A comparison of Iran and Puerto Rico



A comparison of Iran and Puerto Rico

“There is only one gateway to immortality. We must sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our country.”   It is words such as these that call for a change in a country. Change is an essential part of growth, sometimes coming radically; sometimes arriving in slow, even manner, either way, the change will occur.

After a close examination of Iran and Puerto Rico, one would think “What could these two countries possibly have in common?”  Everything about the countries is completely different; save hot weather and sand. Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean, while Iran is a country in the Middle East. Yet, there is something that the two countries share, a  unique nationalistic spirit, that even today refuses to die. If truly one wants to understand Iran and Puerto Rico, instead of looking for commonalities in each other,  look for the uniqueness they possess as individual countries.

Persia, or Iran as it’s called, lies next to Iraq and is very close to Saudi Arabia with Russia towards the north. It’s a climate for the most part- is hot and sandy, and it is very rich in oil wells. Ten per cent of Iran is usable for agriculture, yet Iran is still able to support a third of its population. Wheat is one of its most important crops followed by nuts, fruits, and hides. Nuts, such as the cashew, come from this region.

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Iran second most important industry is textiles. Traditional handicrafts such as carpet weavings play a part in the countries’ economy. Iran is very famous for its wonderful “Persian rugs.” An expensive Persian rug, handmade with silk, can cost somewhere in the ring too forty-thousand to fifty-thousand dollars per rug. One can not find these rugs everywhere. However, if one where interested, brand chains from Sears to Home Depot carry imitation rugs for prices somewhere in the range of four hundred and fifty dollars to five hundred. However, these rugs do not contain the beauty, nor the endurance of true Persian carpets.

Iran’s population is quite diverse. It includes the Persians, the Turks (Including the Azerbaijani), the Kurdish,  the Tatar, and the Arabs. Islam is the official religion, and about ninety-eight per cent of all Iranians are Shiite Muslims. Most Kurds and Arabs are Sunnites though. In those two per cent, one will find many different types of religions. For example, there are many non-biblical scriptures besides the Holy Koran. There is the Hadith or the Sunna as it is sometimes called. One will find Hindu scripture, as well as Buddhist. There is also Iranian and Zoroastrian scriptures, as well as the book of Moran.


The official language of Iran is Farsi. It’s a very complicated language, a word may have many different meanings, and one must look deep into the context to understand the true meaning of a word. Farsi can be very difficult to translate into English. It is language barriers such as these that have prevented some of the great epics from being translated in the US. Today, one of the goals of the new president of Iran is to have an exchange of scholars and artists. Other languages spoken in Iran are Azeri, Kurdish, Arabic, English, and French.

There are many other famous writers and poets found throughout Iran’s history. Firdausi, a writer of the tenth century, wrote the book of kings. He also wrote the national epic Omar Khayyam, as well as the famous Rubaiyat. Other famous writer and poets are Hafiz, Sufism, Farid as-din Attar, Jala as-din Rumi, and said all wrote mystical poetry except for Hafiz who wrote lyrics. After the fifteenth century, there was a major decline in Persian literature.  It continued to decline until the nineteenth century. It then began to rise because of Babism and Baha’ism. The once complicated epics of Iran and its language has now become more simple and direct. Modern poets include Iradji, Abid Espishawri, Parwin, Nima, MM Hejazi, and Hedayat all have work that has been translated into many different languages.

The most important industry in Iran is probably oil. In an area where oil is extremely rich, Iran had a decent oil industry. The oil industry, started by the French, was in the possession of various European countries until the movement to have the oil wells nationalized occurred.


However, these oils’ wells are what caused European influence in the first place. Many of the events that have transpired in Iran during the 21st century were due to outside influence.

In 1907, Britain and Russia signed a treaty that divided Iran between them. Before this, both Russia and Britain had had a major influence on the government. The two countries set up embassies in Iran, and Iranian officials would not do anything without the agreement of the two countries. Because of this way of doing things, not much was accomplished. Then, in 1919, Britain made Iran a British protectorate

Finally, someone decided to do something about the situation. That person was named Reza Khan. Khan was the leader of a small Cossack force. In the early 1920s, he engineered the dismissal of the Soviet troops. By August 1920, his small Cossack force had grown too two-thousand five hundred. Then, in 1921, Khan and his followers marched into Tehran and occupied the city. On February 21st, 1921 Reza Khan and his entourage forced Ahmed Shah to appoint a new government. In this government, Reza Khan was the minister of war and the commander in chief of the armed forces.

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After that, Khan’s power began to grow a great deal. In 1923 he became the premier. Then, on October 31st, 1925, Parliament voted out the Qajar dynasty. They gave the two thousand five hundred old crowns of Persia to the former Cossack leader Reza Khan. After being appointed as shah, Reza Khan’s name changed to Reza Shah Pahlavi.

