Puerto Rico Independence in “The Ruth M. Reynolds Papers”

The collection The Ruth M. Reynolds Papers was the assembly of research gathered by Ruth M. Reynolds and resides in the Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños. Centro is considered a research institute that focuses on the Puerto Rican experience in the United States and the documentation of culture and history. Centro believes to seek social debates and interaction for the progression of Puerto Rican studies. Through this documentation that dates back to the period from 1944 to 1983, readers can understand the activity that occurred before and after the Puerto Rican Great Migration. Reynolds, the creator of this collection, places down solid evidence like oral recordings and letters to ensure the information is obtained from the source. The memoirs and records of Reynolds’s papers show the significance of Puerto Rican history and the involvement of North Americans in international human rights through the insight on the pro-independence activity in Puerto Rico.

Ruth Mary Reynolds is an American-born activist for Puerto Rico’s independence from the United States. From the biographical section of the collection, it can be seen how Reynolds transitioned from her pacifist activity to her resilient advocate for Puerto Rican independence. Early in her life, Reynolds joined pacifist organizations like the War Resisters League and Gandhian Harlem Ashram to advocate non-violent methods of social change. “Thus and only thus can he show that pacifism is not irresponsible withdrawal from conflict, but rather a saner, more constructive way of fighting.” The idea of a peaceful dispute shouldn’t take away from the passion and strength of the argument being made. Reynolds incorporated this concept when she became involved with Puerto Rico’s affairs.

Her target of social reformation started to become clear when she became involved with Pedro Albizu Campos, the leader of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico. In the first series of the collection, Reynolds announces her involvement with Campos which led to her imprisonment. She was willing to place herself at risk as she went to Puerto Rico to interview prominent figures to collect studies on the “social, economic, and political conditions in Puerto Rico.” This part of the collection was necessary for Reynolds to personally find the connection to the source of the internal affairs in Puerto Rico. Instead of relying on media and its interpretation, taking words and citations from the people surrounding the situation is a reliable way to convey to the oblivious mass.

One example of this is the oral clips amassed in the collection. The interviews and transcripts recorded include Reynolds’s participation in events to Compos’ persecution and imprisonment. The one hundred and eleven one-hour informative tapes were recorded from 1985-1986 and conducted by Centro. Reynolds was willing to spend dozens of hours recording to assemble evidence for the events surrounding the Puerto Rican issue. She brings up the idea that the “lack of historical insight on the part of many Puerto Rican activists…is a product of the suppression by the United States of the historical recognition of many seminal events in the struggle for Puerto Rican independence.” She stressed the importance of keeping historical sources and how that fulfills the circumstances that led her to keep an oral history.

Another subject topic that was recorded in her Papers, is the student strikes in Puerto Rico. In Series III writing, Reynolds investigated the strikes happening at the University of Puerto Rico. The purpose of this report was informative background she prepared for the American League to get them involved in other trivial affairs. Reynolds wanted to broaden the focus of her colleagues in the League so they can notice the “bondage” Puerto Rico was in. The territory’s problems weren’t caused by just one source so it didn’t only affect a certain group of people. The problems had already reached all the corners of Puerto Rico. The audience Reynolds wants to convey towards isn’t only limited to her colleagues but also the general English-speaking masses. This is evident as many of the Spanish clippings are translated into English by Juan Juarbe y Juarde. Reynolds had some of her intake of the situation in her Paper but also had newspaper clips from the island translated. This gives the reader a chance to comprehend how the Puerto Rican media conveys the situation and also why Reynolds’s proposals would seem to challenge existing views. On the other hand, she may be intending something different for the Puerto Ricans. As many sources are translated into English, many of her writing were also translated into Spanish. For example, in her writing on the student strikes, La Responsabilidad es Nuestra was also translated by Juan Juarbe y Juarbe. Reynolds seems to reinforce existing views in this writing. She wants the citizens of Puerto Rico to stand up for themselves and encourage any groups to come out of hiding through the display of numerous people fighting for their cause.

Reynolds’s ideals and actions seem to go hand in hand. Her pacifism facilitates her to create an alternative method for change. Since Puerto Rico has gone through many difficult times in the past few decades, the citizens, with the support of many, repeatedly found solutions that satisfied the needs of the mass. While Reynolds was engaged in the struggle for Puerto Rico’s independence, the issue has been around for quite some time and was on every citizen’s mind. Her distinct approaches might have sparked solutions to the issues the conventional methods couldn’t solve. The whole independence issue might not have been satisfied but ever since then Puerto Rico was able to gain more representation in the United States.

Similarly, Reynolds’s approaches might not have been the best solution for the Puerto Ricans’ “fight” for change. Nonviolence protests are more of a wager since the act won’t be convincing enough for the oppressors to convert. This will create more of a chance for violent repressions. Reynolds confronted the issue of pacifism before but never the philosophical view about using violence on immoral grounds. Movements need to be disruptive for the opposing force to get an impression of the resistance. How has history treated nonviolent movements? Is nonviolent movement and pacifism the same thing? Nonetheless, Reynolds was still able to convince many people, through strong evidence and research, to align with her ideals.

Overall, “The Ruth M. Reynolds Papers” displayed Ruth Reynolds’s experience in Puerto Rico and what led her to advocate for the island’s impending independence. She was able to utilize her sources and make them available to many people that were looking to get involved or to just comprehend the situation. Reynolds understood her role but was still relentless while being a non-Latino and having a distinct ideal that might have hindered her advancement in international affairs. This collection was able to provide an abundance of insight on Puerto Rican’s history for readers in the past and surely will for present-day readers. 

07 July 2022
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