Puerto Rican Constitution Day is observed on July 25. It commemorates a landmark historical moment in 1825 when Governor Luis Muñoz Marín signed the first Puerto Rican Constitution into law. The holiday is also a reminder of Puerto Rico’s pending statehood, an elusive dream that has not seen the light of day for centuries.
History of Puerto Rican Constitution Day
Puerto Rico has been colonized since the 16th century. In the first three hundred years, it was ruled by the Spanish, who caused centuries of oppression, taxation, and crippling poverty. Finally, the people had enough. They began a revolution in 1868, but the authorities quickly struck it down. To soothe the people and diffuse tensions, the Spanish government granted the Puerto Ricans more independence, which was barely in its infancy when the U.S. declared war on Spain.
On July 25, 1898, U.S. forces invaded and occupied the island for the remainder of the Spanish-American War. When the war ended, Puerto Rico became a U.S. colony as part of a peace treaty. But the people wanted a country of their own. Soon, the Puerto Rican call for autonomy grew loud, and as a response, the Foraker Act came into being in 1900. While the act established a civilian government, it did not grant complete rights to the islanders. Puerto Rico received the status of “unorganized territory” with some measure of self-governance — which wasn’t enough. So, as tensions on the island continued escalating, the 1917 Jones-Shafroth Act gave U.S. citizenship to most Puerto Ricans while still allowing Congress and the U.S. President a veto over Puerto Rican laws.
In 1950, the United States initiated discussions for Puerto Rico to draft its constitution — but only as long as its territorial status remained unchanged. Puerto Rico called for a constitutional convention that advocated a republican form of government and a bill of rights. Puerto Rico changed its official name to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the new constitution was born in 1952.
Puerto Rican Constitution Day timeline
Spanish forces invade and take control of the island, marking the beginning of centuries of oppression.
A peace treaty ends the American-Spanish War, and Puerto Rico officially becomes a U.S. colony.
The U.S. enacts various laws to diffuse tensions but never grants autonomy.
Governor Luis Muñoz Marín signs the first constitution into law on July 25.
Puerto Rican Constitution Day FAQs
Why does Puerto Rico celebrate Independence Day?
Puerto Rico Independence Day is celebrated to recognize that Puerto Ricans have a constitution, even if they’ll never get complete control over it.
Has Puerto Rico ever voted for independence?
Puerto Ricans have historically favored statehood over independence. The independence movement has so far failed to gain momentum in either elections or referendums.
Why is Puerto Rico important to the U.S.?
The U.S. sees Puerto Rico as a strategic location to further its military and economic interests in the Caribbean.
How to Observe Puerto Rican Constitution Day
Visit Puerto Rico
The holiday is a fantastic time to visit Puerto Rico. From parties and parades to political and cultural events, there’s something for everyone during this time.
Talk about Puerto Rico
Spread Puerto Rico’s story on social media. If you didn’t know Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens, you’re in for a shock.
Contact your legislators
Support Puerto Rico by recognizing its claim to statehood. Contact your legislators and ask friends and family to do the same.
5 Facts About Puerto Rico That Will Blow Your Mind
It’s an archipelago
Many people think Puerto Rico is one island, but it’s made up of several.
It’s technically still a colony
Due to its dubious status as an unincorporated territory, many consider Puerto Rico the world’s oldest existing colony.
It’s home to America’s only tropical rainforest
El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in America’s natural forest system.
It has a stunning 300-mile coastline
You can walk along Luquillo Beach for miles on end.
They love piña coladas
Puerto Ricans love piña coladas so much that they nominated the drinks as the country’s national drink.
Why Puerto Rican Constitution Day is Important
It highlights difficult questions
Even after centuries, Puerto Ricans still have no control over their borders or economy. The holiday shines a light on the injustice and asks for action.
It connects people
Bolivia Independence Day creates parallels between cultures that make up the Latin world. Festivities are a mix and match of Indigenous, African, and European traditions, bringing together millions of people.
It celebrates freedom
The holiday reminds us of the diverse people and histories that collectively make up the U.S. It makes us aware that each citizen should enjoy the same fundamental rights and freedoms.
Puerto Rican Constitution Day dates