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Puerto Rican Flag: Source Of Pride, But Did You Know In 1948 It Was Illegal To Own One?

NYC PR parade  flag

In the 1950s, Puerto Ricans often found themselves unwelcome in New York City (and elsewhere in the US) as they tried to carve out a place for themselves and their families. Sometimes beaten by their neighbors, or by the police, they were given the lowest-paying jobs and the worst housing in the city.
And so, in 1958, Puerto Rican leaders decided to hold a modest parade where they could march arm in arm with pride through the heart of Manhattan.
Fathers taught their children…by pointing to floats dedicated to Puerto Rican towns known for sugarcane, coffee, tobacco, plantains and pineapples.
Mothers tapped their feet…to the bombas, plenas and aguinaldos that evoked memories of their island childhood.
By 1966, the parade was already a “must do” event for national celebrities and politicians.

Today, the parade is a star-studded TV spectacle with 90,000 marchers, 2 million spectators and a horde of corporate sponsors. Marc Anthony, J.Lo, Ricky Martin, Victor Cruz, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have all “starred” in it. This year, Rita Moreno will be the grand marshal leading the parade up Fifth Avenue.
But even as the National Puerto Rican Day Parade has become one of the nation’s largest and best-known outdoor celebrations, there is a secret that few people suspect…a secret that reaches into the heart of every Puerto Rican, without their even knowing it.
It is the secret of the Puerto Rican flag.
Have you ever noticed the passionate, over-the-top, surrealistic display of Puerto Rican flags at every Puerto Rican Day Parade?
Everywhere you look, it is an ocean of flags! This is no accident. There is a reason for this emotional attachment. There is a reason why Que Bonita Bandera and Preciosa bring tears to our eyes…and sometimes we don’t even know why.
It is because this flag represents an ideal…the ideal of lost youth and forgotten illusions. There is an ever-receding horizon behind that flag: a horizon just beyond our grasp, forever vanishing at the precise moment that we reach for it…just like last night’s dream, or tomorrow’s TV advertisement.
But there is one more reason, why this flag is the emotional heart of the parade.
It is the secret which explains everything.
We are crazy about this flag because for many years, any Puerto Rican who owned one, would go to jail for ten years.
In order to suppress Pedro Albizu Campos and the Nationalist movement in Puerto Rico, a law was passed in Puerto Rico. It was called Public Law 53, and also known as the Gag Law, and La Ley de la Mordaza.  This law made it a felony to……
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