Los “Young Lords”, Pa’lante: Lecciones de Lucha

For English version to this article click here: https://carlitoboricua.blog/2020/04/06/the-young-lords/

Por Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

A fines de la década de 1960 y principios de los 1970, los titulares de las noticias se centraron en un grupo de jóvenes puertorriqueños en la ciudad de Nueva York que utilizaron tácticas atrevidas y formas inusuales de protesta contra la opresión racista. Estos jóvenes rebeldes y militantes se hacían llamar los Young Lords.

Sus ejemplos, y el movimiento de masas del que surgieron, continúan inspirando a los jóvenes, especialmente hoy en día, cuando vemos una mayor prueba de que la única solución a la opresión es la organización y la lucha.

Los Young Lords se desarrollaron en Chicago durante la década de 1950. Estaban compuestos por estudiantes desempleados y jóvenes de la clase trabajadora, que se encontraban entre muchas organizaciones de jóvenes de la calle atacadas por la policía y demonizadas como “pandillas” por los medios de comunicación capitalista.

Estos jóvenes provenían de familias que se vieron obligadas a abandonar Puerto Rico entre las décadas de 1940 y 1960 como resultado de las dificultades económicas provocadas por el colonialismo estadounidense. Continuaron experimentando la opresión, pero bajo nuevas circunstancias sociales, ya que se convirtieron en víctimas de la explotación extrema en las fábricas, dueños codiciosos de vivienda en los barrios marginados, la brutalidad policial y la crueldad de las pandillas blancas racistas.

La migración puertorriqueña ocurrió durante los mismos años que surgió el movimiento de derechos civiles en los EEUU. Los inmigrantes puertorriqueños recién llegados se vieron impactados por las luchas del pueblo afroamericano que también experimentó la naturaleza vil del racismo en este país desde la esclavitud. En muchos casos, los puertorriqueños se identificaron con las demandas del movimiento de Poder Negro (Black Power).

En 1966, se formó el Partido Pantera Negra (Black Panther Party, BPP). El líder de las panteras en Chicago, Fred Hampton, buscó politizar las organizaciones callejeras, particularmente la juventud puertorriqueña. Los esfuerzos del BPP tuvieron éxito cuando, en 1968, bajo el liderazgo de José Cha-Cha Jiménez, los Young Lords se convirtieron en una entidad política revolucionaria; luego se convirtieron en parte de una alianza fraternal conocida como la Alianza Arco Iris (Rainbow Coalition, sin relación con la posterior Coalición Rainbow/PUSH de Jessie Jackson), que también incluía a los Brown Berets, I Wor Kuen, Young Patriots y BPP.

Fred Hampton con líderes de la Rainbow Coalition. Young Lords: Jose Cha-Cha Jimenez, 2da a la derecha,
Pablo “Yoruba” Guzman 2da. A la izquierda

El Partido Young Lords en Nueva York

El 26 de julio de 1969, los Young Lords hicieron su debut en la ciudad de Nueva York en la celebración del décimo aniversario de la Revolución Cubana celebrada en Tompkins Square Park en el Lower East Side (“Loisaida”). Los Young Lords admiraron y apoyaron la Revolución Cubana, encabezada por Fidel Castro Ruz y Ernesto Che Guevara. Dos meses después, los Young Lords abrieron una oficina en Madison Avenue en East Harlem, la comunidad Boricua conocida como “El Barrio”.

Durante muchos años, las personas negras y latinas se quejaron de la doble moral del Departamento de Manejo de Desperdicios Sólidos de Nueva York en la recolección de basura. Las áreas blancas y prósperas recibieron servicios adecuados con recogidas regulares de basura, mientras que los vecindarios negros y puertorriqueños quedaron en condiciones insalubres.

En el verano de 1969, los Young Lords de Nueva York comenzaron a barrer las calles y a acumular grandes montones de basura que molestaban a la comunidad de East Harlem. Mucha gente se preguntaba qué estaban haciendo los jóvenes, aparentemente “buenos samaritanos”. Pero el misterio no duró mucho.

En agosto de 1969, los Young Lords utilizaron la basura que habían recolectado como medio para ejecutar una ofensiva política con tácticas militares. Toneladas de basura fueron arrojadas e incendiadas en las principales arterias de Manhattan para interrumpir el tráfico, incluso en la próspera Quinta Avenida. El YLP exigió el fin de las políticas municipales racistas de la ciudad de Nueva York sobre el manejo de desperdicios sólidos. En los barrios donde se lanzó la “ofensiva de la basura”, los Young Lords galvanizaron el apoyo de la comunidad; muchos se unieron a la organización.

Los ataques de los medios de comunicación a; YLP solo trabajaron a su favor. En cuestión de meses, aparecieron capítulos del YLP en Filadelfia, Bridgeport, Jersey City, Boston y Milwaukee, ciudades con concentraciones notables de puertorriqueños. Aunque compuesta principalmente por puertorriqueños, la organización también permitió que miembros de otras nacionalidades oprimidas se unieran.

El YLP tenía una estructura de tipo militar con un proceso de reclutamiento y reglas de disciplina que se aplicaban estrictamente. El YLP creía que para derrotar a un enemigo política y militarmente sofisticado, las personas oprimidas tenían que prepararse para su liberación desarrollando una mayor sofisticación.

El Partido Young Lords funcionó con una disciplina tipo militar.

En los años posteriores a la Ofensiva Basura, los Young Lords participaron en numerosas campañas que involucraron acciones audaces y llamaron la atención. Un ejemplo fue la toma física de la Primera Iglesia Metodista Hispana en la Calle 111 en El Barrio. Los Young Lords habían suplicado repetidamente a los feligreses por espacio para alimentar a los niños hambrientos, pero fue en vano. Esta iglesia estuvo cerrada durante toda la semana y solo abrió durante unas pocas horas para el culto de una congregación que en su mayoría vivía fuera de la ciudad.

Respaldados por el sentimiento de la comunidad, los Young Lords ingresaron a la iglesia durante un culto dominical y expulsaron a la congregación. Usando la iglesia como base, los Young Lords operaron un servicio gratuito de cuidado de niños, un programa de desayuno y una clínica legal. También se brindaron servicios médicos.

Las enfermedades y la atención médica deficiente han sido durante mucho tiempo un problema en la comunidad puertorriqueña. Otras acciones tomadas por el YLP incluyeron la incautación de un camión de prueba de tuberculosis sin usar, equipado con tecnología de rayos X. Después de que se incautó el camión, la ciudad se vio obligada a proporcionar técnicos para hacer funcionar la máquina. Luego, el camión fue llevado a East Harlem, donde muchas personas fueron examinadas para detectar la enfermedad pulmonar.

Los Young Lords exigieron que el Hospital Lincoln, que servía a la gente del sur del Bronx, ampliara sus servicios. Debido a que esta instalación se originó a mediados de 1800 – cuando trataba incluso a los esclavos fugitivos del Sur – sus instalaciones estaban obsoletas y no satisfacían las necesidades actuales de la gente. Una plaga de ratas y cucarachas en el hospital exacerbó aún más las deplorables condiciones.

En las primeras horas de la mañana del 14 de julio de 1970, unos 100 miembros del YLP tomaron audazmente el control del Hospital Lincoln. Durante 12 horas, los Young Lords y los profesionales médicos progresistas del Movimiento de Unidad Revolucionaria de la Salud brindaron servicios médicos gratuitos a la gente de la comunidad. El moderno Lincoln Hospital de hoy, con sus nuevas instalaciones, es el resultado de una lucha comunitaria en la que los Young Lords estuvieron a la cabeza.

Los Young Lords realizaron muchas manifestaciones que condujeron a la ocupación del Hospital Lincoln.

La Organización Revolucionaria de Trabajadores Puertorriqueñ@

En el verano de 1972, el YLP celebró su Primer Congreso del Partido (y el último) en la ciudad de Nueva York. El evento destacó una nueva energía y dirección para la organización. En ese momento, la membresía votó para cambiar el nombre de Young Lords Party a Organización Revolucionaria de Trabajadores de Puerto Rico (PRRWO). Además, los cambios solidificaron el marxismo-leninismo como premisa ideológica y política de la entidad.

Independientemente de cómo se pueda ver esta etapa en el desarrollo de la organización, muchas cosas demostraron ser ciertas años después: El YLP/PRRWO estaba pasando por un proceso de deterioro que sus miembros no veían. Los intentos de rejuvenecer su existencia con una nueva línea de marcha en el Congreso de 1972 llegaron un poco tarde. Tomar una decisión errónea de establecer capítulos en Puerto Rico, perdiendo su base de apoyo masivo en la comunidad en la diáspora, agravada por las hostilidades internas instigadas por las actividades de COINTELPRO, finalmente selló la muerte de la otrora poderosa organización.

El Frente Unido

Una de las áreas de trabajo de Young Lords/PRRWO de las que menos se habló fue la relación de colaboración que tenía con otras organizaciones que también forman parte del movimiento de liberación nacional de Puerto Rico en los Estados Unidos. Estas organizaciones fueron el Partido Socialista Puertorriqueño (PSP), El Comité-MINP, Resistencia Puertorriqueña, el Sindicato de Estudiantes Puertorriqueños (PRSU) y los Young Lords.

Gran parte del trabajo colaborativo que estos grupos realizaron en conjunto se centró en temas candentes en Puerto Rico, como la lucha para poner fin a los bombardeos de práctica del ejército de los EE. UU. en la isla de Culebra. Otro de los temas que impulsó el trabajo conjunto fue el reclamo por la liberación de los presos políticos puertorriqueños, como Carlos Feliciano, Edwardo “Pancho” Cruz y los 5 Nacionalistas Puertorriqueños.

Otras acciones en las que se comprometió El Frente Unido fueron las manifestaciones de protesta contra las injusticias cometidas contra los puertorriqueños y oponerse a la guerra de Estados Unidos en Vietnam. De hecho, se cometieron graves errores de naturaleza sectaria que finalmente hicieron que la coalición fuera vulnerable a las tácticas de divide y vencerás de la Operación COINTELPRO. Sin embargo, los intentos de El Frente Unido dotaron a la lucha puertorriqueña de una rica experiencia en beneficio de la lucha de largo alcance por la liberación nacional.

La ideología del YLP

El YLP elaboró ​​un Programa de 13 Puntos que esbozaba los objetivos políticos del grupo. Incluyó la independencia de Puerto Rico, así como la liberación de todos los latinos y otras personas oprimidas, como los palestinos. Los Young Lords defendieron la lucha contra la opresión de las mujeres y finalmente expresaron su apoyo a los derechos de las personas LGBTQ.

Estos jóvenes revolucionarios creían que el poder del pueblo acabaría superando al poder de los opresores. Con ese espíritu, el YLP creía en el derecho a la autodefensa armada. Esto se hizo evidente en las acciones que tomaron mientras patrullaban las calles en las áreas que organizaron. Cada vez que los Young Lords veían a la policía arrestar a los residentes de la comunidad, intervenían para confrontar a los policías racistas y, a menudo, liberaban a los prisioneros.

