King of Spain, Felipe VI, says goodbye to Puerto Rico with a toppled statue of Juan Ponce de León in tow

The King of Spain, Felipe VI, left the island of Puerto Rico on Wednesday, formerly a colony of the European country, without answering questions from the local press, or greeting some inhabitants who were waiting for him from the Plaza de Armas in Old San Juan, but with the memory of demolished statue of the conqueror of his own land Juan Ponce de Leónalso the first governor of the Antilles.

Before leaving, the sovereign visited, on Tuesday, the San José Church, in Old San Juan, where from afar he greeted some onlookers. He also walked through the San Juan Bautista Cathedral on Calle del Cristo and made several short stops at some shops.

Hours before, at about 9 am, the Spanish arrived at the Palace of Santa Catalina, official residence of the governor of the island, Pedro Pierluisi. After that, he went to the mayor’s office in the capital, where he was received by the mayor, Miguel Romero.

On Monday, he attended a reception with businessmen at Casa España in which a group of nuns from the Compañía del Salvador, who administer the Mater Salvatoris school, were present. Also present were executives from the Albertis companies, one of the main highway operators on the island; and the insurer Mapfre.

However, some Puerto Ricans questioned not having had the opportunity to see the monarch.

A report yesterday from the local newspaper Primera Hora indicates that less than a hundred people gathered in the Plaza de Armas, in Old San Juan, in an attempt to see the king in the only area that was not cordoned off by police and that he was allowed public access. But the curious who stood in front of the Mayor’s Office ready to capture an image of Felipe VI, did not succeed.

Carmen Santana Piñeiro, a resident of Old San Juan, could not believe that the king left without greeting the public.

“Maybe they wanted to avoid booing. But, overall, in Spain he catches it from time to time, ”said the resident.

But, apparently, there were more than those who repudiated the monarch’s visit to the former Spanish colony, now a US territory. Among the dissident groups were representatives of the indigenous Taínos, enslaved and murdered by the Spanish, as well as pro-independence activists who protested in Old San Juan.

Without a doubt, the protest that captured the most local and international media was the collapse of the statue of Ponde de León in Plaza San José of Old San Juan a few hours after the arrival of Felipe VI.

A group identified as Borikén Libertarian Forces claimed responsibility for the act as a way of repudiating the foreign presence in the country.

“Given the supposed visit of the King of Spain, Felipe VI, to Puerto Rico and the escalation of gringo invaders taking over our lands, we want to send a clear message: neither kings nor gringo invaders; Boriken is ours. Juan Ponce de León, who was the first governor imposed by the tyranny of Spain more than 500 years ago, represents the worst,” the group said.

So far, those responsible for the incident have not been arrested, although the sculpture has been reinstated.

In part of his public statements, the monarch focused on the history that unites Spain and Puerto Rico.

“500 years contemplate this close relationship between Spain and Puerto Rico. It is enough to walk through the streets of San Juan to feel it, to even smell it. I want to congratulate the people of Puerto Rico, and especially the people of San Juan for this anniversary, for all the events scheduled to celebrate them, and a celebration that has to serve to remind us of how much we are united, to renew those ties, to reaffirm our affections and to evoke our common past”, he stated.

Felipe VI insisted on the strengthening of economic and commercial relations between the two countries, and gave the example of the Economic and Business Forum that would be inaugurated.

Regarding the presence of Juan Ponce de León, he limited himself to indicating: “San Juan is 500 years old, but in truth he is older, because as he well remembered, on November 19, 1493, Admiral Christopher Columbus baptized her as Saint John the Baptist. In 1508 Juan Ponce de León founded the original Caparra establishment, founded to the west of the current capital, and it was the same Ponce de León who founded what is now the capital of Puerto Rico, in 1521, and today is the anniversary that we celebrate…” .

Some experts on Puerto Rican history such as Jesús Omar Rivera, nicknamed the “Boricuazo”, took advantage of the situation to clarify the fact that Ponce de León never lived in Old San Juan, where the controversial statue is located.

According to the historian, what should have been celebrated as part of the fifth centenary of San Juan was the transfer of the capital to Old San Juan.