II. LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF EL UNIVERSAL IN MADRID
Mr. Editor of El Universal, . Madrid.
Dear sir: As you are one of the few people on the peninsula who is familiar with the true political state of the increasingly unfortunate Spanish Antilles; as you are one of the few who know to what point revolution would be illogical if the ideas that have transformed Spain in fifteen days are not extended to Cuba and Puerto Rico; as you are one of the few who see the already visible danger that would arise if the justice demanded by the life of liberty and right unjustly denied the transatlantic islands is not carried out; and as your newspaper is surviving the obscure times we have all helped to brighten more happily than mine (El Progreso) is, allow me to expound upon the situation of those societies and define the duties that revolution is obliged to fulfill in them.
I am and shall be as active and unselfish a revolutionary on the peninsula as I have been in the Antilles; just as one who knows that revolution is the permanent state of societies must be, and just as one who cannot hide from the movement without having the necessary inclination toward the ideas to be realized must be. As a revolutionary in the Antilles, which are necessarily stationary and forcibly inclined to move, I want for them what I have wanted for Spain. And just as the first thing
. This letter was reproduced by the Bilbao newspaper lrurac Bac on October 24, 1868, with the following words: “When the public opinion is justly and actively concerned with and interested in everything related to the state and future of the Overseas Provinces, whose organization is going to suffer profound and radical change as a result of the revolutionary happenings here on the Peninsula, and in times when alarming rumors relative to the question of public order in the Antilles are being revealed and echoed in national and
foreign newspapers, we believe it opportune and useful to reproduce in the columns of
lrurac Bac an interesting, notable, and patriotic ‘article which has appeared in El Universal, and which bears at the end the friendly signature of the distinguished and generous Puerto Rican publicist don Eugenio Maria de Hostos, who has numerous and very dear childhood friends in our city.
“Mr. Hostos received his secondary education in this city. He is an enthusiastic and determined champion of liberal ideas, as much in the spheres of science and art as in the great field of politics. A loyal and affectionate son of the Island of Puerto Rico, he has been dedicating his talent, energy, and efforts to defending the liberty of the overseas provinces in the Press and Ateneos for several years. (Editors’ note.)
I wanted for Spain was dignity, the lack of which anguished me, and more than anything else forced me to emigrate, so too the first thing I want for Cuba and Puerto Rico is dignity.
Radical consequences correspond to this radical premise: this is why I believe, this is why I know, that Cuba and Puerto Rico cannot be content with their Mother Country nor with themselves until slavery has been abolished and each constitutes her own government. Without civil equality, without political freedom, there is no dignity; without dignity, there is no life. The Antilles do not live, they languish, in much the same way as Isabella of Castile’s gloomy Spain.
Out of a yearning for liberty and justice I contributed as much as I could to the marvelous transformation which, although anticipated in reason, astonishes me in reality; out of eagerness for justice and liberty I want to contribute as much as I can to the transformation of those noble islands: this is my purpose for writing these articles.
Here I will focus mainly on Puerto Rico, not only because I am more familiar with her, but also because she is the poorer of the two Antilles, and governments, like individuals, focus more on the rich than the poor.
THE DISORDER IN PUERTO RICO
For arms to have been taken up by such peaceful people, who, even if they have protested more than once against the government that has always oppressed them, they had only used their arms to heroically turn back foreign invasions and help their brothers, the leaders of Santo Domingo, in the victory of Palo Hincado, which ended French domination;
For people so passive, patient, and above the impulsive incentives of anger to have armed themselves; for this society-based on political, economic, social, and administrative injustice, on inequality and arbitrariness, on the fanaticism of the principle of authority, and on religious despotism-to have begun to dissolve itself;
For conservative interests, which support tyranny everywhere, to have become apparent; for the sacred interests of social conservation, which corresponds in societies to the right to life in individuals, to have been presupposed for those interests;
For the heroic activity of the Spanish to replace the passive heroism inherited from the Indians in Puerto Ricans, it is absolutely necessary for the permanent causes of just and moderate discontent, to have finally reached the dire limit which both governors and the governed cannot pass without succumbing. It has come to this dire limit.
