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  • A protester holding Puerto Rico’s flag takes part in a march to improve health care benefits in San Juan, Puerto Rico

    A protester holding Puerto Rico’s flag takes part in a march to improve health care benefits in San Juan, Puerto Rico | Photo: Reuters

The Puerto Rican case for independence has been at the forefront of Cuba's own struggle, from Marti to Fidel.

As the world mourns the death of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro, a Puerto Rican grassroots group is celebrating his life by continuing to advance the ideas of the Cuban Revolution in their own colonized nation.

The Cuban Solidarity Committee has been promoting volunteer work in Puerto Rico and organizing information campaigns about the “Cuban reality” since around 1992, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. One of its main goals, as stated on their website, has been to “confront the reactionary campaigns of the ‘oligarchy’ in Puerto Rico.”

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“The members of the CSC ... have decided to celebrate (Fidel’s) life in every act, in every popular struggle, in each kind gesture that we can realize, and in our duty to continue on the path traced by Fidel and the courageous Cuban people in their struggle to defend humanity,” Milagros Rivera, CSC president, told Prensa Latina a day after Fidel passed away.

Yet, the ties between the two countries go back before Fidel and the Cuban Revolution.

They extend to the time of Cuban national hero Jose Marti, who founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1892, which would make it part of its mission to foment and support Puerto Rican independence. By 1898, when the Americans seized control of the two islands from the Spanish during the Spanish-American War, the two nations were already entrenched in their own (but shared) anti-colonial struggles.

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While Fidel and Cuban rebels led a full-blown revolution that would oust a corrupt U.S.-backed dictator to replace it with socialism, Puerto Rico could not escape its own colonial status imposed by the U.S. “What nationalist fervor Puerto Rico had was quashed, and the colony stayed bound to US-controlled capitalism as a ‘free associated state,’” according to the Guardian.

Throughout the years, however, Fidel remained a source of strength and a symbol of resistance for Puerto Ricans. He also took on the cause for the liberation of Puerto Rico personally.

Indeed, by 1948, as a university student, he began organizing rallies demanding the release of Puerto Rican nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos. Fidel renewed that demand during the 1960s, as he negotiated the release of political prisoners captured during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

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The Cuban government has also been instrumental in championing Puerto Rico’s case in the international arena, most notably with the United Nations’ Decolonization Committee. From 1972 until today, it has helped pass 38 resolutions demanding Puerto Rican independence.

It is therefore no surprise that Puerto Rican independence groups such as CSC have chosen to celebrate the life of a revolutionary who constantly shared their struggle and took it up as his own.

To this day, Puerto Ricans consider the Cuban Revolution a continuing bastion of hope.

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