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131 4/ The Commonwealth and the Search for Colonial Sovereignty through Olympism The Estado Libre Asociado, or commonwealth, was established on July 25, 1952, as a result of U.S. Public Law 600 of July 3, 1950, which allowed Puerto Ricans to draft a constitution for the first time since 1898.1 Becoming a commonwealth allowed for a degree of self-rule on local matters, but within the overarching rule of the U.S. government . Puerto Ricans were still U.S. citizens; the economy was still fully integrated with the United States; and all U.S. federal laws still applied on the island and trumped local ones. Since then the supporters of the commonwealth and a majority of the members of the ppd (including Monagas) have been on a constant campaign to explain the autonomous basis of the formula and underscore the noncolonial nature of the compact between the United States and Puerto Rico.2 If the legitimation of commonwealth status during the 1950s was a vital endeavor for the Sport Commission (now organized as the Public Recreation and Parks Administration, prpa) and the ppd government, it was equally important to legitimate this political arrangement abroad. Conveying commonwealth status was a political formula to mitigate growing concerns over imperialism and colonialism after World War II.3 Struggles over decolonization were present in other islands of the Caribbean and in other parts of the developing world.4 The renewal of the Olympic Games in 1948 was not only an event for the legitimation of the Games as such but also a way to celebrate goodwill among nations in a process of athletic diplomacy.5 Commonwealth leaders understood the importance of the Olympic movement and used these events as a platform to 132 / Colonial Sovereignty through Olympism legitimate two goals of the new status: sovereignty in association and cultural uniqueness. In this regard the commonwealth tried to put away questions over colonialism by continuing to participate in mega sporting events such as the Central American and Caribbean , Pan-American, and Olympic Games. Puerto Rico was a now a legitimate member of the community of nations, as seen in their participation at Olympic Games. More important, the result of this participation was that it legitimized and consolidated colonialism. Creating the commonwealth did not alter the basic colonial structure of the unincorporated territorial status, as stated in the Insular Cases of the early twentieth century. Puerto Ricans still had no official international political presence, could not establish trade with other countries, and were still subjected to Congress’s plenary powers. They still could not be fully represented in the U.S. Congress or vote for the U.S. president. However, by being U.S. citizens they were under U.S. jurisdiction. Therefore the COPR and the commonwealth status provided Puerto Ricans with an international presence, while still having the benefits and responsibilities of being U.S. citizens. International Olympic participation filtered the aspirations of independence followers because it gave the island a chance to play as a sovereign nation, hoist the Puerto Rican flag, and sing the national anthem, “La Borinque ña.” At the same time it calmed pro-U.S. statehood followers by declaring Puerto Rico’s permanent and voluntary association with the United States despite Olympic participation. This process has been so powerful and its impact so deep that today, a decade into the twenty-first century, the commonwealth and the copr have endured amid political challenges. The end result was colonial Olympism, the construction of a colonial Puerto Rican national identity based on the performance of Olympic sport. This national identity relates more to a sense of cultural distinctiveness than a political project of independence, reminiscent, for example, of the case of Galicia in Spain or soccer in Scotland or early twentieth-century Ireland.6 Colonial Sovereignty through Olympism / 133 That is, cultural nationalism has been more prevalent than political nationalism in Puerto Rico.7 The problems over colonialism during the 1950s in Puerto Rico occurred in times of rapid progress, industrialization, and modernization . Under the economic project known as Operation Bootstrap, foreign companies (mainly in manufacturing) were invited to settle in Puerto Rico in exchange for tax incentives and cheap labor with the hope that industrialization would trickle down to all areas of society. Between 1950 and 1960 per capita income more than doubled (from $342 to $716), with an economic average annual growth of 8.3 percent,8 as Puerto Rico was dubbed the “showcase” of the Caribbean. This...


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