July 17 – Luis Muñoz Rivera's Birthday

(Third Monday in July)
Posted on July 17, 2016

Luis Muñoz Rivera is one of Puerto Rico's heroes. This poet and journalist cared about political autonomy for his land - and he agitated for self-government and independence from the Spanish Empire.

Muñoz Rivera became a politician, first becoming a delegate in the Autonomist Party and later becoming Chief of the Cabinet of the government.

Born on this date in 1859, Muñoz Rivera lived long enough to see Puerto Rico transferred from Spain to the United States (which happened in 1898). Under the U.S., a military government was formed - and Muñoz Rivera resigned his position and stayed out of politics for about a decade.

In 1909 Muñoz Rivera was elected Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico. Later, his son became involved in politics, and it was that son that became the first democratically elected Governor of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is one of the many territories in the world that is part of the United States - kind of. Puerto Rico is an "unincorporated territory" of the U.S.; the people of Puerto Rico are natural-born citizens of the U.S. and can move freely between the island and any of the 50 states. But Puerto Rico is not a state, so it doesn't have any votes in Congress, and the citizens of Puerto Rico are disenfranchised at the federal level. (That means that they cannot vote for the president or vice-president.)

Many Puerto Ricans are pretty happy with this sorta-kinda membership in the U.S. Just last month another election occurred, the fifth asking Puerto Ricans whether or not they should change their political status, and if so, to what new political status. This election, unlike all the others, had an enormous majority agreeing - a whopping 97% said that they wanted statehood. 

BUT only 23% of Puerto Ricans voted this time - there is usually around 80% participation - and most people agree that the ballot questions were worded so unfairly that most people decided to sit the election out.

As recently as 2012, only a very small percentage of Puerto Ricans wanted full independence, by the way.

Check out some of the beautiful things you can see in Puerto Rico:

The photo above is of Vieques, which is a small island
off the coast of Puerto Rico island!


Also on this date:

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