Flags of Puerto Rico
Paint It Black: For many years, a mural depicting the old revolutionary flag at 55 Calle San José was one of the most recognizable sites in San Juan, a popular backdrop for vacation photos. Just past 2 a.m. on July 4, 2016, four women blackened the flag’s sky-blue triangle and red stripes with spray paint.
Four days earlier, President Barack Obama had signed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, which set up an unelected fiscal control board to manage the island’s debt and pension liabilities, and to review new laws and government actions to ensure they’re in line with the board’s fiscal plans.
The women, part of a pro-independence anonymous artists collective, said the new flag was meant to represent resistance to these US-imposed austerity measures.
The black-and-white “resistance flag” soon became the symbol of a powerful movement that recently helped toss Gov. Ricardo Rosselló out of office.
It has also become a unifying symbol of hope and resilience, a sort of palimpsest of Boricuas’ anti-colonial aspirations.
The blackening of the hues freed the flag from the various historical attachments indicated by its traditional colors. Puerto Rico was standing on its own, the new flag declared. Here was a flag to represent the new political possibilities emerging on the island. If Puerto Ricans could rise up and oust a corrupt governor and his allies, why not also the empire that had emboldened him in the first place?
“In Puerto Rico, we’re always imagining this potential nation,” Meléndez-Badillo says. “Flags come to represent another thing. They come to represent a potential future that has not been attained.”