Rumblings of Independence

Desperate to maintain its last vestiges ofcolonial power, Spain installed a series of harsh governors loyal to the crown in Puerto Rico during the mid-1800s. They stripped islanders of many liberties and, at one point, even sought to subdue an increasingly restless populace by promoting gambling and drink. Aided by loyalist exiles from lost Spanish colonies, they were able to thwart potential revolutionary plots before they got going. As early as 1838, the colonial government executed and forced into exile leaders of an independence movement led by Buenaventura Quiñones - the island's first independentista hero. Fifteen years later, a doctor from Cabo Rojo named Ramón Emeterio Betances formed a secret society dedicated to the abolition of slavery, social reform and independence for the island. The government eventually forced him to flee to New York, where he and others joined forces with Cuban independence leaders in exile.


(The Cry of Lares)

In 1868, Ramon Emeterio Betances traveled to Santo Domingo to purchase weapons and supplies for a Puerto Rican uprising, but was delayed in reaching the island. Unable to contain themselves, between 600 and 1,000 Creoles from western Puerto Rico took over the town of Lares with what arms they had, and proclaimed an independent state. By the next afternoon, however, the poorly organized rebels were routed by militias and regular troops. The government quickly rounded up the insurgents (eight were killed and 20 escaped), who were jailed for only four months before being granted amnesty by a more liberal government in Spain.

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