The people of Ponce held meetings and talked over the matter. Then it was decided to send a commission to see the President and the Congress and to ask them and the American people to make us not a colony, but a territory.
“Dr. R. Del Valle and I were appointed the Commissioners. I did not want to come, but my people said it was my duty to my country, so I came. Before we left, the people of San Juan held meetings and asked us to represent them also. Then Dr. Del Valle fell sick at Ponce, and I had to come without him.
“The people of the district of Adjuntas appointed Dr. M. Zeno Gandia and Dr. J. J. Henna to represent them and they are with me.”
LITTLE FAITH IN PROMISES
“We understand the military government is only for a time, but the people do not understand. The Spaniards have taught them to believe promises never come true. The Spaniards always promised, but never did. The people wanted us to come and see.
We want to tell them they are free; that the people of Ponce shall rule Ponce, and the people of San Juan shall rule San Juan, as the people of New York rule New York.
“My country is rich and fertile. Its people are peaceful and industrious. There is a great future before them, now that they are free. If we get started right it will not be long before Americans will be proud of the new part of their country as they are now proud of the new part of their country in the far West. But if we are made a colony we will be nothing.
“You can fought our battle for us when we were too weak to fight for ourselves. You freed us from our oppressors. We thank you as a people can thank another for freedom. All we ask of you is to give us what you would ask yourselves.”
Professor Hostos is one of the best known and most influential citizens of Ponce. He was banished from the Island by the Spaniards at the beginning of the war on account of his American sympathies. He returned to Ponce after its occupation by American troops.
Dr. Henna is recognize as one of the leading men of Puerto Rico and is said to have more influence with the people there than any other one man.
Dr. Gandia is a physician with a large practice in the Adjuntas district and a writer of high repute among his countrymen. He is the author and publisher of several books on medical and social topics.
Entrevista con The Press, de Nueva York, como miembro de la “Comision de Puerto Rico”. 28 de diciembre de 1898