After Reza Shah came into power, he began reforming Iran. His main focus was on the army and the economy. His first action was to denounce the treaty of 1919. He began to build up both the Army and Navy of Iran. Then, he issued new banknotes, which were backed by the crown jewels and gold. Then, he went and created the Trans-Iranian railroad. Finally, he cancelled all Anglo-Iranian concessions. This brought a lot of support and popularity among the people. However, Reza Shah was soon to make a mistake that cost him his throne.

On September 1st, 1939,  World War Two broke out. Iran claimed to be neutral. According to Reza shah’s son’s biography An Answer to History,  The Shah was not partial to the Axis powers. He went so far as to say that his father distrusted Germany and Adolph Hitler. However, one would get a very different picture if they saw how the Shah had acted. He hired many German technicians to reform Iran. It became obvious that the Shah was leaning towards the Axis powers. This was a bad choice, mainly because Iran had been occupied by both the English and the Russians. This would occur again, as Russia and England occupied Iran. They compelled the shah to abdicate or give up his throne, in favour of his son Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.


In March 1946 the Russian troops began to pull out of Iran. By May, the entire Red Army had left Iran However the Russians left their mark on Iran in the form of the communist Muslims or the Tu’deh.  The postwar reign of  Shah Pahlavi was marked by many political problems created by the Nationalist and Communist movements. In 1949 the Senate came into being. It met for the first time in 1950.

In 1951 Ali Razmara became prime minister and was assassinated less than nine months later. Mohammed Mossadeq succeeded him as prime minister and in 1951 the Majils nationalized the oil industry which resulted in the boycott of Iranian oil by the British. Afterwards, a power struggle developed between Mossadeq and the Shah. In August of 1953, the Shah fled the country after a power seizure by the ex-prime minister. However, Us and England put the Shah back on the throne.

In 1962, the Shah ordered the break-up of large landownings so that it could be used for peasant ownership. Following that, in 1963, the Shah launched his white revolution program. The White Revolution was a program that involved land reform, as well as social and economic modernization. In 1965 Amir Abbas Hoveyda was elected prime minister. During the late1960’s, the Shah became dependent on the secret police (SAVAK) for control over the opposition parties after there was an Islamic uprising against the policies of the White Revolution. Throughout 1927, riots, strikes, and mass demonstrations resulted in the deaths of a number of people. People destroyed the statues built to honour the Shah and his father.


In 1979, revolutionaries took control of the shah’s government and forced him into exile. In Feb. 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini, an Islamic fundamentalist, returned from exile and took power, launching the “Islamic Revolution”. In 1979, during November, the militant stormed the US embassy taking the entire staff hostage. In Jan. 1980,  Abolhassan Bani Sadr was elected as the first president of the new Islamic Republic and his government embarked on the beginning of a new nationalization program.

Before and during everything that occurred in Iran, a small island in the Caribbean was having problems of its own. That island was Puerto Rico.

The US had been eyeing Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Hawaii because the Spanish empire was beginning to decline. The position Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Hawaii were in made them prime strategic points. On July 25, 1898, The US invaded Puerto Rico under the pretext of protecting it.


The Treaty of Paris imposes on the Puerto Rican people. It stated that Spain would secede Puerto Rico and Cuba to the USA. Also, the USA would get all the political, military, and civic power. As soon as the US got a hold of Puerto Rico, the Americanization of it began. Colonialism came in many forms. There was depreciation of the currency and domination of foreign capital. There was a mono-crop, or only one crop grown, at the expense of the Puerto Ricans. Then systematic cultural assimilation began. It became illegal to fly the Puerto Rican flags.

In 1900, the first law about Puerto Rico was made. Its name was Foraker law.  Puerto Rico was a possession of the united states that’s what it stated. It was the first attempt to keep Puerto Rico as a colony, however, it was very ambiguous in its terminology. More significantly, It outlines political life by the colonial elite. It focused on who will be elected in Washington DC It was not until the emergence of Albizu Campos in 1920(the Malcolm X of Puerto Rico) that a radical stance was made that went beyond trying secure reforms from Washington.

The Jones act was the second attempt at further Americanization of Puerto Rico. Without the permission of Puerto Ricans, America gave Puerto Rico US citizenship. Three hundred people rejected citizenship while hundreds more refused to join the army.

Thesis statement

In 1922, the man who would be Puerto Rico’s first governor emerged. At the time, there were two parties vying for power in the legislative. These parties were the  Union party and the Republican party. From the Union, the party emerged the Nationalist party, headed by Luiz Munoz Marin. Its goal was to make Puerto Rico independent.

