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date: 05 December 2023

The Puerto Rican Nationalist Partylocked

The Puerto Rican Nationalist Partylocked

  • Margaret PowerMargaret PowerDepartment of Humanities, Illinois Institute of Technology


From the early 1920s through the mid-1950s the Partido Nacionalista Puertorriqueño (PNPR; Puerto Rican Nationalist Party) led the fight for an independent Puerto Rico. The PNPR began in 1922, when a group of middle-class men broke with the Partido Unión (Union Party) after it removed independence from its platform. During the 1920s the PNPR sought to defend Puerto Rican culture, advance its goal of achieving national sovereignty, and, simultaneously, maintain friendly relations with the United States.

The PNPR promoted Puerto Rico’s reinsertion into Latin America. Puerto Rico shared a history, language, faith (Catholicism), and culture with the former Spanish colonies throughout the Americas. By emphasizing these similarities, the Nationalists hoped to encourage Puerto Ricans’ embrace of their Hispanic heritage and rejection of US rule. The Nationalists also understood that Puerto Rico needed the support of its “sister republics” across the Americas. To generate solidarity with their goals, the PNPR sent the party’s vice president, Pedro Albizu Campos, on a tour of Latin America from 1927 to 1930.

In 1930 the PNPR elected Albizu Campos as its president. Under his leadership, the party adopted a more confrontational stance toward Washington. It also worked to broaden its base by forming various organizations for young men and women. The PNPR succeeded in attracting members from multiple classes, genders, and races. The party also established branches in New York City, the site of the largest diasporic Puerto Rican community in the United States.

Public support of the Nationalist Party was highest during the 1930s, when soaring unemployment, low pay, and increased poverty caused by the Depression heightened many Puerto Ricans’ disappointment with US rule. Growing dissatisfaction with US colonialism and approval of the Nationalists convinced the US government to increase repressive measures against the pro-independence party. In 1937, Puerto Rican police, acting under the orders of the US-appointed governor, fired on peaceful Nationalist Party marchers, killing nineteen and wounding close to two hundred. The US government also imprisoned Nationalist Party leaders in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary between 1937 and 1943.

During the 1940s and 1950s, support for the Nationalists declined. Luis Muñoz Marín, leader of the Popular Democratic Party, worked with the US government to ostensibly end US colonial rule in Puerto Rico through the archipelago’s transition to the status of Free Associated State. To alert the world that Puerto Rico remained a US colony, the PNPR launched an unsuccessful insurrection in Puerto Rico in 1950 and attempted to assassinate President Truman in Washington, DC. In 1954, four Nationalists attacked the US Congress to denounce US colonialism in Puerto Rico once again. Although the party still exists today, its adherents and influence are a shadow of what they were.


  • 1910–1945
  • 1945–1991
  • Diplomatic History

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