Al final del año 1970, el miembro de YLP Julio Roldan, quien había sido arrestado en una manifestación en el Bronx y estaba pendiente de procesamiento, fue encontrado ahorcado en su celda en la prisión “Las Tumbas” en el bajo Manhattan. Durante esa época, muchos prisioneros fueron encontrados misteriosamente muertos en sus celdas, pero los funcionarios de la prisión siempre los etiquetaron como “suicidas”.

Los Young Lords respondieron a la muerte de Roldan con militancia, acusando al estado de asesinato. Después de una procesión con el ataúd de Roldán por el este de Harlem, el YLP regresó a la Primera Iglesia Metodista Hispana, que habían incautado un año antes, pero esta vez llegaron armados con escopetas y armas automáticas. Exigieron una investigación sobre la muerte de Roldán. El apoyo profundamente arraigado de la comunidad a los Young Lords evitó un tiroteo, ya que los funcionarios del gobierno sabían que habría enormes consecuencias políticas si iniciaban un ataque policial. Los Young Lords ocuparon la iglesia durante tres meses.

Hay muchos ejemplos de heroísmo entre estos jóvenes revolucionarios, no solo en Nueva York o Chicago, sino también en capítulos formados en otras ciudades donde el pueblo puertorriqueño se levantó en lucha.

Las Mujeres de los Young Lords

Al igual como todos los movimientos de importancia, fueron las mujeres de los Young Lords las que sirvieron como la columna vertebral política y el espíritu de la organización. En el apogeo del desarrollo del YLP, las mujeres constituían al menos el 40 por ciento de los miembros de la organización. Su nobleza y valiente liderazgo entre las filas fue más que ejemplar.

Sin embargo, el respeto y la aceptación de sus roles como líderes encontraron resistencia y obstáculos, a menudo arraigados en las tradiciones opresivas del dominio masculino. Pero las hermanas se mantuvieron firmes y formaron el Colectivo de Mujeres, un vehículo organizativo interno para permitir lanzar la necesaria lucha contra el sexismo dentro del YLP.

Sin embargo, a pesar de muchas batallas internas, estas hermanas utilizaron la persuasión de la política y la educación para sacar adelante a toda la entidad. Tenemos una deuda de profunda gratitud con todas estas mujeres.

Como resultado de su determinación y trabajo, numerosos grupos de mujeres de movimientos internacionales las reconocieron por sus aportes contra el capitalismo y sus múltiples formas de opresión.

Las mujeres del los Young Lords eran la espina dorsal y alma de la organización.

Los Young Lords eran jóvenes socialistas

Vergonzosamente, debido a que los Young Lords originales ya no existen, las interpretaciones diluidas, no revolucionarias y oportunistas de esa historia persisten hoy.

El YLP denunció abiertamente el sistema capitalista y llamó a una sociedad socialista; gravitaron cada vez más hacia los ideales del marxismo. La organización tenía estudio obligatorio de literatura marxista-revolucionaria, como el “Libro Rojo” de Mao Tse Tung, El Manifiesto Comunista de Marx y Engels, Los Condenados de la Tierra de Frantz Fanon, entre otras obras.

El revisionismo histórico actualmente describe a los Young Lords y otros grupos de primera línea de los años 60 y 70 como inofensivos para el sistema capitalista e irrelevantes para la lucha actual por el socialismo. En otras palabras, a pesar de las versiones históricas de los autores que buscan la aprobación de las editoriales de la corriente principal, los Young Lords fueron fundamentalmente revolucionarios que buscaron romper el orden social, económico y político actual.

Independientemente de lo que se pueda argumentar, los Young Lords pidieron abiertamente la destrucción del capitalismo y el establecimiento del socialismo en los Estados Unidos. Esto queda indiscutiblemente claro en el “Programa y plataforma de 13 puntos” del YLP, así como en el folleto titulado “La ideología del partido Young Lords“.

Los Young Lords, como el Partido Pantera Negra, intentaron construir una organización altamente disciplinada. Entendieron que sin la sofisticación organizativa de un partido de vanguardia, la revolución es imposible. Es precisamente esta lección la que los revolucionarios de hoy deben adoptar y emular para realizar la futura victoria del socialismo.

¡VIVA EL EJEMPLO REVOLUCIONARIO DE LOS YOUNG LORDS!

Dr. Evelina Antonetty 1922-1984, Warrior Woman of the Oppressed

By Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

Born on September 19, 1922, in Selina, Puerto Rico, Evelina Antonetty became an exemplary community activist in the way she confronted oppression with resilience, courage, and defiance. Antonetty was unique by demonstrating the best of women throughout the history of the Puerto Rican diaspora.

Evelina Antonetty’s life was centered around fighting for civil and human rights. She advocated for community control of schools, police, and all institutions. Evelina prioritized fighting for the well-being and future of children. And because Evelina’s vision involved the right to self-determination of her people, as a proud Boricua she defended the struggle for Puerto Rico’s independence.

Lolita Lebron and Evelina Antonetty

This warrior of the oppressed was called by various names of endearment in a community that loved her. However, because of her unrelenting commitment to working class people the racist New York Police Department described her as “Hell Lady of the Bronx”.

Her commitment to the struggle for justice and equality came about due to very good reasons – her own personal experiences with the horrors of oppression.

Evelina Antonetty’s name is famous today because she was loved by the community she fought for.

When she was just 10 years old, Evelina’s mother, a single parent, was compelled by poverty desperation to send her to New York City to live with an aunt. Extreme economic hardship prevailed throughout Puerto Rico. The Great Depression was even harsher in the setting of U.S. colonial dominance.

While living in El Barrio (East Harlem) during her teenage years Evelina developed a sense for community activism when she worked for the radical/socialist Congressman Vito Marcantonio. Evelina was also mentored by the Afro-Boricua author/poet and socialist labor leader Jesús Colón. She worked for Colón at the socialist influenced labor union District 65.

Here is a canvas portrait I painted in October 2022 as a tribute to Evelina Antonetty.
It is 24” X 30”, acrylic paint on canvas.

During the Civil Rights movement Evelina Antonetty played an important role as an unofficial representing link to the Puerto Rican community. She developed a good friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and earned the respect of other prominent Civil Rights leaders.

Evelina Antonetty was so in tune and willingly drawn by the events of the 1960’s-70’s mass upsurge that she became enthused by the Young Lords, with whom she became a good friend and ally. In some cases, she personally mentored members of the Young Lords.

The most notable of her accomplishments was based on children’s right to education. Antonetty was an organizer who is credited for the 1965 creation of United Bronx Parents. She is also known for her monumental achievement, the creation of the first bi-lingual school in the United States.

Evelina Antonetty with other members of United Bronx Parents.

Evelina is also remembered for being among the many militant voices on the streets opposing the filming of the racist Hollywood movie titled “Fort Apache”, which depicted Black and Latino people with disdain.

Evelina Antonetty’s name is famous today because she was adored by the Puerto Rican community of the Bronx and the diaspora everywhere for her militant disposition and vision of a better world. With the hardships and intensity of oppression that exist today we should all emulate Evelina’s militant qualities to build a new people’s movement. Her examples continue to serve as pillars of Puerto Rican fighting traditions.

Evelina Antonetty with members of her family.

For more information about the legendary Evelina Antonetty please visit: https://evelina100.org/

Dr. Evelina Antonetty – PRESENTE!

Tribute to a Boricua feminist warrior, Luisa Capetillo

Haga clic aqui para ver la versión en español

https://carlitoboricua.blog/?p=6127&preview=true&_thumbnail_id=6140

By Carlito Rovira

Born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Luisa Capetillo (October 28, 1879-October 10, 1922) was a warrior woman who made history in the struggle against women’s oppression. She was an advocate for Puerto Rico’s Independence who became one of the most famous labor leaders in the history of that colonized nation. She was also a writer, poet, a feminist, political activist, a socialist, and more specifically an anarchist.

There is so much to be told about Luisa Capetillo’s exceptional life and her numerous contributions to our history. At a young age, she became acquainted with Socialist literature which defined who she would be for the rest of her life.

Luisa Capetillo lived at a time in history when the world became engulfed in workers struggles. Labor strikes erupted everywhere as the fight for the eight-hour day, equal pay for women and the right to organize unions took centerstage in most countries.

Poster by Vagabond

The working class and poor peasants rose to the occasion in bitter struggles against the avaricious capitalist class. This historical current was accentuated with the 1917 Russian Socialist Revolution and the 1910-20 Mexican Agrarian Revolution.

In the colonial setting of Puerto Rico capitalist exploitation was no different, and so too was the instinct of Puerto Rican workers to rebel. Throughout Puerto Rico workers sought ways to resist the harsh conditions they faced being doubly exploited by foreign corporations under U.S. colonial domination.

Luisa Capetillo was a single mother who worked as a reader. Her job involved going to different cigar making factories to read out loud newspaper articles and short stories to tobacco workers as they sat performing their labor.

A depiction of Luisa Capetillo reading stories and newspaper articles to tobacco workers.

During the rise of the women’s suffrage struggle in Puerto Rico, Luisa was very active as an organizer. However, Luisa’s views differed sharply from others concerning the solution to stop the oppression of women. She believed that the fight for women’s emancipation was inseparable and intertwined with the class struggle.

A Portrait I made of Luisa Capetillo in September 2021.
Dimensions: 24″ X 30″, painted with acrylic paint on canvas

As a leader in the Federation of Tobaco Rollers (Federacion de Torcedores de Tabaco) and the Free Libertarian Federation of Puerto Rican Workers (Federacion Libre de Trabajadores de Puerto Rico), Luisa traveled throughout Puerto Rico challenging the inhumane conditions of workers – especially for women. As a labor organizer, Luisa fought for workers’ rights and equal pay of women in the Tobacco industry. She wrote many articles in union newspapers that were circulated throughout Puerto Rico.

Capetillo believed that her activities would usher in a better world. As a result of this conviction, she aspired to build an all-Caribbean labor organization. As part of this endeavor she travelled to New York, Tampa, Cuba, Dominican Republic and other locations.

Luisa Capetillo is perhaps most known for challenging backward traditions of gender and clothing. These absurd traditions were ingrained in Latin American culture by the Roman Catholic Church. Luisa preferred wearing men’s pants for comfort and as a statement of protest to women’s oppression.

Luisa Capetillo dressed to challenge backward traditions.

In 1915, while walking the streets of Havana, Cuba, she was arrested for her choice of garment. Her defiance was widely felt when she ridiculed the logic of her arrest, by proving in court that no laws were broken by her clothing preference. As a result, the case was dismissed and Capetillo was characterized by the press throughout the Caribbean as the “Puerto Rican Joan Of Ark”.

Today, Luisa Capetillo is remembered for her courageousness as a labor organizer. Her legacy is monumental in working class history and for her valor defending the human rights of Puerto Rican women.

En el 100 Aniversario del Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico

Gracias a Daniel Vila por la traducción del inglés al español.

