One Puerto Rican Island's 135-Year History of Struggle and Victory

La marina de guerra de los Estados Unidos utilizó la isla de Culebra, un municipio de Puerto Rico, como campo de entrenamiento militar por muchos años, dejando contaminación en su tierra y agua hasta el día de hoy. En la foto, culebrenses confrontándose a la marina. Imagen tomada de video.

The US Navy used the island of Culebra, a municipality of Puerto Rico, as a military training camp for many years, polluting their land and water still to this day. In the photo, people of Culebra confront the Navy. Screenshot of “Culebra 135-40.”

The Puerto Rican island municipality of Culebra is famous for its beaches, widely considered some of the most beautiful in the world. However, there's more to Culebra than sun, sea and sand. The people of Culebra were witness to and protagonists in a history full of resistance and struggle over their land and water, a large part of which was occupied by the US Navy for military training bases.

Playa Flamenco es un ejemplo de las playas prístinas de Culebra. Foto por Christopher Zapf. Utilizada bajo licencia CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Playa Flamenco is an example of one of Culebra's pristine beaches. Photo by Christopher Zapf.  Used under license CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

For many years the people of Culebra had to live their lives amidst explosions, bombs, bullets and pollution caused by the Navy, who secretly suggested to the Puerto Rican government that they get rid of the island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra and send their inhabitants to the main island of Puerto Rico; they would even send the dead from their graves.

The Navy's intention was to gain the exclusive use of both islands and ban the people of Vieques and Culebra from setting foot on their land again, even if it was to bring flowers to the gravestones of their loved ones. Due to the macabre nature of the Navy's proposal, it became known as “Plan Dracula.”

Nevertheless, the people of Culebra triumphed, succeeding in sending the Navy them from their island in 1975. Vieques expelled the Navy in 2003 after years of civil disobedience campaigns and the efforts of social movements and individuals across the political spectrum.

Aún quedan vestigios de los ejercicios de la marina contaminando las playas de Culebra, como este tanque. Foto tomada por Christopher Zapf. Utilizada bajo licencia CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Remnants of the US Navy such as this tank still remain, contaminating the beaches of Culebra.  Photo taken by Christopher Zapf.  Used under license CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Some memoirs of these battles have been compiled in the documentary called “Culebra 135-40, produced by the Puerto Rican monthly Diálogo UPR. The film is part of the publication's special series in celebration of the 135 years since the founding of Culebra, and 40 years since the Navy left.

Watch the documentary (in Spanish) below:


  • George Uhl

    Good afternoon, I am in the process of writing a manuscript of my memoirs and I found an article in your web-cite that I would like to use in my book. I only have a few questions, please advise.

    1: Can I just take what I need ( a few paragraphs)?
    2: Can I add my words to your article as needed for my book only?
    3: Do I need to send you a copy of the changes I would like to make for my book?
    4: These changes are only for my book, not for your article to be changed.
    5: Just to confirm, I will cite the author, date entered, title and web link? anything else?
    Thanks, George

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