Violence and sarcasm in the collection of taxes have been compounded’ to the oppressive militarism in government, systematic abuse in economic administration, constant prevarication in justice, and discrimination in legislation.
When Nature, contributing to the Island’s misfortune, in one day destroyed the agricultural wealth with a hurricane and the urban wealth with incessant earthquakes, instead of tax collection being suspended, it became more rigorous; instead of substituting taxes with aid, with a government loan that would leave the repairing of the present evils to the future, the indirect system was transformed to a ,direct one, and this happened without preparation, without a plan, with no other purpose but to increase the yield from taxes, which tripled. This increase, which coincided with the early general poverty on the Island-what other basis could it have than ruin, hunger, and despair? What was bound to happen, happened: those who know this, yet do not comprehend the official telegram that tells of the uprisings on the peaceful island of Puerto Rico, are blind of spirit or deaf of heart.
This is the malady, these are its causes, these are its effects. All malady has a cure.
Therefore I will not refrain from explaining the cures I propose and ask for in the following essay, which I want to address publicly
To the provisional government.
Deeply moved by the news of the disturbances in my country, clearly aware of the origins of the malady, and energetically inspired by the absolute conviction that the responsibility for what has happened and what might happen should fall-before the government today and before history tomorrow-upon the constitutional despotism in that country and. upon the despots who personify it, the undersigning Puerto Rican resolutely asks the following of the provisional government:
1st, using the transatlantic telegram, to order the suspension of the collection of taxes for as long as necessary;’
2nd, also using the telegraph, to order the suspension of military trials, thereby stopping the spilling of blood;
3rd, to immediately summon to the Cortes Constituyentes the delegates chosen by the universal suffrage of free men in Puerto Rico;
4th, to declare its absolute willingness to respect and carry out the Island’s vote, expressed through her representative;
5th, to turn the public direction of the Island over to a civilian governor. a native resident of the country, aided by an administrative, provi
sional board elected by the municipal councils and biggest taxpayers on the Island;
6th, to dissolve the Administrative Council and restrict its jurisdiction;
7th, to immediately apply to the Island the decrees of the 12th and 14th of this month, the first concerning religious communities and the second concerning education; applying the former in its entirety and eliminating Articles 12 and 15 in the latter;
8th, to immediately accept and carry out in Puerto Rico the proposition in which the Higher Revolutionary Council asks for freedom of children born to slaves;
9th, to set a deadline for the abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico;
10th, to limit military authority to the strictly military functions that concern it;
11th, to dismiss the Captain General, the Quartermaster General, and all the high employees of the Island, who are responsible for the dangers that threaten national unity.
Confident of the eminent service I am lending to the Mother Country
and also of the feasibility of what I request, and believing that these are the needs of the mistreated island of Puerto Rico, which today fulfills the duty of addressing itself to the provisional government, I must declare that the step the government takes now is of transcendental importance in itself. .
May the provisional government mediate on this, resolve to satisfy the demands of justice, which is vilely and systematically violated in Puerto Rico, and decide to resolutely exercise the revolutionary power placed in its hands by an act of Spanish dignity; may it destroy the absurd traditional inconsistency which, at the beginning of the century in continental America and the middle of the century in insular America, governed with despotism across the ocean, while it governed with liberty on this side the sea, and by so doing, the provisional government will have done what it must in order to be worthy of developing a government worthy of the new Spain in the glorious revolution of Latin spirit.