For English version click link below:

https://carlitoboricua.blog/2022/08/02/on-the-100th-anniversary-of-the-nationalist-party-of-puerto-rico/?_thumbnail_id=5489

___________________________________

Por Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

Al conmemorar el centenario del Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico (PNPR), honramos y saludamos a estos revolucionarios que ocupan un lugar especial en la historia de Puerto Rico. Lo que nos viene a la mente son las muchas lecciones aplicables en la actual lucha por la liberación nacional.

El espíritu de lucha del Partido Nacionalista tenía sus raíces en las tradiciones de resistencia existentes desde hace mucho tiempo. Los innumerables y sangrientos levantamientos lanzados por los indígenas taínos y los africanos esclavizados durante casi 400 años es lo que dio origen a la existencia y la identidad propia de la nación puertorriqueña.  

Cuando Puerto Rico fue invadido y colonizado militarmente el 25 de julio de 1898, fue un momento crucial para que Estados Unidos se convirtiera en una potencia imperialista mundial. Los principales estados capitalistas compitieron entre sí para obtener colonias mediante la conquista. En el marco de la guerra hispano-estadounidense, Cuba, Filipinas, Guam y Puerto Rico fueron conquistadas por Estados Unidos.  

Una representación del tirano Theodore Roosevelt conquistando el Caribe.

Raíces Históricas del Partido Nacionalista

En febrero de 1902, el Partido Unionista fue formado por Luis Muñoz Rivera, Rosendo Matienzo Cintrón, Antonio R. Barceló, José de Diego, Juan Vías Ochoteco y otros. Al principio, el Partido Unionista pedía la independencia, pero poco a poco se redujo políticamente a pedir una versión diluida de la “autonomía”  

El Partido Unionista intentó apaciguar a las autoridades ocupantes-colonizadoras utilizando una lógica oportunista que, en última instancia, significaba repudiar la independencia. Los funcionarios de Washington estaban encantados de contar con una perspectiva sumisa procedente de los propios puertorriqueños.   

Sin embargo, la reacción a las despiadadas prácticas avariciosas de los industriales estadounidenses hizo que los ideales de la independencia fueran ampliamente aceptados en diversos círculos. El derecho a la autodeterminación se convirtió en una cuestión urgente.  

A medida que Estados Unidos reforzaba su control sobre Puerto Rico con la Ley Jones de 1917, el Partido Unionista se volvió cada vez más conciliador. La Ley Jones incluía la imposición de la ciudadanía estadounidense a los puertorriqueños. Muchos en Puerto Rico se opusieron al nuevo decreto, incluida la Asamblea Legislativa de Puerto Rico, que votó unánimemente en contra de la imposición de la ciudadanía estadounidense.   

La opresión colonial engendra luchas

La agitación política encendida por los nuevos decretos, unida a un impulso revolucionario en todo el mundo que incluía la Revolución Mejicana y la Revolución Socialista Rusa, dio contexto a la militancia que caracterizó el surgimiento de un nuevo y poderoso movimiento nacionalista.  

A medida que el Partido Unionista se desviaba hacia la derecha, los miembros radicales optaron por separarse para formar la Asociación de la Independencia, predecesora del Partido Nacionalista, el cual se constituyó el 17 de septiembre de 1922.   

A diferencia del Partido Unionista, el Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico estaba firmemente arraigado en su creencia en la independencia y en la retirada incondicional de los invasores estadounidenses. El PNPR era indiscutiblemente un partido político revolucionario.   

En ese momento, el Partido Nacionalista poseía un bagaje originado por sus conexiones pasadas con el Partido Unionista, así como por la falta de experiencia. El 11 de mayo de 1930, la elección de Pedro Albizu Campos como presidente del PNPR no sólo cambió la organización, sino que dio paso a un estilo de liderazgo nunca antes visto.

La capacidad de oratoria de Campos, unida a sus conocimientos de historia y política mundial, generó un gran entusiasmo en todo Puerto Rico, lo que le valió el apodo de “El Maestro”. Era muy respetado por las capas más pobres de la población, hasta el punto de que a menudo se dirigían a él como “Don Pedro”, un saludo de respeto en la cultura latina.  

Influencias de las luchas en

Irlanda y de India

La perspectiva internacionalista del PNPR surgió en su mayor parte gracias a la introducción de Campos en la política revolucionaria cuando era estudiante de la Universidad de Harvard. Don Pedro estuvo muy involucrado en el trabajo de apoyo a los movimientos republicanos irlandeses y de independencia de la India, que estaban librando sendas batallas contra el colonialismo británico.  

El pueblo irlandés estaba a punto de conseguir su independencia del colonialismo británico. Gracias a la amistad que Campos entabló con el líder revolucionario socialista irlandés James Connolly y otros representantes del Sein Fein, su sentido de la política revolucionaria floreció.

James Connolly

El estrecho contacto de Campos con los patriotas irlandeses, además de su experiencia militar como oficial del ejército estadounidense en la Primera Guerra Mundial, le permitió desarrollar una apreciación de la importancia de que los movimientos revolucionarios tuvieran una sofisticación organizativa.   

Se reconoce la inspiradora militancia de Campos

El Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos saltó a la fama en 1925 en un mitin público celebrado en San Juan. El decreto colonial exigía la exhibición de la bandera estadounidense. Para mantenerse dentro de los límites de la legalidad, los organizadores decoraron la barandilla que rodeaba el escenario con pequeñas banderas estadounidenses.  

Cuando Don Pedro subió al podio, retiró tranquilamente las banderas estadounidenses, una por una, y se las metió en el bolsillo. Comenzó su discurso diciendo “Bandera americana, no te voy a saludar, si simbolizas una nación libre y soberana, en Puerto Rico representas la piratería y el saqueo”.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos

El audaz acto del Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos conmocionó a muchos en Puerto Rico y puso en tela de juicio la falta de energía militante en el liderazgo del Partido. La valentía y el carisma que Campos demostró en este acto es probablemente lo que impulsó su ascenso a la dirección.  

Transformación del Partido Nacionalista

Poco después de que Campos asumiera su cargo de líder del PNPR, el 11 de mayo de 1930, trabajó diligentemente para transformar el Partido en una organización de lucha disciplinada y unida. El líder nacionalista comprendió que para desafiar a un enemigo bien organizado era necesario desarrollar una fuerza contraria igualmente poderosa.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos en su oficina en la sede del Partido Nacionalista, San Juan.

Las Mujeres del Partido Nacionalista

Don Pedro era consciente del obstáculo que podían suponer las tradiciones retrógradas para la construcción de un movimiento fuerte. Observó cómo el potencial de liderazgo revolucionario de las mujeres se mantenía sofocado por el dominio machista del PNPR.  

En la isla municipio puertorriqueña de Vieques, Campos desempeñó un papel directo en la creación del primer comité de mujeres del Partido Nacionalista, llamado “Enfermeras de la República”.  

Este acontecimiento inspiró a muchas mujeres a unirse al Partido Nacionalista. También obligó a los hombres a cuestionar rasgos de su comportamiento en el contexto de ciertas tradiciones atrasadas. Además, el nuevo papel de las mujeres en el PNPR reveló los beneficios que la igualdad de género tendría para la causa independentista.  

Las mujeres guerreras tenían ahora la libertad de ejercer políticamente. Mujeres poderosas como Blanca Canales, Leonides Díaz, Carmen María Pérez, Isabel Rosado Morales, Doris Torresola Roura, Olga Isabel Viscal Garriga, Lolita Lebrón y tantas otras se unieron a esta lucha. En muchos casos, las mujeres del Partido Nacionalista destrozaron muchos mitos misóginos y superaron las acciones de sus homólogos masculinos, especialmente en las circunstancias más severas.

De izquierda a derecha: las nacionalistas Carmen María Pérez González,
Olga Viscal Garriga y Ruth Mary Reynolds.
Las mujeres nacionalistas también fueron acorraladas y arrestadas tras la revuelta de 1950.
Poco después de salir de prisión, de izquierda a derecha: Nacionalistas Juanita Ojeda Delgado, Blanca Canales Torresola, Isabel Rosado Morales & Carmen Pérez González.

El derecho al uso de la fuerza armada

Fundamental para la convicción del PNPR bajo el liderazgo de Campos fue tener una estructura organizada y disciplinada que constituyera un ejército popular en preparación para la batalla. A Raimundo Díaz Pacheco se le encomendó la tarea de dirigir los Cadetes de la República, siguiendo el modelo del Ejército Ciudadano Irlandés (ECI), organizado por James Connolly.

Los Cadetes de la República fueron el componente armado del Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico

Poco después de que Don Pedro llegara a la presidencia, las opiniones políticas del Partido sobre cómo lograr la independencia se agudizaron. El PNPR ya no participaría en elecciones falsas que estaban incuestionablemente controladas por los colonizadores estadounidenses.  

La posición clara del Partido de defender el derecho a la fuerza armada para lograr la independencia llamó la atención de los agresivos y vengativos funcionarios del gobierno.

Represión vs. Dignidad Nacional

Don Pedro y los cuadros más comprometidos fueron con frecuencia objeto de persecución por parte de la Oficina Federal de Investigación (FBI). Estar afiliado de alguna manera al Partido Nacionalista significaba arriesgarse a ser arrestado, encarcelado o muerto.   

El 24 de octubre de 1935, en lo que se conoce como la Masacre de Río Piedras, la policía colonial abrió fuego y mató a cuatro estudiantes del Partido Nacionalista y a un transeúnte en la Universidad de Puerto Rico (UPR). El supuesto “crimen” de estos jóvenes fue izar la bandera de Puerto Rico y pronunciar discursos independentistas en los terrenos del campus.  

En represalia por las muertes de los estudiantes de la UPR, el 23 de febrero de 1936, dos miembros de los Cadetes de la República, Hiram Rosado y Elías Beauchamp, dispararon armas de fuego en una reunión pública para asesinar al gobernador colonial, el general estadounidense Blaton Winship. En su lugar, las balas alcanzaron al jefe de policía, el coronel Francis Riggs. Tanto Rosado como Beauchamp fueron golpeados y asesinados en la comisaría de la policía.

Los cadetes nacionalistas Hiram Rosado y Elias Beauchamp llevaron a cabo la justicia revolucionaria.

Pero el escrutinio sobre el Partido Nacionalista alcanzó nuevos niveles durante la huelga de los cañeros de 1936. Fue una de las luchas laborales más importantes de la historia de Puerto Rico. Gracias al apoyo y al liderazgo político proporcionado por el Partido Nacionalista, los sindicatos de todo Puerto Rico se solidarizaron con los cortadores de caña de azúcar. Esta poderosa lucha laboral por unos salarios más altos terminó con una victoria. Como resultado, el movimiento obrero de Puerto Rico se sintió fortalecido.  

El Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos dirigiéndose a los trabajadores de la caña de azúcar en huelga.

Al ver interrumpido su flujo constante de beneficios, los inversores capitalistas estadounidenses se pusieron furiosos con el Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos. Los funcionarios coloniales decidieron intensificar sus esfuerzos para reprimir al Partido Nacionalista.  

