In His Own Words: Oscar Discusses Diaspora and Puerto Rico’s Independence Struggle

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La Respuesta is proud to announce a new page titled “Oscar’s Corner“, where we will provide news on the campaign to free political prisoner Oscar López Rivera. We are also excited to share with you our direct correspondence with Oscar from inside prison, facilitated by Dorian Ortega and the National Boricua Human Rights Network. Every month Dorian asks Oscar a question relevant to our community and he responds with an essay. You can participate too! If you have a question for Oscar, send them to Here is our third letter from Oscar, covering the role of the Diaspora in Puerto Rico’s national identity formation and independence struggle:

OLR-MEDDorian Ortega: How have you understood the diaspora and its relationship with Puerto Rico? Considering the continued relocation of Boricuas from the island to the States, and the fact that the Diaspora now outnumbers the island, do you think the Diaspora will one day become the leading force for PR’s independence? What can the status of Puerto Rico teach occupied nations like Palestine about what independence could look like? How important is it for Puerto Rico to show solidarity with international issues?

Oscar López Rivera: The Puerto Rican diaspora has played an important role in dealing with the socio-economic-political reality of our homeland dating back to the latter part of the 19th century. But after World War II, when the migration started to grow, that role became more important and its impact became more intensive. Its contributions in the fields of music, education, politics, the arts, sports, film/theater, and to the tourism industry have been very significant. Puerto Rican artists, educators, athletes, politicians, and workers have kept a link that has been beneficial to both sides, and has fortified our national identity.

Artists (like Miriam Colón and Rita Moreno), musicians and singers (like Tito Puente, Eddie and Charlie Palmieri, Ray Barreto, Joe Cuba, Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez, Marc Anthony, and José “Cheo” Feliciano), educators (like Antonia Pantoja), political figures (like José Rivera, José Serrano, Nydia Velázquez, Melissa Mark Viverito and Luis Gutiérrez), and sports figures (like Roberto Clemente, the Alomar Clan, Jim Rivera, Victor Pellor, Felix Mantilla, Orlando Cepeda, Terín Pizarro, et al) have made great contributions in maintaining close links between the homeland and the diaspora.

It’s important to look at the role the diaspora has played in the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico, and how it has strengthened and made the movement more representative of all Puerto Ricans. The work done in the diaspora in support of the decolonization of Puerto Rico has played the crucial role of a rear guard in the land of the colonizer – a Trojan horse.

The fact that there are more Puerto Ricans in the diaspora doesn’t change the role it plays in struggle for the decolonization of Puerto Rico. It can only be a supportive one because it’s in Puerto Rico where the struggle will be primarily waged. The supportive role the diaspora has played, and will continue playing, is crucial for both sides. By Puerto Rico decolonizing itself, the diasporic Puerto Ricans will also be decolonized. Because so many Puerto Rican professionals are migrating, they will play a major role in the future development of Puerto Rico. The technology is there to make it possible for them to make great contributions at all levels, including economic and political contributions.

As other diasporic people in this country, who have played an important role in the struggles in their native ones, we can do the same. For example, the Irish diaspora has played a major role in the struggles of Ireland. The same is true of the Jewish and Palestinian peoples residing in this country. We can emulate their example. We can also learn from anti-colonial struggles that have been waged and continue being waged. If others can learn from us, that’s up to them.

What the diaspora will need most is for us to organize and become a solid force. We can create political action committees (PACS) and think tanks. We can achieve the goals we need to achieve and we can maintain constant communication with our homeland. Our families and our roots are there. We can help make Puerto Rico the edenic garden it has the potential of becoming. But before that, we have to decolonize ourselves in order to decolonize our homeland.


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