Albizu Campos

Disrespect and mistreatment of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans spans centuries. It starts with the island being handed over as a prize of war after Spain’s defeat in the Spanish-American War of 1898. For some time, Puerto Ricans were merely residents of a U.S. possession. Later, they were made partial citizens without a vote in national elections. Ultimately, the island was designated as a Commonwealth or Free, Associated State.

In the 1930s, little was heard about independence for Puerto Rico. After the revelation of a vitriolic, racist letter, written by a U.S. oncologist sent to the island for research, expressing complete and utter contempt for Puerto Ricans, and his opinion that the beautiful island would be much better off without them, a fired-up independence movement was begun. The letter put a face on what must have been Puerto Ricans’ feelings of U.S. contempt and bigotry. It also gives more meaning to Puerto Ricans shooting up the U. S. Congress and their attempt on the life of President Harry S. Truman, in the 1950s.

Since U.S. possession and non-citizenship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; the Cornelius Rhodes’ incendiary letter in the 1930s; plus my personal perceptions in the 1960s’ and 70’; and the idiotic, paper-tossing antics of an unempathetic POTUS, who to this day still spews his venom toward the island its people; the slights against Puerto Rico and the ignorance of its history have been long running. I cite one of many such examples:

During a part of my residence on the island, I managed the office of a U.S. company doing business in Puerto Rico. The mainland sent a representative to visit the office. When the route from the airport passed a low-cost housing project, this man asked the driver, “Where did all of these colored people come from?”

Cornelius Rhoads

The letter-writer in question, in this article, is Cornelius Rhodes, an oncologist and researcher. In early 1930s, Rhodes was sent to the island by the Rockefeller Foundation, to do cancer research. This article will end with the letter he wrote, which exploded after Independence heroe Albizu Campos made it public, which sent Rhodes scurrying back to the mainland. Following a face-saving coverup by the Rockefeller’s and time-cleansing of WWII, Rhodes bounced back with successful research projects with the Army. He went on to head the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Some of the points of the Rockefeller investigation were 1) that he was drunk; 2) it was a dumb joke; 3) he was only Imagineering a la Jonathan Swift. They did a good job of burying it. With all of my Puerto Rico experience and reading, it was only recently I heard about it – on C-SPAN or NPR:

After complaining to a colleague about a job he coveted being given to someone else, “he continues...they are beyond a doubt the dirtiest, most degenerate and thieving race of men ever inhabiting this sphere. Makes you sick to inhabit the same island with them. They are even lower than Italians. What the island needs is not health work, but a tidal wave, or something, to totally exterminate the population.
It might then be livable. Have done my best to further the process of extermination by killing off and transplanting cancer to several more. The latter has. not resulted in any other fatalities, so far. The matter of consideration of patients plays no consideration here. In fact, all physicians take delight in the abuse and torture of the unfortunate subjects.


Cornelius V. Rhodes”

Curtis W. Long

Curtis W. Long

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