La Masacre de Ponce, 21 de marzo de 1937

Unos meses más tarde, el Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos y otras figuras destacadas como Juan Antonio Corretjer fueron acusados de “conspiración sediciosa para derrocar al gobierno de los Estados Unidos”. Campos fue condenado a 10 años de prisión junto con muchos cuadros del PNPR.  

El líder nacionalista Juan Antonio Corretjer bajo custodia.

El Domingo de Ramos, 21 de marzo de 1937, el PNPR del municipio de Ponce convocó una procesión pacífica para conmemorar la abolición de la esclavitud africana en Puerto Rico el 22 de marzo de 1873 y exigir la liberación del Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos.  

Las autoridades coloniales hicieron muchos intentos para presionar la cancelación del evento del PNPR, incluso utilizando tácticas intimidatorias de gánsteres. Pero los patriotas se mantuvieron firmes en la creencia de que tenían todo el derecho moral de hacer lo que quisieran en su patria.  

A medida que aumentaba el número de participantes, la policía acordonó la zona. Bajo la dirección del Gobernador General Blanton C. Winship, designado por Estados Unidos, la policía se preparó para una sangrienta embestida.  

La manifestación comenzó con la multitud cantando la versión revolucionaria original del Himno Nacional de Puerto Rico, La Borinqueña. Una vez que la procesión comenzó a moverse, la policía hizo lo inimaginable: abrió fuego utilizando bombas de gas lacrimógeno, rifles de carabina y subfusiles Thompson.

Cuando terminó la carnicería, murieron 19 nacionalistas y 2 policías, además de 200 heridos. Casi todos los hombres, mujeres y niños alcanzados por la lluvia de balas recibieron disparos por la espalda, lo que indica que intentaban huir de la embestida policial.   

Este trágico suceso se conoció como la Masacre de Ponce. La noticia de esta injusticia recorrió inmediatamente todo Puerto Rico, ya que muchos se quedaron incrédulos ante la crueldad del colonialismo estadounidense.

Mártires de la Masacre de Ponce.

En el periodo que siguió a la Masacre de Ponce, el mundo entero fue consumido por los horribles acontecimientos de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Puerto Rico se convirtió en una guarnición para el ejército estadounidense que vigilaba América Latina, mientras que la isla puertorriqueña de Vieques se convirtió en un campo de prácticas de tiro para los buques de guerra estadounidenses y de otros países aliados.   

La “Ley Mordaza” y la revuelta nacionalista de 1950  

En los años siguientes, a finales de la década de 1940, el director del FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, recibió el mandato de intensificar el atroz acto de colonialismo estadounidense en Puerto Rico. El objetivo de esta operación era desestabilizar y destruir al Partido Nacionalista.

En noviembre de 1948, la Ley 53 de 1948, más conocida como la “Ley Mordaza“, fue instituida por el gobierno colonial instalado por Estados Unidos. Fue el decreto más draconiano de la historia de Puerto Rico que pretendía acabar con las aspiraciones independentistas.   

La Ley Mordaza convirtió en contrabando la bandera de Puerto Rico. La mención de la independencia en la literatura, las letras musicales y los discursos públicos pasó a ser ilegal. Se prohibieron las reuniones y manifestaciones independentistas. La intención era suprimir cualquier esperanza de independencia para el pueblo puertorriqueño.  

Integrantes de la inteligencia nacionalista cercanos a los funcionarios del gobierno descubrieron un plan secreto del gobierno para eliminar el movimiento independentista. El liderazgo del PNPR decidió “dar el primer golpe” para exponer ampliamente la verdadera naturaleza de la presencia estadounidense en Puerto Rico.  

Revuelta Nacionalista de 1950,

el Levantamiento de Jayuya

En la mañana del 30 de octubre de 1950, una joven llamada Blanca Canales lideró un levantamiento nacionalista y tomó el control de la ciudad de Jayuya. Tras un tiroteo entre la policía colonial y los nacionalistas. Estos luchadores por la libertad consiguieron hacerse con el control de la comisaría. Blanca Canales dio entonces la orden de quemar el despreciado edificio.  

También se produjeron violentos enfrentamientos entre la policía y los nacionalistas en Utuado, Ponce, Mayagüez, Arecibo, Naranjito, Ciales, Peñuelas y otros municipios.  

En San Juan, la policía atacó la sede del Partido Nacionalista. El Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, Isabel Rosado y otros emprendieron una batalla armada hasta que fueron abrumados por los gases lacrimógenos.  

Para llamar la atención del mundo sobre la represión desatada por los colonizadores estadounidenses, el 1 de noviembre de 1950, los nacionalistas Oscar Collazo y Griselio Torresola intentaron asesinar al presidente Harry Truman en la Blair House de Washington, DC.

Los nacionalistas Griselio Torresola y Oscar Collazo.

Por la misma razón, el 1 de marzo de 1954, los nacionalistas Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irvin Flores y Andrés Figueroa Cordero organizaron un ataque armado a la Cámara de Representantes en el Capitolio de Estados Unidos.

De izquierda a derecha: los nacionalistas Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irvin Flores, Lolita Lebron y Andres Figueroa Cordero.

La represión que se vivió en Puerto Rico durante este periodo fue equivalente a la de los regímenes más asesinos de la historia de América Latina. La policía colonial actuaba con impunidad, matando a tiros a los individuos considerados “terroristas” o nacionalistas armados. Hacía falta un valor inimaginable y un amor intransigente por la patria para soportar la constante amenaza que suponía ser nacionalista.

Familias enteras fueron consideradas sospechosas de simpatizar con la independencia.
Los hombres jóvenes eran rutinariamente detenidos para interrogarlos y/o arrestarlos.

Durante este periodo de represión y persecución despiadada contra Partido Nacionalista, los gobernantes estadounidenses buscaron nuevas y engañosas formas de disfrazar la criminal presencia estadounidense en Puerto Rico.

En 1949, se celebraron las primeras elecciones a gobernador con candidatos puertorriqueños aprobados por Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, hasta el día de hoy, el gobierno estadounidense se reserva el derecho “legal” de anular el resultado de las elecciones en Puerto Rico.

Debido a la rebeldía demostrada por los puertorriqueños desde el inicio de la colonización estadounidense, en 1957 se eliminó la Ley 53 de 1948 (Ley Mordaza) y también se levantó la prohibición de la bandera puertorriqueña. Además, la defensa de la independencia dejó de ser ilegal.

Los intensos años de represión anteriores provocaron un periodo de inactividad política en el seno del Partido Nacionalista, entre mediados de la década de 1950-1960. Este escenario se acompañó de hipócritas insinuaciones por parte de políticos que afirmaban falsamente que Puerto Rico era un “escaparate de la democracia”.

Nada más absurdo y alejado de la realidad. Muchos miembros del PNPR permanecieron encarcelados, como el Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, que fue sometido a tortura por radiación durante su cautiverio.

Lecciones extraídas de la experiencia nacionalista

A pesar de las dificultades y los horrores, los gallardos hombres y mujeres del PNPR sabían perfectamente cuáles serían las represalias a manos de los colonizadores. Sus sacrificios no fueron en vano. Lucharon gallardamente como centuriones de los oprimidos, manteniendo la dignidad de las tradiciones revolucionarias puertorriqueñas.

Hay una lección clara que podemos utilizar para la lucha actual al entender los puntos clave de la historia del Partido Nacionalista. El logro de nuestra la liberación no será posible sin el desarrollo de la sofisticación política y la estructura organizativa.

No podemos desafiar con éxito a un enemigo bien preparado y altamente organizado a menos que nos propongamos ser más hábiles que el colonizador en la aplicación de las técnicas de la política y la guerra. De ahí la necesidad de desarrollar un partido político revolucionario. Con esta acción honramos la obra y el legado del Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos y del PNPR.

La evolución de la lucha de liberación nacional puertorriqueña continúa hoy en día en las muchas luchas que existen en toda la patria y la diáspora. La valentía y el amor por el Puerto Rico demostrado por el Partido Nacionalista les han asegurado un lugar muy especial en la historia, así como en los archivos de todos los pueblos oprimidos y explotados. 

Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre!

On the 100th Anniversary of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico 

Haga clic aquí para ver la versión en español de este artículo:

En el 100 Aniversario del Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico – carlitoboricua

________________________________________________

By Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico (NPPR), we also honor and salute these revolutionaries who have earned a special place in Puerto Rican history. What comes to mind are the many lessons gained applicable in the ongoing struggle for national liberation.

The fighting spirit of the Nationalist Party was rooted in long existing traditions of resistance. The countless bloody uprisings launched by the indigenous Taínos and enslaved Africans for nearly 400 years is what brought into being the existence and self-identity of the Puerto Rican nation. 

When Puerto Rico was militarily invaded and colonized on July 25, 1898, it was a pivotal moment for the United States to become a world imperialist power. Leading capitalist states raced against each other to obtain colonies through conquest. In the setting of the Spanish-American War, Cuba, the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico were conquered by the United States. 

A depiction of  the tyrant Theodore Roosevelt conquering the Caribbean.

Historical Roots of the Nationalist Party

In February 1902, the Unionist Party was formed by Luis Muñoz Rivera, Rosendo Matienzo Cintrón, Antonio R. Barceló, José de Diego, Juan Vías Ochoteco and others. At first, the Unionist Party called for independence but gradually dwindled politically to a diluted version of “autonomy”

The Unionist Party attempted to appease the occupying-colonizing authorities using opportunist logic that ultimately meant repudiating independence. Washington officials were delighted to have a submissive perspective originating from Puerto Ricans themselves.  

However, the reaction to the ruthless avaricious practices of U.S. industrialists caused the ideals of independence to become widely accepted in various circles. Having the right to self-determination became a matter of urgency for all social classes in Puerto Rico.

As the U.S. tightened its grip with the 1917 Jones Act, the Unionist Party became increasingly conciliatory. The Jones Act included imposing U.S. citizenship on Puerto Ricans. Many in Puerto Rico opposed the new decree including Puerto Rico’s Legislative Assembly, which unanimously voted against this imposition.

  Colonial Oppression Breeds Struggle

The political turmoil ignited by new decrees coupled by a revolutionary momentum throughout the world, which included the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920, and the 1917 Russian Socialist Revolution, gave context to the militancy that characterized the emergence of a new and powerful nationalist movement.

As the Unionist Party drifted further to the right, radical members chose to break away to form the Independence Association, a predecessor of the Nationalist Party, which was created on September 17, 1922.  

Unlike the Unionist Party, the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico was firmly entrenched on its belief in independence and the unconditional withdrawal of the U.S. invaders. The NPPR was indisputably a revolutionary political party.  

At this time, the Nationalist Party possessed baggage originating from its past connections to the Unionist Party, as well as from lacking experience. On May 11, 1930, the election of Pedro Albizu Campos as president of the NPPR not only changed the organization it ushered in a never-before-seen style of leadership.

Campos’ oratory skills combined with his knowledge of world history and politics generated widespread enthusiasm which earned him the nickname “El Maestro” (The Teacher). He was highly respected by the poorest layers of the population to the extent that they often addressed him as “Don Pedro”, a salutation of respect in Latino culture. 

