THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF FREE MEN
CONTEXT: The island of Puerto Rico was claimed by Spanish explorers in 1493. It remained under Spanish rule until 1898, when the United States defeated Spain in the Spanish American War and took the Island as spoils of that war.
The revolutionary ideas that spread through the world and the Americas in the 19th century had echo in Puerto Rico, giving rise to a patriotic sentiment and nationalist movement that culminated in the figure of Ramón Emeterio Betances and the call for freedom from Spanish rule in 1867.
Independence for Puerto Rico was first proclaimed on September 23, 1868 with El Grito de Lares, led by Betances, the Father of Puerto Rican Independence. Short lived due to betrayal and repression, it prevails as a defining moment, a symbol of freedom, inspiration for the continued struggle of believers in independence, and a shrine of pilgrimage.
During his efforts for Puerto Rican independence from Spain, Betances penned a list of guiding principles for such emancipation. His “Ten Commandments of Free Men,” which was written while in exile on the island of Saint Thomas, are based on the Declarations of the Rights of
Man and of the Citizen, adopted by France’s National Assembly in 1789.
Here are the Ten Commandments as written in 1867, the year before the Grito de
The government of Mme. Isabella throws upon us a terrible accusation.
It states that we are bad Spaniards. The government defames us.
We don’t want separation, we want peace, the union to Spain; however, it is fair that we also add conditions to the contract. They are rather easy, here they are:
The abolition of slavery.
The right to vote on all impositions.
Freedom of religion.
Freedom of speech.
Freedom of the press.
Freedom of trade.
The right to assembly.
The right to bear arms.
Inviolability of the citizen.
The right to choose our own authorities.
These are the Ten Commandments of Fee Men.
If Spain feels capable of granting us those rights and liberties, they may then send us a Captain General, a governor…made of straw that we will burn in effigy come Carnival time, as to remember all the Judases that have sold us until now.
That way we will be Spanish and not otherwise.
If not, Puerto Ricans-HAVE PATIENCE!, for I swear that you will be free.”