Let's start with the facts. Puerto Rico is not independent, it is a commonwealth, an unincorporated territory of the United States. Puerto Rico's constitution was proclaimed on July 25, 1952, ending the island's official designation as a colony of the United States. The holiday celebrated on the 25th of the month is known as Constitution Day.
And another fact: Univision is the dominant Hispanic TV network in the country, having built a formidable business by reporting on the issues of importance for the country's Latino communities.
But yesterday, Univision seemed to forget the other fact, airing a congratulatory message celebrating Puerto Rico's independence on the 60th anniversary of the island's constitution and throwing fresh kindling on a long simmering status debate.
"Felicidades, Puerto Rico por el día de su independencia," the message said in Spanish (which translates to, "Congratulations, Puerto Rico, for your independence day.")
For decades, the question of Puerto Rico's status has been hotly and actively debated, with dominant local political parties organized according to a relationship-to-the-U.S. ideology. For 40 years, the political leadership of the island has see-sawed between those who support statehood and those who support continuation of the commonwealth, with roughly 10% of the population supporting independence.
Constitution Day is always commemorated, but with each political party focusing on different significance of the date.
Statehood supporters remember it as the date when Puerto Rico's long affiliation with the United States began, as it was on July 25, 1898, that the U.S. military invaded the then-Spanish-colony of Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War.
For independentistas however, the day is a somber reminder of the means by which their equally long-held dream has been denied and persecuted. On July 25, 1978, two young, pro-independence activists were led by undercover agents to reportedly blow up the communications towers at Cerro Maravilla, but instead they were ambushed and killed by the police. The incident, subsequent cover-up, and various legislative inquiries and criminal tries traumatized the island as it exposed far-reaching corruption and institutional rot, requiring local, FBI and U.S. Justice Department investigations (and apologies from the latter for bungling their initial involvement).
As played out in the comments being left on You Tube, Univision's error has triggered a vocal and emotional debate, including accusations of conspiracy by the media giant.