Linguistic Nationalism and Partisan
Politics During the Second Half of the
Twentieth Century
Chapter 7: (pp. 177-264)
Torres González, R. (2002). Idioma, bilinguismo y nacionalidad:
la presencia del inglés en Puerto Rico. San Juan, PR.
Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico
Prepared By: Aníbal Muñoz Claudio
Course: EDUC 8130
Prof. Dr. María A. Irizarry
Date: February 21, 2006
• Electoral course of the
political parties in PR
• Elections in Puerto Rico
• The Popular Democratic
Party (PPD) and the
Commonwealth of
Puerto Rico
• The New Progressive
Party (PNP) and the
Statehood Movement
• The Puerto Rican
Independent Party (PIP)
and the Independence
• Perseverance of the
Puerto Rican cultural
Electoral Course of the Political Parties
in Puerto Rico
• Despite the political and cultural autonomy obtained through the
foundation of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (ELA), along with the
recent (1949) linguistic policy which declared Spanish as the language
of instruction in the public school system, the English language and the
American culture acquire greater presence and influence in various
aspects of the Puerto Rican culture.
• This cultural and linguistic ‘north-americanization’ was due not only to
deliberate teaching approaches or government policy, but rather to
many indirect consequences derived from the development of the
private sector, political upheavals, and socio-economic and
demographic changes that have taken place on the Island since that date .
• However, in spite of the advances of this ‘north-americanization’, it has
varied its intensity, from time to time during the second half of the
century, since it has been challenged in many fronts by the resilient
Puerto Rican cultural nationalism promoted by either political parties in
government positions as well as many entities from the private sector.
Chapter 7 talks about the political arena, while chapter 8, presents the economic, sociodemographic, and cultural aspects. (Torres González, R. 2002)
Electoral Course… (cont.)
• One of the indicators where the ‘north-americanization’ process
manifests itself overwhelmingly, is in the electoral course (trajectory)
of the main political parties of the Island since 1948 to the present.
• Since 1948, a great majority of the Puerto Rican voters have
supported those political parties that have favored some type of
political association with the United States. These are:
a. The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) which promotes the
continuation of The Commonwealth (ELA)
b. Different Parties that have advocated for Statehood
1. Statehood Puerto Rican Party-Partido Estadista Puertorriqueño
2. Republican Statehood Party –Partido Estadista Republicano
3. New Progressive Party (PNP) since 1967
• As it has been evidenced, the electoral strength that have favored
these political parties have shifted from time to time, while the
favoritism for the Independence movement has decreased
considerably since 1952. (Torres González, R. 2002)
Elections in Puerto Rico from 1948-2000
Elections and Plebiscites in Puerto Rico from 1948-2000
1984 822,703 47.8 838,619
1988 871,643 48.7 820,619
48.7 61,316 3.7
45.8 99,185 5.5
1992 862,989 45.9 938,969
49.9 79,219 4.2
1996 875,852 44.5 1,006,331 51.1 75,305 3.8
2000 978,860 48.6 919,194
1967 425,132 60.4 274,312
1993 826,326 48.6 788,296
39.0 3,601 0.6*
46.3 75,620 4.4
1998 787,900 50.3 728,157
46.5 39,838 2.5
The Popular Democratic Party (PPD)
The Commonwealth of PR
• When the Constitution of the Commonwealth (ELA) was signed and
approved by governmental authorities and Governor Luis Muñoz Marín,
there were two clear tendencies that defined all PPD advocates back
then (these tendencies still prevailed at present times with some degrees
of variations).
a. A cultural nationalism (p.181) with strong ties to Hispanic affiliations
b. An occidental approach ( from the University) with an identification with
the US citizenship and strong political, economical, and cultural ties with the
• Despite their ideological differences regarding the cultural issue, both
tendencies had coincided since the early forties to have Spanish as the
official language of instruction in both, the public school system and the
• These tendencies continued their association under the ELA parameters,
the Constitution itself, and later in the “Bootstrap”(Manos a la Obra)
government initiative of economic development which boosted and
transformed the PR economy from an agrarian type into a more
industrialized one. (Torres González, R.2002)
PPD and the ELA (cont.)
• Since the foundation of the ELA, many political leaders, even within the
PPD ranks, and other prominent citizens (René Marqués –p.183), have
acknowledged and criticized its political status as an inconclusive one.
