July 28, 2001
Anonymous of Puerto Rico
As I was growing up throughout numerous military bases all
over the world, I knew there was something different about
me than the other kids. At home we spoke a different language,
ate different foods, and said different things. Even my relatives
looked different than those of my friends. I can remember
numerous incidents where I was treated differently, sometimes
negatively for reasons that I could not put my finger on at
the time. Quite a few instances people who couldn't understand
what I was saying badmouthed my parents. Long after I stopped
speaking Spanish, my parents retired from the military and
settled down in a conservative white suburban neighborhood.
Only than were my eyes opened and I learned what I really
was: A Puerto Rican.
Aside from the fact that Puerto Rico was my birthplace, I
spent my entire life in United States military bases. Every
summer my family and I would take a vacation to visit family
and friends in Puerto Rico. Even though my family kept strong
ties and contacts with our relatives back home, the fact that
I was a Puerto Rican did not sink in until my later years.
It wasn't until I began a search for a cultural and national
identity that I started tacking Puerto Rican flags and maps
onto my walls, reviving the language that I once spoke, and
wearing little flag necklaces. I was known as "the" Puerto
Rican guy at school. It seemed that the more pride and identification
I had towards my island, the more criticism and harassment
I received from a handful of schoolmates and strangers walking
down the street.
Wall mounted Puerto Rican license plates and T-shirts did
not suit my passion for long. When I got into my later years
of high school I began reading books by the dozens on Puerto
Rican history, culture, politics, and sociology. My summer
(and now holiday) visits to Puerto Rico became more passionate
and lengthy. Despite my geographical distance from the island,
I became quite educated and active in my island's independence
movement. With my previous pride being fueled on the feeling
that I was a part of something, my love towards my island
was now amplified by my respect for its cultural significance,
colorful history and unique people.
You know that gut-turning feeling that you had when you fell
into your first middle school crush? I had that same feeling
each and every time I listened to the high-pitched sounds
of the Puerto Rican cuatro guitar. I fell in love with every
available photograph of my island's tropical scenery and historical
buildings. A popular Puerto Rican singer from a traditional
Plena group, Plenéalo, summarized what I feel quite accurately
in one of his songs. "There are three things that I love in
my life - God, my mother, and my flag."
The political freedom of my island became my main objective.
I felt that as a pro-independent Puerto Rican living in the
United States I was a hypocrite. I was living in the same
country that I wanted my nation to be free from. I felt like
Thomas Jefferson would if he was living in Britain during
the American Revolution. I had to return - I had to study
and advance socially so that I may better my people - I had
to contribute my vote.
After my mother's death, I no longer felt obligated to stay
in the United States. I decided to relocate to Puerto Rico
without hesitation. Once there I quickly became active in
the Vieques and independence movements. I refused to accept
U.S. federal scholarships for my education, usage of military
shopping centers, and any other type of federal benefits.
My rejection of U.S.-sponsored items did not stop there. Soon
my 18th birthday caught up with me and I received a tardy
Selective Service form in the mail. After reading the information
on the card, I promised myself that I would object to its
signing at all costs. The federal government that I make a
point to receive nothing from wants me to sign my soul away
to use at the disposal of their selfish wars? The only response
I had was summarized into a laugh - which literally went on
for a few long minutes.
My reason for objection was not due to the concept of a draft.
Even though I think such a thing is silly, if an independent
Puerto Rican government implemented one, than most likely
I would sign away. I am one to believe that the defense of
one's country should be a duty and responsibility. One catch:
the United States is not my country. No matter how long I've
lived in the U.S., I refuse to accept it as my country. When
I turned 18 and still lived in the States, I even looked into
the citizenship programs of quite a few foreign countries.
If it weren't for the fact that I could not vote on my home
island without it, my U.S. citizenship would have been long
Even if I did have allegiance to the United States, there
is no way I would sign a contract that states I am at their
disposal to be used as cannon fodder in "its" wars.
When you think about it, the U.S.'s conflicts are not even
their own - they belong to Kosovo, Kuwait, and Taiwan. I have
my own independence struggle to worry about.
As the months passed, the ignored Selective Service kept
sending their forms. Each time, the small print "or else"
lines were highlighted, underlined, or circled. Not wanting
to stir up a long and violent battle, I just tossed the cards
in the trash. I can admit that I am scared of the punishments
for my objection, but I am willing to accept them for what
I believe in. Until the day they come to my doorstep ready
to take me away, I will get on with my life and discard their
"They'll never call you to a war" - "Just sign the card and
if there is ever a war, dodge the draft" are two things that
I am constantly told. No. I do not care how slim the chances
are of me being dragged into a U.S. war, I refuse to sign
their card. I'd rather die than contribute to the number of
"reserved reserves" they have at their disposal.
Without my selective service card, I cannot receive domestic
Puerto Rican government-sponsored scholarships. I cannot have
a public job, such as teaching, police work, or public labor
- all of which I have considered doing. Even though these
jobs are paid by domestic Puerto Rican municipal and commonwealth
dollars, I must look to the private market, an area of employment
that does not better my communities as much as those of the
Because of the Selective Service, I cannot have the job that
I want, I cannot study without withdrawing from the pockets
of my family, and I soon will not be able to qualify for a
Puerto Rican drivers license. Aside from that, they wish to
toss me in jail for a decade and fine me into oblivion. This
is oppression. I am being punished, persecuted, and politically
discriminated against because I reject the colonial grip that
the U.S. hold on my island. The U.S. uses the fact that many
of the enemies it goes to war with are "oppressive" to justify
and maintain its position in international conflicts. Those
oppressive enemies aren't too far from home.