After a brief battle between local Indians and Spaniards, the Spaniards took control of the island, turning the locals into their slaves. Teofilo Jose Jaime Maria Gillou, who is recognized as the founder of Vieques as a town, arrived inmarking a period of economic and social change for the island of Vieques. By the second part of the 19th century, Vieques received thousands of black immigrants who came to help with the sugar plantations. Some of them came as slaves, and some came on their own to earn extra money.
Ten years ago May 1, the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico, and their supporters defeated the most powerful military machine ever, through mass civil disobedience and without firing a single shot.
On May 1,the U. Vieques, and the bases were officially closed. People from all over the world supported the struggle on Vieques, and the activists and residents have an incredible victory to celebrate.
There were decades of resistance, civil disobedience and arrests, while the U. But those hoping and laying the groundwork for greater resistance were given an opportunity on April 19,when a U.
Marines pilot missed his target and killed civilian security guard David Sanes Rodriguez. That spark lit a fire of nonviolent resistance that brought together Viequenses, Puerto Ricans, and supporters from the United States and around the world.
A campaign of non-violent civil resistance that began in lasted four years, including a year-long occupation of the bombing range, and saw over 1, people arrested. The Navy was forced to close the bombing range on May 1, Peace-loving people had won the first of their demands for the island: A huge commemoration occurred in Vieques for the anniversary from May 1 — 4, Island beauty belies environmental catastrophe Beautiful Vieques Island is only 21 miles across, five miles wide, and home to about 9, people, as well as endangered turtle species, rare Caribbean plants and animals, bio-luminescent bays, and miles of what look like unspoiled beaches.
But crabs with three claws, grossly deformed fish laden with heavy metals, once-beautiful coral reefs, and beaches and seas that have been decimated by military activity tell a story of environmental disaster with huge health impacts on people, plants, and animals.
An incredible three-quarters of the island was appropriated in the s and used by the U. Navy for bombing practice, war games, and dumping or burning old munitions. This was a terrible attack on an island municipality, one the United States was not at war with.
Now, Vieques Island, a paradise in trouble, is one of the largest Superfund sites in the United States, together with its little sister island of Culebra, which took the brunt of the bombing untilwhen the Culebra bombing range closed also due to protests and the bombing practice was transferred to Vieques.
Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates beaches that were never used for military activities. Viequenses fear that keeping the U. Government in control of their lands could result in future re-militarization of the island. Residents are unhappy that their land has not been returned to them and that they are fined for staying on their land past sunset or collecting crabs — a mainstay of their historic diet.
There are also two military occupations of lands — a ROTHR radar system and a communications area, and the people want these closed as well.
For over 2, years people known as Taino inhabited Vieques, which they called Bieque. The Taino found and left behind them a paradise of fertile soil, fresh water, and trees.
Inthe conquistadors arrived, and by, the Spanish had killed every remaining resident. The Spanish and French used Vieques to grow sugar from into the s. English-speaking people of African origin from nearby islands were kept in slavery conditions, or the nearest thing to it, and forced to grow sugar cane.
They revolted in andand in via the Sugar Strike. The Great Depression of the s, together with two hurricanes inbrought on harder times than ever.
In the United States bought 26, of the 30, acres of land on Vieques from big sugar plantation owners. Living on that land were 10, to 12, workers who also raised crops to feed themselves. Most people were left without means of subsistence, but many stubbornly refused to leave the island.
Bombs fell at all hours, all day, all week, all year, totaling approximately a trillion tons of ordnance, much of which someitems lies unexploded on land and in the sea. Moreover, Vieques was systematically poisoned by heavy metals, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, and who knows what all else that the Navy has not announced publicly — having falsely denied using depleted uranium before finally admitting to it, and having dumped barrels of unknown toxic substances into the clear blue Caribbean.
A dozen people were killed over the years directly by the U. And the Navy banned fishermen from various areas, advising them to try food stamps instead.from military training activities on the island.
These activities Vieques could potentially be exposed to contamination: Well due to high levels of nitrate and nitrite from a local source. draft comprehensive conservation plan/ environmental impact statement for vieques national wildlife refuge vieques, puerto rico u.s.
department of the interior. Thousands of residents have alleged that the military’s activities caused illnesses. With a population around 9,, Vieques is home to some of the highest sickness rates in the Caribbean.
a Court of Appeals injunction against Navy activities in Vieques until the Navy. obtained a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Due to the requirements discussed above, all federal agencies must “make a case Military/national security activities might be considered of paramount interest to the nation.
The soil of Vieques will also suffer an increase in damages caused by the military activity.
According to the Environmental Assessment of SOC South, maneuvers and training with live ammunition will have a direct adverse impact on the vegetation and the soil, increasing the . In , Don Salvador Melendez, then governor of Puerto Rico, sent military commander Juan Rosello to begin what later became the take-over of Vieques by the people of Puerto Rico.
In , Vieques was visited by Simón Bolívar.