THE ISLAND OF PUERTO RICO AND THE EXECUTIVE GOVERNMENT
The Executive Government, by means of its Overseas Minister, is provoking patient, very patient, Puerto Rico. Not satisfied with subordinating all the interests of the unfortunate island to the dubious success of
the war of conquest in Cuba; not satisfied with the unforgivable injustice that is the norm in its government (if the military despotism in Puerto Rico deserves to be called a government); not satisfied with having broken all the commitments that the parties allied for the revolution had made with the Antilles, and with those the revolution made from the moment in which it agreed to the idea of repairing Spain’s honor, which is more at stake in the Antilles than anywhere else; not satisfied with mocking in Puerto Rico the principles that public opinion forces it to respect here; not satisfied with leaving unpunished the cowardly abuses of authority by all island officials, from the governor general down to the last policeman; the attacks on property made by the troops that, under the pretext of putting down an insurrection, devastated fields and sacked homes; not satisfied with having deceived the hopes of those beguiled islanders, promising them freedom of the press, which turned into a right to enslavement of the press; freedom of assembly, which turned into an insulting concession to assemble for electoral purposes; the right to [illegible], which has turned into the extortion of everyone in the country except the rich; not satisfied with having authorized all the licenses and all the abuses, the Executive Government has authorized theft.
Authorization to steal, and nothing more, is what the decree of April 30, published on May 30, is about.
I will not do either this decree or any of the Executive Government’s measures referring to the Antilles the honor of examining it. Those who know their rights do not examine the violation of right; they protest and then say nothing more. The Executive Government does not have the right to resolve anything at all in the Antilles while the people are not represented in the Cortes. They never will be, because, even supposing that-after the discussion of the Constitution is over-the Puerto Rican delegates were summoned, the Puerto Rican delegates would not come. Besides being impeded by the precautions the executive officer of the revolution has taken to insure that only peninsulas who support the regime of conquest come, as well as a few of the country’s sons who deserve only her disdain, the government’s purpose has been and is so plainly against the delegates’ presence at the Constitutional Assembly, that there is no Puerto Rican worthy of being Puerto Rican who will accept the late mandate. If both there and here we have the dignity necessary to totally withdraw ourselves from public life, and we do not want relationships or kin ships with those who for three centuries of oppression have outraged universal reason, doing what they are doing in Cuba, consenting to what they are consenting to in Puerto Rico; if there, as here, tired of persuading those who are deaf to conscience, we have shielded ourselves in our disdain, how could we consent to justifying our
political and social slavery with our presence, if we were allowed to come?
As the Puerto Rican delegates cannot, will not, and should not come and as Puerto Rico is not represented in the Cortes, and the formation of laws is the Cortes’s exclusive responsibility, for the peninsula as well as Overseas, the violation committed by the Executive Government when it decreed the theft it has decreed is obvious.
I have called it theft because this is another name for imposing contributions upon a country that has not voted on them, a country where public and private wealth is at the mercy of a despot. The Governor General of the Island of Puerto Rico decreed, on °his own and for his own benefit, and with the same right the Executive Government usurped when it passed its resolution, a tax on the exportation of sugar, honey, coffee, and tobacco. The new tax, which besides being a violation of right is a scientific absurdity and a vile abuse of power, had the aggravating circumstance of being more costly than the recent tax in Cuba-in Cuba, a richer island under totally different circumstances, the tax is half of what the tax is in Puerto Rico.
The Executive Government knows all this; however, it accepts the stealing and legalizes it. These acts cannot be judged merely with words.
In Congress there is a large number of representatives committed to defending Spain’s honor in the Americas, but since patriotism consists of bowing down to the vices and absurdities of nationality, and as Cuba is committing the crime of wanting to separate from the Mother Country to whom she owes so much, and as Puerto Rico might want to imitate Cuba, the representatives of the majority and the minority believe it very patriotic to break the contracted commitments and they remain quiet, quiet, quiet. This conduct is not judged with words either. A foreigner asked me, “What are the revolution and Spanish revolutionaries doing in Cuba?” and I answered him, “They are killing, killing, Killing.” If he had asked me what they are doing in Puerto Rico, I would have told him, “They are dishonoring others and dishonoring themselves.