July 27th was the birthday of José Celso Barbosa, and some Puerto Ricans celebrated it this year with a march from Dos Hermanos Bridge to the Capitol.
The title of the march, “Puerto Rico Chose Statehood,” refers to the 2012 referendum, in which 61% of those who voted for a status for Puerto Rico chose statehood among the options. The White House declared this vote a clear statement that the people of Puerto Rico “want the issue of status resolved,” and recognized that voters chose statehood from among the alternatives; however, Governor Garcia-Padilla, whose party does not favor statehood, has refused to acknowledge the vote.
The governor recently proposed a new Commonwealth status option which is similar to previous “Commonwealth” options, all of which have been declared unconstitutional and otherwise unfeasible by the U.S. Federal Government, which has jurisdiction over Puerto Rico under the U.S. Constitution.
15 pro-statehood organizations joined to plan the march. One of the organizations was the Republican Party of Puerto Rico. “I urge all Republican supporters of statehood and all of those who believe in equality to march and send a forceful message of support for Puerto Rico statehood,” PRPR National Committeewoman Zoraida Fonalledas said in a press release before the march. “We firmly demand that the democratic will expressed at the polls in November 2012 in favor of statehood be fulfilled. We proudly honor the legacy of our patriots [José Celso] Barbosa, [Rafael] Martínez Nadal, and [Luis A.] Ferré. As Dr. Barbosa said: today, as yesterday, we will continue supporting the same ideal of the American Union and equal in rights and duties.”
Another organization represented was the New Progressive party, represented by Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s Congressional representative. Pierluisi met with Dona Carmen Barbosa, granddaughter of the Puerto Rican hero, following the march.
Other leaders present included Senator Thomas Rivera Schatz, José Aponte, Jenniffer González, José Enrique “Quiquito” Melendez, Angel “Gary” Rodriguez, Jorge Navarro Suarez, Senator Carmelo Rios, Mayor Canóvanas, Lornna Soto, Carlos Molina and former Senator Evelyn Vazquez, Pedro José Santos, and Ricardo Rossello. However, the march was not in support of any candidate or party, but was instead a grass roots statement in favor of statehood, and in particular in support of respecting the 2012 vote.
As Puerto Rico prepares for its first federally mandated plebiscite, demonstrators wanted to remind the government that Puerto Rico has already chosen statehood.
Telemundo estimated the total number of participants at 10,000. Similar rallies took place in various places on the mainland.