Political Influences of the Irish & Indian Struggles

The NPPR’s internationalist perspective for the most part came about through Campos’ introduction to revolutionary politics while a student at Harvard University. Don Pedro was deeply involved in support work for the Irish Republican and Indian independence movements, which were both waging battles against British colonialism.

The Irish people were at the threshold of winning their independence from the British colonizers. As a result, Campos’ well-established friendship with the Irish socialist revolutionary leader James Connolly and other representatives of Sein Fein, his sense for revolutionary politics flourished. 

James Connolly

Campos’ close contact with Irish patriots, along with his military experience as a U.S. Army officer in World War I, allowed him to develop an appreciation for the importance of revolutionary movements having organizational sophistication.  

Campos’ Inspiring Militancy is Recognized

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos came to prominence in 1925 at a public rally held in San Juan. Colonial decree required displaying the American flag. To stay within the bounds of legality, organizers decorated the railing around the stage with small U.S. flags.

As Don Pedro stepped to the podium, he calmly removed the U.S. flags, one by one, and tucked them into his pocket. He began his speech by saying “American flag, I will not salute you, if you symbolize a free and sovereign nation, in Puerto Rico you represent piracy and pillage.”

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos’ bold act shocked many in Puerto Rico and put into question the lack of militant energy in the Party’s leadership. The courage and charisma Campos demonstrated at this event is likely what propelled his ascendancy to the leadership.

Nationalist Party Transformed

Soon after Campos took his NPPR leadership post, on May 11, 1930, he worked diligently to transform the Party into a disciplined, tight-knitted fighting organization. The Nationalist leader understood that challenging a well-organized foe required developing an equally powerful counter force.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos in his office at Nationalist Party headquarters, San Juan.

Women of the Nationalist Party

Don Pedro was aware of the potential hinderance that backward traditions had on building a strong movement. He observed how the revolutionary leadership potential of women was kept stifled by the chauvinistic male dominance within the NPPR.

In the Puerto Rican Island municipality of Vieques, Campos played a direct role in the creation of the first women’s committee of the Nationalist Party, called “Nurses of the Republic”. 

This development inspired many women to join the Nationalist Party. It also compelled the men to question traits of their behavior in the context of certain backward traditions. Moreover, the new role of women in the NPPR revealed the benefits gender equality would have for the independence cause.

Women warriors now had the freedom to exert themselves politically. Powerful women like Blanca Canales, Leonides Diaz, Carmen Maria Perez, Isabel Rosado Morales, Doris Torresola Roura, Olga Isabel Viscal Garriga, Lolita Lebron and so many others joined in this fight. In many instances, Nationalist Party women shattered misogynistic myths while exceeding the actions of their male counterparts, especially under the most severe circumstances.

From left to right: Nationalists Carmen María Pérez Gonzalez, Olga Viscal Garriga and Ruth Mary Reynolds.
Nationalist women were also rounded up and arrested following the 1950 revolt.
Shortly after release from prison, from left to right: Nationalists Juanita Ojeda Delgado,
Blanca Canales Torresola, Isabel Rosado Morales & Carmen Perez Gonzalez.

The Right to Use Armed Force

Fundamental to NPPR’s conviction under Campos’ leadership was having an organized, disciplined structure constituting a people’s army in preparation for battle. Raimundo Díaz Pacheco was entrusted with the task of leading the Cadets of the Republicmodelled after the Irish Citizen’s Army (ICA), organized by James Connolly.

The Cadets of the Republic were the armed component of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico

  

Shortly after Don Pedro became president the Party’s political views on how to achieve independence became sharper. No longer would the NPPR participate in phony elections that were unquestionably controlled by the U.S. colonizers.

The Party’s openness of upholding the right to armed force to achieve independence caught the attention of aggressive and vindictive government officials.  

Repression vs National Dignity

Don Pedro and the most committed cadres were frequently targets of persecution by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Being affiliated in any way with the Nationalist Party meant risking arrest, imprisonment, or death.  

On October 24, 1935, in what is known as the Rio Piedras Massacre, colonial police opened fire, killing four Nationalist Party students and one bystander at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). The supposed “crime” of these youths was raising the Puerto Rican flag and making pro-independence speeches on campus grounds.

In retaliation for the deaths of the UPR students, on February 23, 1936, two members of the Cadets of the Republic, Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp fired guns at a public gathering to assassinate the colonial governor, U.S. General Blatant Winship. Instead, the bullets struck the police chief, Colonel Francis Riggs. Both Rosado and Beauchamp were beaten and murdered at the police station.

Nationalist Cadets Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp carried out revolutionary justice.

But scrutiny on the Nationalist Party reached new heights during the 1936 Sugar Cane Worker’s strike. It was one of the most significant labor struggles in Puerto Rican history. Thanks to support and political leadership provided by the Nationalist Party labor unions throughout Puerto Rico came out in solidarity for the sugar cane cutters. This powerful labor struggle for higher wages ended in victory. As a result, Puerto Rico’s labor movement felt empowered.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos addressing striking sugarcane workers.

Having their steady flow of profits disrupted and fearing the strength of the workers movement, U.S. capitalist investors became feverishly furious at Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos. Colonial officials found themselves compelled to step up their efforts to repress the Nationalist Party.

The Ponce Massacre, March 21, 1937

A few months later, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos and other leading Nationalist figures like Juan Antonio Corretjer were accused of “seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government”. Campos was sentenced to 10 years in prison along with many outspoken NPPR cadres.

Juan Antonio Corretjer in custody.

On Palm Sunday, March 21, 1937, the NPPR in the municipality of Ponce called for a peaceful procession to commemorate the March 22, 1873, abolition of African chattel slavery in Puerto Rico and to demand the release prison of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos.

Colonial authorities made many attempts to pressure the cancelation of the NPPR event, including using intimidating gangster tactics. But the patriots remained firm on the belief that they had every moral right to do as they wished in their homeland. 

As the gathering of participants grew larger, the police sealed off the area. Under the direction of U.S.-appointed Governor General Blanton C. Winship, the police prepared for a bloody onslaught.

The demonstration began with the crowd singing the original revolutionary version of the Puerto Rican National Anthem, La Borinqueña. Once the procession began to move the police did the unimaginable – they opened fire using tear-gas bombs, carbine rifles and Thompson sub-machine guns.  

When the carnage was over, 19 Nationalists and 2 police officers were killed along with 200 wounded. Nearly all the men, women and children struck by the hail of bullets were shot in the back, indicating that they were attempting to flee the police onslaught.  

This tragic event became known as the Ponce Massacre. News of this injustice immediately traveled throughout Puerto Rico, as many stood in disbelief from the shock of U.S. colonialism’s cruelty.    

Martyrs of the Ponce Massacre.

In the period following the Ponce Massacre, the entire globe was consumed by the horrific events of World War II. Puerto Rico became a garrison for the U.S. military overlooking Latin America while the Puerto Rican Island of Vieques was turned into a target practice range for U.S. and other Allied naval warships.  

The “Gag Law”

In the years following, by the late 1940’s, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was mandated to escalate the heinous act of U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico. The goal of this operation was to destabilize and destroy the Nationalist Party.  

In November 1948, Law 53 of 1948, better known as the “Gag Law” was instituted by the U.S. installed colonial government. It was the most draconian decree in Puerto Rico’s history which aimed to wipe out the aspiration for independence.  

The Gag Law made the Puerto Rican flag contraband. The mention of independence in literature, musical lyrics and public speech became illegal. Pro-independence meetings and demonstrations were outlawed. The intention was to suppress any hope of independence for the Puerto Rican people.

Nationalist intelligence operatives close to government officials discovered a secret government plan to obliterate the independence movement. The NPPR leadership decided to “strike the first blow” in order to widely expose the real nature of the U.S. presence in Puerto Rico.

1950 Nationalist Revolt – The Jayuya Uprising

On the morning of October 30, 1950, a young woman named Blanca Canales led a Nationalists uprising and seized control of the city of Jayuya. After an ensuing gun battle between colonial police and Nationalists. These freedom fighters were able to seize control of the police station. Blanca Canales then gave the command to burn down the despised building.

Violent clashes between police and nationalists also occurred in Utuado, Ponce, Mayagüez, Arecibo, Naranjito, Ciales, Peñuelas and other municipalities.

In San Juan, the police attacked the Nationalist Party headquarters. Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, Isabel Rosado and others undertook an armed battle until they were overwhelmed by tear gas.

To bring about world attention to the repression unleashed by the U.S. colonizers on November 1, 1950, Nationalists Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola attempted the assassination of President Harry Truman at the Blair House in Washington, DC.

Nationalists Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo

For the same reason, on March 1, 1954, Nationalists Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irvin Flores, and Andres Figueroa Cordero staged an armed attack on the House of Representatives in the U.S. Capitol.

From L to R: Nationalists Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irvin Flores, Lolita Lebron & Andres Figueroa Cordero.

The repression witnessed in Puerto Rico during this period was tantamount to the most murderous regimes in Latin American history. The colonial Police acted with impunity, gunning down individuals deemed suspected “terrorists” or armed Nationalists. It took unimaginable courage and uncompromising love for the homeland to endure the constant threat that came with being a Nationalist.

Entire families were deemed suspect of sympathizing with independence.
Young men were routinely rounded up for questioning and/or arrest.

During this period of repression and vicious persecution of the Nationalist Party, U.S. rulers sought new and deceitful ways to disguise the criminal U.S. presence in Puerto Rico.

In 1949, the first elections for governor were held with U.S. approved Puerto Ricans serving as candidates. However, to this day, the U.S. government reserves the “legal” right to annul the outcome of elections in Puerto Rico.

Due to the rebelliousness demonstrated by Puerto Ricans since the start of the U.S. colonization, in 1957, Law 53 of 1948 (Gag Law) was eliminated and the ban on the Puerto Rican flag was also lifted. In addition, advocating for independence was no longer illegal.

The previous intense years of repression caused a dormant period of political activity within the Nationalist Party, between the mid 1950’s-1960’s. This setting was accompanied with hypocritical overtures by politicians who falsely claimed that Puerto Rico was a “showcase of democracy”.

Nothing was more absurd and further from the truth. Many NPPR members remained incarcerated as Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was subjected to radiation torture while in captivity.

Lessons drawn from the Nationalist experience

Despite difficulties and horrors, the gallant men and women of the NPPR knew precisely what the reprisals would be at the hands of the colonizers. The sacrifices made by these freedom fighters were not in vain. They fought gallantly as centurions of the oppressed, maintaining the dignity of Puerto Rican revolutionary traditions.

There is an obtainable lesson that we can utilize for the ongoing struggle by understanding key points in Nationalist Party history. Achieving our national liberation will not be possible without the development of political sophistication and organizational structure.

We cannot successfully challenge a well-prepared and highly organized enemy unless we aim to be better skilled than the colonizer in applying the techniques of politics and warfare. Hence, the necessity for the development of a revolutionary political party. By taking this action is when we truly honor the work and legacy of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos.

