The Weekly History Thread Forgets

Welcome to this week’s History Thread! This week’s topic: subjects you know nothing, or not enough about. No matter how much history you’ve studied, there are going to be blind spots in your knowledge. What are some subjects that, whether from lack of time or lack of interest, you never really delved into? Anything you want to learn more about? A good opportunity to field book/documentary/podcast/etc. recommendations, as well.

Today’s picture: On March 21, 1937 a peaceful demonstration by Puerto Rican nationalists began in the city of Ponce. Attempts by local authorities to shut down the march had failed, so Governor Blanton Winship decided on the next best thing: brute force. Without any particular provocation, police armed with Thompson submachine guns, rifles and tear gas guns opened fire on the crowd, killing indiscriminately. Twenty-one people (including two police hit by friendly fire) were killed and over two hundred more wounded. It was the largest massacre in post-Spanish colonial Puerto Rico and became a rallying cry for future generations of Puerto Rican nationalists, from the abortive rebels (and failed presidential assassins) of the ’50s or the terrorists who bombed American targets in the ’70s.

I am ashamed to admit that I’d never heard of this incident until literally yesterday, when I read about it in Nelson A. Denis’s book War Against All Puerto Ricans. Amazing how events like this get swept under the rug. But it does put our current President’s conduct towards Puerto Rico in perspective; abuse of our quasi-colony, whether murdering them or letting them die from hurricanes and related neglect, is a longstanding American tradition.