N.Y. Volunteers 17th Regiment in Puerto Rico, July 1898.
This is an important week in Caribbean history. One hundred and thirteen years ago yesterday, the United States invaded Puerto Rico as part of the military transfer of colonial possessions from the dying empire of Spain to the expanding empire of the United States. On July 25, 1898, U.S. troops landed in the bay of Guánica, on the south coast of Puerto Rico. They were led by General Nelson Miles, who headed the first U.S. military government of my country. (Miles played a leading role in almost every U.S. campaign against the Native peoples of western North America, including the Lakota, Nez Percé, Kiowa, Comanche and Apache.) On August 13, 1898, Spain signed a treaty handing over the last of its American possession to the United States.
A couple of days ago I invented a new word in my favorite fast-growing language, Spanglish. Spanglish happens when Spanish speaking people grab a word from English and make it our own. (Ingañol is when we anglicize something from Spanish.) Puerto Ricans, whose homeland has been invaded by a massive influx of U.S. commercialism, and half of whose population is now living in the United States, are world experts. Among my long-standing favorites are emiliar (v. to email) and its attached noun, el emilio,(the email); zafacón, meaning waste basket, which evolved from the U.S. military "safety can," and guiltripeo, a guilt trip. The other night I was with a group of women, moving fluidly between languages as we spoke about our lives, and someone smacked her chest and said "bring it on!" In that instant a new word was born: bringetona, a woman whose basic attitude toward the world is "bring it on!"