The author of Campus In Bondage, Ruth M. Reynolds, was a life-long advocate for the independence of Puerto Rico. She was arrested on October 31, 1950 for “conspiracy to overthrow the government of the US” and imprisoned for 19 months in La Princesa and Arecibo District Jail.
Ruth M. Reynolds
A few months earlier in February 1950, Ms. Reynolds was eating lunch in San Juan, at the Bombonera restaurant on San Francisco Street.
Just before 2 pm, three US businessmen sat down in an adjoining booth. They talked about their wives, girlfriends, prostitutes, and then got down to business. The two older men were educating the newly-arrived younger fellow, on how to “do business” in Puerto Rico. They spoke with Brooklyn accents.
“What wages you gonna pay?” asked one of the elders.
“40 cents an hour. Not a cent more.”
“Well, the first thing is…don’t say that to the boys.”
“The government people. Tell ‘em you wanna help Porto Rico, so you’re gonna pay 80 cents an hour.”
“Like hell I am. Whadaya think I’m down here for?”
“Take it easy. I didn’t say pay 80 cents, I said tell ‘em you’ll pay 80 cents. After that, you’ll have ‘em eating out of your hand.”
“Yeah…and then I get all fixed up, and I gotta pay 80 cents an hour!”
The two older men chuckled a moment, then the second one chimed in. “No you won’t…you see, all kinda things can happen. Materials cost more than you figured on. Labor ain’t trained. These Porto Ricans don’t know how to work.”
“You still want to pay 80 cents an hour, but you can’t make ends meet if you pay more than 25.”
“Yeah…in fact, if you didn’t wanna help Porto Rico so much, you’d just pack up your machines and take ‘em back home.”
“And just what fool is going to believe that?” asked the young man.
“They don’t have to believe it. All they gotta do is accept it…and you, of course, will add a little ‘persuasion’ to it.”
The man rubbed his fingers together, to indicate that a little money was involved.
“You mean…it’s that easy?” said the younger man.
“Sure, nothin’ to it. We’ll introduce you to Sam Quiñones.”
“Who’s he, a union guy?”
“Better than that. He’s the President of the Senate of Porto Rico. Your bank account all set up?”
“Can you get cash?”
“Good. You’re gonna need it. Sam ain’t cheap, but he gets the job done.”
“Oh, yeah. Sam’s your man.”
Sam Quiñones, ready for business
The two men laid out a simple business model which was entirely built on politics: Senator Samuel Quiñones was the Majority Leader of the PPD (Partido Popular Democratico), the same political party as Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín.
These were the two key men, through whom “accommodations” were made for US manufacturers. For an “accommodation fee,” Gov. Muñoz Marín and Sen. Quiñones would “look the other way” when there was a shortfall between the wages listed on a tax exemption application, and the wages actually paid to Puerto Rican laborers.
In this way, Operation Bootstrap became Operation Kickback. With over 1,000 US manufacturers buying into the Bootstrap program, it became a personal ATM for Muñoz Marín and Quiñones.
Unfortunately, this meant substantially lower wages for Puerto Rican workers. The money that was meant for them, was going into these politicians’ pockets.
This wage deflation explains why, throughout the “Operation Bootstrap” era, record numbers of Puerto Ricans moved out of the island.
Sadly, this is exactly what is happening today.
Instead of Operation Bootstrap they’re using Public Law 20, Public Law 22, and P3s (public-private partnerships).
And the politicians from both parties – the PPD and PNP – have arranged it so that no one can be held accountable: to either pay the money back, or be taken off to jail.
They want the people to pay their bill.