The evolution of the Puerto Rican national liberation struggle continues today in many forms throughout the homeland and diaspora. The bravery and love for Puerto Rico demonstrated by the Nationalist Party has secured for them a very special place in history, as well as in the archives of all oppressed and exploited people.

QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!

  

Salute to the life of El Maestro: PEDRO ALBIZU CAMPOS, on the date of his birth

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By Carlito Rovira

On September 12, 1891, in the municipality of Ponce, Puerto Rico, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was born. This iconic figure is highly regarded in Latin American history and revered as Puerto Rico’s leading symbol of the independence cause in the Twentieth Century.

Campos was raised by his aunt in a poor but humble family setting. His mother died due to illness when he was a very young child. And when he was only seven years old, on July 25, 1898, the United States militarily invaded Puerto Rico, an outcome of the Spanish-American War.

In the days leading up to the onslaught naval warships blockaded all commercial ports of the island nation. The young Pedro Albizu Campos experienced the panic caused by the U.S. Navy when they threaten to bomb the city of Ponce if the residents did not surrender. Witnessing firsthand the arrogance of foreign soldiers is likely why he held an everlasting contempt for U.S. colonialism.

During his formative years Campos was exceptionally gifted. Due to his academic skills he was put in an accelerated track in school. By 1912 he received a scholarship to study engineering at the University of Vermont. A year later, Campos applied and was accepted to Harvard University.

But with the outbreak of World War 1 in 1917 he joined the U.S. Army where he served as First-Lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s segregated All-Black units.

In 1919 Campos continued his studies. He achieved his law degree, as well as in Literature, Philosophy, Chemical Engineering, Military Science, and Language. Campos fluently spoke English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Greek and classic Latin.

Campos was a genius, not by bourgeois and Euro-centric standards but because of his high level of humanity. His humility, and ability to reaffirm Puerto Rican anti-colonial traditions earned him the nickname “El Maestro” (The Teacher). The common folks greeted him by the name handle “Don” (Don Pedro) – a salutation of endearment and respect in Latino culture.

Pedro Albizu Campos during his years at Harvard University.

Campos was the first Puerto Rican to attend Harvard University and graduate with the highest honors. Soon after finishing his education high paying employment offers were made to him, as Hispanic Representative in the Protestant Church, Legal Aide to the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. State Department and so on. But Campos declined. Instead, he chose to be a lawyer for the poor, many times defending clients unable to pay him.

Because Don Pedro was adamant with his open condemnation of U.S. imperialism it earned him recognition by other contemporary nationalist and revolutionary figures, most notably Ernesto Che Guevara, James Connolly, Marcus Garvey, to name a few.

Don Pedro was a revolutionary nationalist with an internationalist criterion. In fact, Campos’s outspoken oratory against the “racist practices in the house of the empire” caught the attention of Pan-Africanist leader Marcus Garvey, who traveled to Puerto Rico to meet the renowned leader. Despite their differences in goals and tactics, this meeting was highly symbolic. The two leaders proceeded in their separate line of march but with the highest respect for each other.

Puerto Rican and Irish Solidarity

During his years at Harvard University Campos became involved in support work for the Irish Republican movement. Ireland was at a threshold in its historic liberation struggle against British colonialism. Campos’ admiration for the Irish cause served as his introduction to the ideals of revolutionary politics, which he eventually brought back to Puerto Rico.

Through his direct contact with representatives of Sein Fein in Boston and New York City, Don Pedro became good friends with James Connolly, The renown Irish socialist revolutionary and co-founder of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Connolly was also instrumental in the emergence of the Industrial Workers of the World, (IWW) also known as “The Wobblies”.

Irish revolutionary leaders Éamon de Valera and Connolly asked Campos to contribute a written draft for what would become the Constitution of a free Irish Republic. The collaboration between revolutionaries from two oppressed nations — Boricua and Irish — is of paramount significance in history.

Pedro Albizu Campos assumes leadership

In the earliest days of U.S. colonialism, a movement capable of addressing the new circumstances did not exist. The Unionist Party was conveniently repudiating independence from its program in an opportunistic effort to appease the mainstream. After many internal conflicts, on September 17, 1922, the radical members broke away to form the Nationalist Party.

Campos came to prominence in 1925 at a Nationalist rally held in San Juan. Colonial decree required all public events to display the American flag. To stay within the bounds of legality organizers decorated the railing around the stage with small U.S. flags.

As Don Pedro walked to the podium he calmly began to remove the U.S. flags, one by one, and tucked them in his pocket. He began his speech by saying “American flag, I will not salute you, if you symbolize a free and sovereignty nation, in Puerto Rico you represent piracy and pillage.”

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos’ bold act shocked many in Puerto Rico and put into question the lack of militant energy in the Party’s leadership. The courage and charisma Campos demonstrated at this event is likely what propelled his ascendancy to the leadership. In 1927 he was elected Vice President and in 1930 he became President of the Nationalist Party.

In 1927 Campos traveled throughout Latin America and the Caribbean on behalf of the Nationalist Party. His mission was to seek support for Puerto Rico’s independence. Revolutionary nationalist movements were rising up everywhere during that decade.

When Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was elected President of the Nationalist Party in 1930 it sharpened existing internal contradictions. Campo’s more radical political views came into conflict with his rivals who tended to be conciliatory towards U.S. colonial policy.

In addition, due to the history of African chattel slavery in Puerto Rico, white members of the Party became contemptuous to the idea of following the leadership of a Black figure. Racism and reaction to a revolutionary direction compelled conservative forces to leave the Party.

Despite these internal contradictions Don Pedro’s oratory skills, tenacity, defiance, and fearlessness earned him the highest level of moral authority in the independence movement and from all social stratums in Puerto Rican society.

Once Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos assumed leadership the Nationalist Party was qualitatively transformed. In 1932 the Cadets of the Republic were organized — a para-military youth component of 10,000 members with Nationalist Raimundo Diaz Pacheco as its commander. The uniform of the Cadets was black shirts and white pants. They strove to become a liberation army, following the model of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Moreover, under Don Pedro’s leadership, an all-women component to the Party was also created. Among the heroines to rise up to prominence as a result were Rosa Rosado, Blanca Canales, Lolita Lebron, Leonides Diaz, Carmen Maria Perez, Ruth Reynolds, Olga Isabel Viscal Garriga, among others. The women of Puerto Rico have traditionally played exceptional roles as leaders and combatants in the anti-colonial struggle.

Anti-colonialism intertwined with class struggle

U.S. colonial agencies began scrutinizing Campos and the Nationalist Party, especially after they gained influence among the striking sugarcane workers in 1934.

Labor strikes frequently occurred during this period. The influence Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos had on the victorious sugarcane workers heightened the prestige of the Nationalist Party among wider sectors of the Puerto Rican working class.

Worker’s unrest in the United States during the Great Depression was enough havoc for U.S. rulers. Because Campos won the respect of the labor movement in Puerto Rico it compelled Washington officials to repress the Nationalist Party. A media campaign was launched to demonize Don Pedro and the independence cause. The mere sentiments of Puerto Rican nationalism posed a threat to U.S. capitalist interest.

Repression against Puerto Rican nationalism

FBI agents and the colonial police arrested, brutalized, and murdered Nationalists. On October 24, 1935 students at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) were killed by police for merely raising the Puerto Rican flag. In 1936 Don Pedro was imprisoned to ten years supposedly for Conspiring to overthrow the Government. In 1938 the Nationalist Party was banned by decree.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was praised by many, one of whom was the socialist U.S. Congressman Vito Marcantonio. Marcantonio was a staunch supporter of the Puerto Rican independence struggle and served as Campos’ attorney.

Don Pedro being arrested in 1936.

The following year on March 21, 1937, on a Sunday morning, in the city of Ponce, hundreds of people – women, children and men — gathered at the town plaza, in a peaceful demonstration to demand the release of Don Pedro. Once the gathering began to march the police carried out the unthinkable — they opened fire with rifles and Thompson submachine guns. The casualties were 21 people killed and 235 wounded. It became known in history as the Ponce Massacre.

U.S. rulers feared the moral authority Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos governed as well as his tenacity and valor. The colonizers were well aware of the legitimacy the Nationalist Party had in the hearts and minds of the people.

The “Gag Law” & defending Boricua dignity

After Don Pedro returned to Puerto Rico from a 10 year prison sentence his resolve proved to be untouched. From a San Juan based radio show Campos conveyed his anti-imperialist views to a listening audience. He also used this media to condemned the secret genocidal activities of Cornelius P. Rhoads, who was later discovered to be the mastermind behind the secret sterilizations of Puerto Rican women.

Washington officials sought ways to impose harsh decrees to minimize the threat posed by growing sentiments favoring independence. On June 10, 1948, Law 53 of 1948, better known as the Gag Law (Spanish: Ley de La Mordaza), was enacted by the U.S. installed San Juan colonial government in a blatant attempt to silence the pro-independence movement.

The Gag Law was filled with many outrageous draconian measures, such as forbidding the mere mention of independence in literature, billboards, music, and public speech. The decree also made it illegal to possess and display the Puerto Rican flag. This law created favorable conditions for repression.

While the notorious Senator Joseph McCarthy carried out his anti-communist witch hunt in the United States, the ugliest forms of repression were seen in Puerto Rico. Advocates of independence were blacklisted, denied employment, jailed, or were systematically shot in open daylight.

From this point on advocating independence was considered a risk to one’s life. The persecution against the Nationalists was identical to what was inflicted on the Black Panther Party with the FBI’s Operation: COINTELPRO.

In 1950 Nationalist Party intelligence operatives discovered a secret plan to destroy the movement. Don Pedro was then compelled to make a general call to arms in order to strike the first blow. In response to his directive, Nationalists attacked colonial authorities in cities throughout Puerto Rico.

In San Juan, the headquarters of the Nationalist Party was attacked by police. Campos, Isabel Rosado and others undertook an armed battle until they were overwhelmed by tear gas.

On the morning of October 30, 1950, a young woman named Blanca Canales led one of the boldest actions in Puerto Rican revolutionary history. An armed contingency entered the township of Jayuya in the central region. The Nationalists forced the police to surrender, after a gun battle which lasted an hour. Blanca Canales then gave the command to burn the police headquarters to the ground. This event is remembered as the Jayuya Uprising.

On November 1, 1950 Nationalists Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola attempted the assignation of President Harry Truman. Torresola was killed and Collazo was critically wounded in a shootout with the Secret Service and Capital Police.

Adding insult to injury when the question of Puerto Rico was first proposed for discussion before the United Nations Organization in 1952 the U.S. immediately blocked the effort. Washington officials claimed that Puerto Rico was an “internal matter of the United States”. Justifiably, the imperial arrogance of the U.S. only stiffened the resolve of Nationalists living in New York City.

On March 1, 1954, Nationalists Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andres Figueroa Cordero entered the House of Representatives while proceedings were taking place. Lolita Lebrón shouted, “Que viva Puerto Rico libre!” The freedom fighters then aimed their weapons and opened fire on the U.S. Congress.