Such status kept the Island on hold which many considered (and still
consider) a colonial status.
• There have been several attempts to culminate the ELA. However, all
have failed through time due to the indifference of Washington (capital of
United States). (p. 182. Torres, González, R. 2002)
• During the 50’s, the Western (occidentalismo) discourse keeps its
hegemony in the academic fields of the State University (UPR) where it
has great influences in the PPD ranks as well as in the cultural and
educational aspects of the Island.
• UPR President, Jaime Benitez’s effort to place the University at the
service of the modernization and industrialization projects of the
government, responded to his attempts to foster the creation of more
professionals (techno-bureaucrats) with a modernist and scientist
mentality little less identified with past Hispanic roots. (p.185)(Torres,
González, R. 2002)
PPD and the ELA (cont.)
• However, it is, precisely, the cultural effects and the identity threat
brought by the industrialization and ‘north-americanization’ process,
which provoked the resentment in the PR population, the expressions of
a cultural nationalism and the defense of the Spanish language as
central issue to preserve the PR cultural identity. (p.186)
• One example of these effects is the massive migration of Puerto Ricans
to US in the 60’s.
• Governor Muñoz Marín was very concerned about the effects on the
language and in the culture brought by the ‘north-americanization’. (187)
• Governor Muñoz Marín pronounced his famous speech The Puerto
Rican Personality in the ELA, better known as Agapito’s Bar. p.189-190
• During the 50’s, the government makes all efforts to promote the Puerto
Rican culture in the education through key textbooks such as: La
Llamarada, Tiempo Muerto, and Terrazo. (p.193 –irony )
• The Puerto Rican Institute of Culture and the Puerto Rican Academy for
the Spanish language were created as means to protect the Spanish
language and the PR culture itself. (p.205, Torres González, R. 2002)
PPD and the ELA (cont.)
• The PPD continues with its persistent determination to protect the
Spanish language –Rafael Hernandez Colón’s Spanish Only Law of
1990 (Ley 68, Ley Orgánica del Dept. de Educación) (p.212, 215)
• Governor Hernández Colón clarifies in his speech his feelings about
declaring this law. (216-217)
• There can’t be any doubt that the emphasis that the PPD has placed
and places (nowadays) on the ‘Hispanic’ or the ‘Hispanic-American’
and specially in the Spanish language, as an axis of the Puerto
Rican culture and nationality, has been a great political asset in the
two fronts of the struggle regarding the political status of the Island.
• On one hand, to fight against the statehood advocates, and on the
other hand, to establish the “cultural base” from which they could
demand a greater political autonomy for Puerto Rico.
• The success of this strategy is yet to be seen, although it seems that
is has been more effective on the first front than in the second.
(Torres González, R. 2002, p.223)
The New Progressive Party (PNP)
Statehood Movement
• Up to the 40’s most of the statehood leaders supported the
americanization process and the bilingual teaching approaches of the
• When Commisioner Villaronga (1949) established his language
policy, he was highly criticized by the statehood leaders. (p.223)
• During the 50’s and 60’s the statehood leaders continued criticizing
the linguistic policy and the cultural nationalism since, according to
them, it pretended to separate Puerto Rico from the US. (224)
• In 1967, Luis A. Ferré (who later became governor) founded the PNP
and proclaimed the concept of “estadidad jíbara”. (227)
• Based on the civil rights movements of the 60’s and 70’s, Governor
Carlos Romero Barceló presented the statehood issue as one of an
ethnic minority claiming their civil and constitutional rights to the US.
(p.229) to achieve an equal political status. (Torres González, R. 2002)
The (PNP) Statehood Movement (cont.)
• In 1991, Pedro Roselló. PNP candidate then, referred to the language
law as the “Spanish Only Law” and, among the critics, the PNP stated
that this law will jeopardize the teaching of English in PR schools. This
approach opened the doors for the new statehood discourse of the 20th
century. (p. 231)
• In 1991, the PNP won a referendum regarding linguistic and cultural
issues.(p. 233) Later, in 1992, when the PNP won the elections under
Governor Pedro Rosello, they approved a new language law in which
both languages Spanish and English were declared official languages of
Puerto Rico.(p.234)
• Both the PPD and the PIP opposed the new law.
