A small group in Puerto Rico has launched a campaign to demand that the Caribbean island break all political links with the United States and annex itself once again to Spain to become an autonomous community of the Iberian nation.
“The U.S. distorted our history. Nobody here knows we were Spanish citizens with full voting rights until the 1898 invasion. The United States denies us that right,” said Jose Nieves, the founder of the Puerto Rico Reunification With Spain group, to Fox News Latino.
“The Puerto Rican culture is disappearing,” added Nieves, 42, a history buff with a criminology degree from the Caribbean University.
He noted that Puerto Rico was a colony of Spain for more than four centuries and in 1897 even had a charter that gave it sovereignty as an overseas Spanish province.
Nieves said he is planning to call a general assembly in the summer, before registering the movement with the Puerto Rico State Department. Then, he said, they would formally contact the Spanish Consulate and ultimately the Spanish government.
So far, he said, in Spain his initiative has received the endorsement of the Partido Libertario de España.
“We want to become Spaniards again, to be autonomous community No. 18 of a country that we never wanted to abandon," he said.
Nieves told FNL that to achieve that goal, the group plans to take the case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague and contest the Treaty of Paris of 1898, by which the island changed to American hands.
“Our priority is to have historic justice done, because Puerto Rico and Spain were forcefully separated,” he said.
Nieves said the idea for the group came to mind out of frustration, after the U.S. repeatedly ignored the Puerto Ricans’ popular discontent with the island’s current status. In a 2012 plebiscite, 54 percent of Puerto Ricans favored a change of the island’s territorial status.
“I knew we had to do something different to get their attention,” he said, referring to the U.S. authorities.
He also said he is planning to run in the 2016 gubernatorial election as a write-in candidate.
With the slogan "It's time to return home!" and a promotional video in which the Spanish national anthem plays in the background, the initiative so far has fewer than 2,000 followers on Facebook.
"We're getting support from (U.S.) statehood advocates, independence-minded people, who would accept unification as a decolonizing option, and even supporters of the status quo," Nieves said, referring to those who want to remain a U.S. commonwealth.
"In contrast to what we're told in the schools, we Puerto Ricans welcomed U.S. troops with gunfire, not with flowers," he said.
"The U.S. invasion was heavily contested. In fact, they could not move in during the first two attempts. Finally, they managed to do it because the mayor of Yauco sold out," he said.
Among the group's followers, according to Nieves, "there are many university people and ones with advanced degrees. We believe we would be accepted by the Spanish people. To date, 95 percent of the feedback we've had from there is positive."
EFE contributed to this report.