What followed was brutal suppression of the entire independence movement. Many Nationalists were randomly imprisoned throughout the 1950’s. Anyone with pro-independence inclination was deemed terrorist; civil liberties for Puerto Ricans were virtually non-existent. The prevailing state of fear and intimidation overshadowed colonialism’s tightening economic grip. The Draconian measures of the 1948 Gag Law continues to have a psychological imprint in Puerto Rico to this day.

At his 19th year of imprisonment, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was pardoned, on November 15, 1964, by the notorious Luis Munoz Marin — the U.S. approved Governor and greatest traitor in Twentieth Century Puerto Rcan history. Don Pedro’s release was a political maneuver by the U.S. colonizers to disguise the heinous acts committed against the Nationalist Party.

Despite U.S. government denials evidence showed that Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was tortured with radiation experiments during his incarceration. What was obvious to the naked eye corroborated with findings made by independent medical experts. When Campos was released from prison the physical condition of his body served as indisputable testimony of this heinous crime.

On April 21, 1965, the beloved Don Pedro died at 73 years old. In the final analysis, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was murdered by the U.S. colonizers through a gradual not-so-hidden process.

The Legacy

Although Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos came short of realizing his quest for an independent Puerto Rican republic, he succeeded in revitalizing Boricua revolutionary traditions. He also reaffirmed the self-identity of the Puerto Rican people, which the U.S. colonizers attempted to destroy. In short, Don Pedro left us with a new disposition for our people to utilize in future struggles. That in itself will continue to pose a threat to the U.S. rulers.

His repeated motto “The homeland is valor and sacrifice” describes what he knew the Puerto Rican people are destined to carry out.

El Maestro firmly believed that freedom cannot come about by blindly following posturing political figures or voting in meaningless elections, approved by enemies of our people. Campos was critical of political deceptions designed to corrupt and derail the national liberation struggle.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos knew quite well that his mission in life was to set a revolutionary example — the rest was up to future generations; it is the youth who are destined to smash U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico and make the Boricua contribution to the global defeat of U.S. Imperialism.

Long Live the Memory of El Maestro!

Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre!

The Young Lords, Palante: Lessons in Struggle

Haga clic aquí para ver la versión en español de este artículo:

Los “Young Lords”, Pa’lante: Lecciones de Lucha – carlitoboricua

By Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, news headlines focused on a group of Puerto Rican youth in New York City who used daring tactics and unusual forms of protest against racist oppression. These defiant and militant youths called themselves the Young Lords.

Their examples, and the mass movement from which they arose, continue to inspire young people, especially today as we see greater proof that the only solution to oppression is organization and struggle.

The Young Lords developed in Chicago during the 1950s. They were composed of unemployed students and working-class youth, who were among many street-youth organizations targeted by police and demonized as “gangs” by the capitalist-owned mass media.

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These youths came from families compelled to leave Puerto Rico between the 1940s and 1960s as a result of the economic hardships caused by U.S. colonialism. They continued to experience oppression but under new social circumstances, as they became victims of extreme exploitation in factories, greedy slumlords, police brutality and by the viciousness of racist white gangs.

The Puerto Rican migration occurred during the same years the Civil Rights movement arose. The newly arrived Puerto Rican immigrants were impacted by the struggles of the African American people who also experienced the vile nature of racism in this country since chattel slavery. In many instances, Puerto Ricans identified with the demands of the Black Power movement.

In 1966, the Black Panther Party was formed. Panther leader Fred Hampton of Chicago sought to politicize the street organizations, particularly the Puerto Rican youths. The BPP’s efforts were successful when, in 1968, under the leadership of Jose Cha-Cha Jimenez, the Young Lords became a revolutionary political entity; they then became part of a fraternal alliance known as the Rainbow Coalition (unrelated to Jessie Jackson’s later Rainbow/PUSH Coalition), which also included the Brown Berets, I Wor Kuen, Young Patriots and the Black Panthers.

Fred Hampton with leaders of the Rainbow Coalition. Jose Cha-Cha Jimenez, 2nd to the right,
Pablo “Yoruba” Guzman second from the left.

Young Lords in New York

On July 26, 1969 the Young Lords made their debut in New York City at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution held at Tompkins Square Park in the Lower East Side. The Young Lords admired and supported the Cuban Revolution, led by Fidel Castro Ruz and Ernesto Che Guevara. Two months later the Lords opened an office on Madison Avenue in the East Harlem, “El Barrio” community.

For many years, Black and Latino people complained about the New York Sanitation Department’s double standards in trash pick up. White affluent areas were serviced properly with regular garbage pick-ups, while Black and Puerto Rican neighborhoods were left in unhealthy conditions.

In the summer of 1969, the Young Lords in New York began sweeping the streets and amassing large piles of garbage that were a nuisance to the community of East Harlem. Many people wondered about what the young, seemingly “good Samaritans” were up to. But the mystery did not last long.

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Banner reads: “Young Lords Party serves & protects its people.”

In August 1969, the Young Lords used the garbage they had collected as the means to execute a political offensive with military tactics. Tons of trash were dumped and set ablaze across the main arteries of Manhattan to disrupt traffic, including on the affluent 5th Avenue. The Lords demanded an end to New York City’s racist municipal policies on sanitation. In neighborhoods where the “garbage offensive” was launched, the Lords galvanized community support; many joined the organization.

The mass media’s attacks on the Lords only worked in their favor. Within months, YLP chapters appeared in Philadelphia, Bridgeport, Jersey City, Boston and Milwaukee—cities with concentrations of Puerto Ricans. While mainly composed of Puerto Ricans, the organization also allowed members of other oppressed nationalities to join the Young Lords.

The Young Lords Party had a military-type structure with a process for recruitment and rules of discipline that were strictly enforced. The YLP believed that in order to defeat a politically and militarily sophisticated foe oppressed people had to prepare for their liberation by developing greater sophistication.

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The Young Lords functioned with a military-type discipline.

In the years following the Garbage Offensive, the Young Lords engaged in numerous campaigns that involved bold actions and drew widespread attention. One example was the physical takeover of the First Spanish Methodist Church on 111th Street. The Lords repeatedly pleaded with parishioners for space in order to feed hungry children, but to no avail. This church was closed throughout the week and only opened for a few hours for worshiping by a congregation that mostly lived out of town.

Backed by community sentiment, the Young Lords entered the church during a Sunday mass and expelled the congregation. Using the church as a base, the Young Lords operated a free childcare service, breakfast program and legal clinic. Medical services were also provided.

Disease and poor healthcare have long been an issue in the Puerto Rican community. Other actions taken by the YLP included the seizure of an unused tuberculosis testing truck, equipped with X-ray technology. After the truck was seized, the city was compelled to provide technicians to run the machine. The truck was then taken to East Harlem, where many people were tested for the lung ailment.

The Lords demanded that Lincoln Hospital, which served the people of the South Bronx, expand its services. Because this facility originated in the mid-1800s, when it treated even escaped slaves from the South, its facilities were outdated and did not meet the current needs of the people. An infestation of rats and roaches in the hospital further exacerbated the deplorable conditions.

In the early morning hours of July 14, 1970, about 100 members of the Young Lords boldly seized control of Lincoln Hospital. For 12 hours, the Young Lords and progressive medical professionals in the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement provided free medical services to community people. Today’s modern Lincoln Hospital—with its new facilities—is the result of a community struggle of which the Young Lords were in the leadership.

Young Lords held many demonstrations leading up to the takeover of Lincoln Hospital.

The Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization

In the summer of 1972, the Young Lords Party held its First Party Congress (and its last) in New York City. The event highlighted a new energy and direction for the organization. At this time,  the membership voted to change the name from Young Lords Party to Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO). Moreover, the changes solidified Marxism-Leninism as the entity’s ideological and political premise.

However one may view this stage in the organization’s development, many things proved to be certain years later — the Young Lords/PRRWO was undergoing a process of deterioration unseen by its members. The attempts made to rejuvenate its existence with a new line of march at the 1972 Congress came a bit too late. Making an erroneous decision to establish chapters in Puerto Rico, losing its base of mass support in the community, aggravated through internal hostilities instigated by COINTELPRO activities, eventually sealed the death of the once powerful organization.

El Frente Unido – The United Front

One of the least talked about areas of work of the Young Lords/PRRWO was the collaborative relationship it had with other organizations also part of the Puerto Rican national liberation movement in the United States; These organizations were the Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP), El Comite-MINP, Resistencia Puertorriqueña, the Puerto Rican Students Union (PRSU), and the Young Lords.

A great amount of the collaborative work these groups did jointly was centered around burning issues in Puerto Rico, such as the struggle to end the U.S. military’s practice bombings on the island of Culebra. Other issues compelling the joint work was the demand for the release of Puerto Rican political prisoners, such as Carlos Feliciano, Edwardo “Pancho” Cruz and the 5 Puerto Rican Nationalists.

Other actions El Frente Unido committed work towards were protest demonstrations against injustices inflicted against Puerto Ricans and opposing the U.S. War in Vietnam. Grave mistakes were indeed made of a sectarian nature that eventually made the coalition vulnerable to the divide & conquer tactics by Operation COINTELPRO. But nevertheless, the attempts made by El Frente Unido provided the Puerto Rican struggle with a wealth of experience to benefit the long-range fight for national liberation.

The ideology of the Young Lords Party

The YLP drew up a 13-Point Program that outlined the group’s political objectives. It included independence for Puerto Rico, as well as liberation for all Latinos and other oppressed people, like the Palestinians. The Young Lords upheld the struggle against women’s oppression and eventually voiced support for the rights of LGBTQ people.

These young revolutionaries believed that the power of the people would eventually overwhelm the power of the oppressors. In that spirit, the YLP believed in the right of armed self-defense. This became evident in actions they took while patrolling the streets in areas they organized. Whenever the Young Lords witnessed the police arresting community residents, they would intervene to confront the racist cops and often liberated the prisoners.

In late 1970, YLP member Julio Roldan, who had been arrested at a demonstration in the Bronx and was pending arraignment, was found hung to death in his cell at the “Tombs” prison facility in lower Manhattan. During this era, many prisoners were found mysteriously dead in their cells, but prison officials always labeled them “suicides.”

The Young Lords responded to Roldan’s death with militancy, accusing the state of murder. Following a procession with Roldan’s coffin through East Harlem, the YLP returned to the First Spanish Methodist Church, which they had seized a year earlier—but this time, they came armed with shotguns and automatic weapons. They demanded an investigation into Roldan’s death. Deeply entrenched community support for the Young Lords prevented a gun battle, as government officials knew there would be an enormous political fallout if they initiated a police onslaught. The Young Lords held the church for three months.

There are many examples of heroism among these young revolutionaries—not only in New York or Chicago, but also in chapters formed in other cities where the Puerto Rican people rose up in struggle.

Women of the Young Lords

As with all movements of importance, it was the women of the Young Lords who served as the political backbone and spirit of the organization. At the height of the YLP’s development women comprised at least 40 percent of the membership in the organization. Their nobility and courageous leadership among the ranks was beyond exemplary.