“Oh American flag, it is true that you represent liberty and democracy in our world. Here in Puerto Rico, you represent colonialism and plunder.” A quote said by an anonymous man during the celebration of patriot Jose de Diego. At the celebration, there were six American flags on the banisters. The man went up, pulled the flags off and after saying this line broke them. Incidents like this began to occur more frequently. Albizu Campos decided to tour Latin America in hopes of gaining support for his cause. After gaining much support, he was elected leader of the Nationalist party. One of the biggest problems plaguing Puerto Rico today is an extreme dependency on the US. Many feel, that they could not survive without the US. Albizu, seeing this dependency, came up with two programs, one economical, one political.

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In 1932, the nationalist lost the elections. Albizu decided it was time to call for action. He called for armed action, going so far as to make a women’s battalion as well. They began to organize, first, there was a  gasoline strike, then a sugar cane plantation strike. The government finally found a reason to mobilize their troops against the party in their instances. Soon the government and the nationalist began to clash on many affairs. During a meeting in Rio Piedras, the police raided the building causing the death of four nationalists. This was their first attempt to instil fear into the Puerto Ricans. Conflicts with the police end with the killing or jailing of more and more nationalists. The police prohibited marches. They close the cemeteries to prevent people from putting flowers on the graves of dead nationalists.

On Palm Sunday, March 21, 1937, the people went to the mayor of Ponce. Tomas, and asked to hold a peaceful demonstration. He agreed, and preparations began. An hour before the parade started, the police came under the orders of the mayor himself. A 150 police insisted that the parade is stopped.  Someone fired a shot. Then follows fifteen minutes of gunfire which the police order. After the smoke is clear, one hundred-fifty people were injured and twenty-one died. None of the people injured or dead had any arms or weapons were found on them. The US had succeeded in scaring the Nationalist. This day came to be known as the Ponce Massacre.


Finally, Albizu Campos returns to Puerto Rico. On his return, he begins to work diligently for the part and the resistance. He launches a final cry for independence, where they captured many towns. Unfortunately for the movement, the US called in the National Guard and the air force to suppress the actions of the nationalists.

At the same time, the former head of the nationalist party, Luiz Munoz Marin, now of the union party, he cultivated a relationship with the USA and became the first governor. Many people looked up to Munoz Marin, and by seeing this action, he had become an enemy to the independence cause. To make it worse, Albizu Campos died on April 21, 1965.

It has become evident that Puerto Rico will never be independent. In the current years, there has been an influx of people from Cuba. While the people of Puerto Rico would like to become free of the US, these Cubans do not agree. They believe that there is no reason and that Puerto Rico is fine the way it is. There have been attempts for independence during recent times. The young lord’s party of the 1960s and 1970s. They believed in Campos militant stance and his ideas. Other parties were the FePi or the federation of students pro-independence and the Fupi, the federation of universities pro-independence. However, these two parties were also very radical. Thelma Pena put it this way.


“They taught us how to make Molotoff bombs” A Molotov bomb is made of a Cocoa-Cola bottle, which is filled with gasoline. Then they would get a strip of something, like fabric, or string and put it into the bottle. Then the string is lit and the bottle thrown “….They intended on bombing a government office. When I disagreed, they asked me if I was truly for pro-dependence…I left after that and never came back. The underground freedom fighter of today, Los Manchetros -are for the most part- in federal prisons where they remain in solitary confinement.

Recently in Iran, violent warring has taken place. Iraq invaded Iran on Sept. 22, 1980, because they want the  Shatt al Arab waterway, although he soon escalates into larger territorial rights. In June 1981, Khomeini dismissed Bani Sadr. During this, Iran rejects all peace initiatives and demands that the first condition of the truce is the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. In 1985, the Iran Contra affair takes place, in which the US official tries to get back hostage by giving Iran a secret arms deal. It is a pity that Khomeini does not get his way because Saddam Hussein has caused trouble ever since.


The effect of imperialism on a country is seen in both Iran and Puerto Rico. Iran has never been colonized, yet it has never been truly free either. Now, with the election of a new president of Iran Khatami, perhaps there is some hope. Some say, that everything Shah Pahlavi was good. His white revolution program changed the lives of many. It brought education and highways to Iran. Yet, most Iranians believe that he was a bigot and puppet of the united states. Puerto Rico will never be independent. This happens, mainly because of the other citizens from other islands. Their presence has had a lasting effect on the country. If one lives in Puerto Rico for five years, then one becomes a citizen. These new citizens are pushing for statehood, or to remain to the way it is.

The original citizens of PR still would like a chance at independence. Puerto Rico has become a stepping stone, a stepping stone, for other citizens to make their way to the US. The independence movement is dead now; perhaps it is better this way. However, no country is truly independent. Every country manipulates another country with its actions. Also, the future is not written down in stone. There is always the chance that Puerto Rico will become independent, and Iran the world power that the Shah envisioned. What has occurred now may have been the start for these movements, or the death? Only in the future, when the children’s children are writing papers, will the actions of the countries be judged.

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