• PNP Legislature clarified the intentions and motives of the law. (p. 239)
• It is not until Governor Rosello’s second term, when it was attempted
again to establish bilingual education (Proyecto del ciudadano bilingue y
la Ley Orgánica de 1999) –different from the position of the PNP which
had been the same since Villaronga. (p.243) (Torres González, R. 2002)
The Puerto Rican Independent Party (PIP)
The Independence Movement
• From the three main political parties of the island, the PIP has been
the most consistent in regards to the issues of language and culture.
They have been the most persistent in defending the Spanish
language as the official language of the Island and the language to
be used in the public school system.
• Although they approve the teaching or learning of other languages in
school, they have not been so committed to say that English should
be that other language necessarily. (p. 248)
• The main exception to the PIP’s national and cultural orientation was
Ruben del Rosario, who was a fervent critic of the catastrophic
version that the English language could have a negative influence in
the Puerto Rican Spanish. (p. 249)
• Del Rosario’s political and cultural nationalism was expressed in his
book Ser puertorriqueño y otros ensayos. (p. 250. Torres González, R.
The Independence Movement of the PIP (cont.)
• In recent decades, the PIP has shown lenience to accept the English
language as the second language of Puerto Ricans. A good indicator
was the PIP’s support to the “Ley Orgánica” approved in 1990. (p.251)
• There are many PIP scholars and intellectuals with different views of the
cultural nationalism which vary from the early positions. (p.252)
• The PIP assumed a radical position in the “Young Project” as an ally of
the PNP. (p.253)
• The PIP plays a major role in the withdrawal of the US Marine Corps
from the Island of Vieques, thus prompting a chain reaction that
generated a fervent Puerto Rican cultural nationalism. Some sectors of
the Independence Movement like the Socialism activist, lawyer Juan
Mari Bras, among others, renounces to his American citizenship. The
effects of these incidents in the political status along with the rejection to
the US culture are yet to be seen.
(Torres González, R. 2002)
Perseverance of the Puerto Rican cultural nationalism
• The survey conducted by Hispania Research Corporation in 1992
revealed some interesting findings regarding the perspectives of Puerto
Ricans about their linguistic and national preferences. (p. 255-256)
• UPR professors Ángel L. Rivera and Jorge Benitez carried out another
poll in 1995 which revealed that a majority of Puerto Ricans considered
more important “to be Puerto Ricans” than “being American citizens”.
• The study of Nancy Morris (1995) also revealed a strong Puerto Rican
nationalism. (p. 257) Above all the aspects mentioned, the Spanish
language is the predominant cultural symbol of Puerto Ricans
• However, all surveys conducted revealed an acceptance for the teaching
of English as a second language in the public school system.
• The PR nationalism takes another form in the movement of an
intellectual and social front known as “sociedad civil”. (p. 260-261)
• These studies have sustained that the same US attempts to
‘americanize’ the Island have instead reinforced the consolidation of the
cultural, national, and linguistic identity of Puerto Ricans. (p. 263-265)
(Torres González, R. 2002)
Summary –final thoughts of Chapter 7
• In a century in which the language and culture (or languages and
cultures) of Puerto Ricans have been one of the main issues of the
political controversies in regards to the colonial relations between
Puerto Rico and the United States, it is surprising that towards the
end of the century, these issues have acquired an importance
perhaps like never before, not only from the Independence side, but
also from the Commonwealth and Statehood supporters. In this way,
Torres González concludes his chapter with a passage from Duany
Cada uno de los partidos políticos (insulares) articula su propio proyecto
para adelantar la identidad puertorriqueña, pero todos parten del
nacionalismo cultural. Este extraordinario consenso ideológico entre las
elites políticas, así como entre los sectores populares, debe sentar las
bases para la descolonización definitiva de la Isla en el siglo 21.(p.13)
• Torres González, R. (2002). Idioma, bilinguismo y
nacionalidad: la presencia del inglés en Puerto
Rico. San Juan: PR. Editorial de la Universidad
de Puerto Rico
• Negrón de Montilla, A. (1990). La americanización de Puerto Rico
y el sistema de instrucción pública, 1900-1930. Río Piedras:
Editorial Universitaria
• Marques, R. (1977). El puertorriqueño dócil y otros ensayos,
1953-1971. San Juan PR: Editorial Antillana

Chapter 7: Linguistic Nationalism and Partisan Politics