However, respect and acceptance of their roles as leaders was met with resistance and obstacles often rooted in the oppressive traditions of male dominance. But the sisters were steadfast and formed the Women’s Collective, an internal organizational vehicle to enable launching the necessary fight against sexism in the Young Lords.

Yet, despite many internal battles, these sisters used the persuasiveness of politics and education to move forward the entire entity. We owe a debt of deep gratitude to all of these women.

As a result of their determination and work, many groups of women from international movements recognized them for their contributions against capitalism and its many forms of oppression.

Young Lords women were the backbone and soul of the organization.

The Young Lords were socialist youth 

Shamefully, because the original Young Lords no longer exist, diluted, non-revolutionary and opportunistic interpretations of that history persist today.

The YLP openly denounced the capitalist system and called for a socialist society; they increasingly gravitated towards the ideals of Marxism. The organization had mandatory study of revolutionary-Marxist literature, such as Mao Ste Tung’s “Red Book,” The Communist Manifesto by Marx & Engels, The Wretched Of The Earth by Frantz Fanon, and so on.

Historical revisionism currently depicts the Young Lords and other frontline groups of the 1960’s-70’s as harmless to the capitalist system and irrelevant to the struggle for socialism today. In other words, despite historical versions from authors that seek approval by the publishing houses of the mainstream the Young Lords were fundamentally revolutionaries that sought to smash the present social, economic and political order.

Regardless of what may be argued, the Young Lords openly called for the destruction of capitalism and establishment of socialism in the United States. This is made indisputably clear in the YLP’s “13-Point Program and Platform“, as well as in the pamphlet titled “The Ideology of the Young Lords“.

The Young Lords, like the Black Panther Party, attempted to build a highly disciplined organization. They understood that without the organizational sophistication of a vanguard party, revolution is impossible. It is precisely this lesson that revolutionaries today should embrace and emulate in order to realize the future victory of socialism.

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LONG LIVE THE REVOLUTIONARY EXAMPLES OF THE

YOUNG LORDS!

 

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Remember the March 21,1937 PONCE MASSACRE!

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By Carlito Rovira 

The colonization of Puerto Rico began as a consequence of the Spanish-American War in 1898. Cuba, Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico were deemed as “spoils of war” — the result of Spain’s surrender to the United States. Puerto Rico was then colonized by a new tyrant. The island nation soon after became a staging ground for U.S. military ventures throughout the Caribbean and all of Latin America; a practice that continues to this day.

Throughout the history of the U.S. colonial presence in Puerto Rico outspoken advocates for independence have been the targets of Draconian measures. Members of the Nationalist Party lived under the constant threat of being blacklisted from employment, their homes firebombed, imprisonment, torture and being killed by the various repressive agencies.

U.S. colonial policy in Puerto Rico has always been administered with complete disregard for the wishes of the Puerto Rican people. It was precisely this disposition by the colonial rulers which brought about one of the most horrifying events in Puerto Rico’s history.

The Ponce Massacre

In the city of Ponce, a peaceful demonstration was planned for March 21, 1937. It was intended to commemorate the 1873 abolition of African chattel slavery in Puerto Rico and to demand the release of imprisoned Nationalist leader Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos.

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Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos

Although permits were not required the organizers requested permission to have the event out of respect for the sympathetic mayor of Ponce. The organizers were granted a legal permit to proceed with their plans.

The notorious U.S. Army General Blanton Winship was appointed colonial governor by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Despite the “progressive” and “liberal” projections made by bourgeois historians and apologists, Roosevelt was just as brutal as any colonizing head of state acting with impunity. Boricuas suffered tremendously under the FDR administration and Gen. Blanton Winship’s racist implementation of colonial policy.

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Outright brutality through military rule was the preferred form of administering colonialism. Winship tried everything possible to stop the scheduled nationalist event, including using blatant gangster-type methods aimed to intimidate.

In this period of intense repression, the U.S. government, through Winship, sought to stamp out all nationalist sentiments and the self-identity of the colonized nation — especially its quest for independence and self-determination.

On that Palm Sunday morning, hundreds of people — women, children and men — gathered at the town plaza, in defiance of the colonial government’s wishes. Among those who assembled were women dressed in all white who gathered as Nurses of the Republic; the mostly youth comprised Cadets of the Republic — the para-military wing of the Nationalist Party were present in uniform, black shirts and white pants; church congregations and others also formed their contingents.

A Nationalist color guard in military formation unveiled the outlawed Puerto Rican flag. With clenched fists in the air, the crowd began to sing “La Borinqueña” — the original (revolutionary) version of the national anthem of the Puerto Rican people.

At this point, the police had completely sealed off the area where the nationalist protest was gathering. With grenades, tear-gas bombs, carbine rifles and Tommy sub-machine guns, under the directions of Blanton Winship the police prepared for the bloody onslaught.

Once the crowd began to march, knowing that the mostly young participants were unarmed, the police did the unimaginable — they opened fire.

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Photo taken as the colonial police began their attack on Nationalists.

The barrage lasted about 13 minutes. The participants which included elderly and children helplessly attempted to escape the unexpected horror. People began to desperately run to save their lives from bullets flying everywhere. They screamed terrified witnessing the chaos and blood splattering bodies of compatriots who fell to the ground from gunshots wounds.

When the shooting ended, 21 people had been killed and over 200 wounded. The American Civil Liberties Union investigated the tragedy. It was concluded by forensic investigation that those who died were shot in the back. The event brought sadness and shock throughout Puerto Rico. The funeral procession for the martyrs was one of the largest in the country’s history — about 20,000 people attended.

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The cruelty of the Ponce Massacre sheds light on the many heinous acts committed by the U.S. in Puerto Rico. Destruction, death, plunder and rape are the trademarks of colonialism. U.S. rulers perceive Puerto Ricans as expendable; let us not forget how modern times Washington officials allowed 4,743 Puerto Ricans to die from neglect, following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

“It was love for the freedom of our homeland — Puerto Rico,” Nationalist iconic figure Doña Isabel Rosado once said, “that gave strength to the martyrs of Ponce. Nothing in this world is more powerful than this emotion — not even the guns of the colonial assassins.”

And it is precisely this emotion that worries U.S. colonialism even to this day — an emotion that will prove fatal to them when the Puerto Rican masses eventually rise up to avenge the Ponce Massacre.

Changing the form of colonial rule

The nationalist movement that rose up in the first half of the 20th Century compelled the U.S. colonizers to change their methods of subjugating the people of Puerto Rico. Long after the Ponce Massacre, decades later into the present day, the U.S. colonizers became more sophisticated in their methods of domination.

By 1952, Washington, DC allowed some semblances of democracy, in an attempt to fool the people with illusions of self-determination and to disguise the exploitative nature of the colonial relationship before the eyes of the world.

The U.S. colonizers developed such a confidence in their new tactics of colonizing that they became willing to allow individuals of Puerto Rican origin, like the notorious Luis Muñoz Marin, to serve on the highest levels of government — as in years later — the U.S. House of Representative and Supreme Court.

The rulers have no problem granting Puerto Ricans visibility — what they have problems with is granting Puerto Ricans political power, that is, the right to independence. And because freedom is never granted from the “goodness” of an oppressor, it will require a revolutionary mass movement to obtain it.

The U.S. empire is more vulnerable than what most people realize; it has brought on itself enemies in all parts of the globe. We should feel assured that Boricuas will rise up in rebellion and win the historical struggle for independence. On that glorious future moment Puerto Ricans will make their contribution to the worldwide defeat of U.S. imperialism.

QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE! 

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ARTURO ALFONSO SCHOMBURG January 24, 1874 – June 10, 1938.

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By Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was born on January 24, 1874 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He was a Black Puerto Rican scholar, historian, author and activist, who devoted his entire life to compiling vast collections of writings and art documenting significant events in Black history.

When Schomburg was just 8 years old he was told by a school teacher that Black people had no history. This assertion naturally bothered him for a long time. But as he gradually grew older, Schomburg found the teacher’s claim to make absolutely no sense. That encounter became Schomburg’s motivation which led him to set out and prove wrong such racist notions.

The young Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, 1896

African chattel slavery also touched upon Puerto Rico, which became the consequence of Spanish colonialism in both Africa and Latin America. In 1527 the first slave revolt in Puerto Rico was among the bloodiest in the Western Hemisphere.

Despite the numerous contributions Schomburg made to the preservation of Black-Latino history, like many others he was not immune to anti-Black discrimination. Throughout his entire life, Schomburg experienced blatant racism, sadly within the Puerto Rican community as well.

Colorism, as an extension of white supremacy, often permeated conversations about “Los prietos” (the dark ones), “Pelo bueno y pelo malo” (good hair and bad hair), and so on. As in the United States, the not-so-hidden practices of racism has also existed in Puerto Rico and all of Latin America.

Arturo Schomburg was instrumental in documenting the role of African people in the cultural development of the Puerto Rican nation. The psychic, spirituality, linguistics, diet, music and dance of Puerto Rico pointed to the contributions made by Africans. Schomburg proudly identified as an Afroborinqueño (Afro-Puerto Rican).

Harlem Renaissance & Puerto Rico’s independence struggle

Schomburg became a prominent figure of the Harlem Renaissance. He collaborated with famous individuals like Langston Hughes, Alain Leroy Locke, W.E.B. Du Bois and other pillars of that movement. The Harlem Renaissance succeeded in challenging the ideological facets of white supremacy through the literary, visual and performing arts. It was an exciting and enlightening period in history for the African diaspora, following the struggles to end the horrors of slavery.

Thanks to the powerful momentum inspired by Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) Black people now had relative freedom to develop culturally, economically and politically in the surroundings of a white racist society. This was the setting in which Arturo Schomburg was able to make his contributions to Black history.

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg in New York City, 1932.

Before moving to New York City, at 17 years old, Schomburg was a leader in the secret Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico. This organization was created several years before Schomburg’s birth for launching the 1868 anti-slavery & pro-independence revolt known as El Grito De Lares. Although the attempt to rid Spanish colonialism failed, the Revolutionary Committee continued to exist clandestinely.

Throughout his life Schomburg remained a firm advocate for Puerto Rico’s independence. In fact, he was the founder of Las Dos Alas (The Two Wings), an organization in New York City devoted to the independence cause of Puerto Rico and Cuba. In 1895 Schomburg partook in a meeting with other freedom fighters like Manuel Besosa and Juan de Mata Terreforte at the Chimney Corner Hall to discuss and approve what became today’s official Puerto Rican Flag.

But as the 19th Century came to a close with the U.S. military invasion and occupation of both Cuba and Puerto Rico, these conditions caused the independence movement in both countries to enter a period of stagnation. As a result, Schomburg and other like-minded activists who resided outside of Cuba and Puerto Rico, began to re-vise their activities based on the change in the climate of imperialism.

Schomburg’s shift in central focus

As the persecution of Black people in the United States intensified, with the extension of Jim Crow laws, lynching and white racist riots presenting a dangerous and menacing setting, coupled by Schomburg’s childhood memory of a demeaning comment made to him by a school teacher, raised his commitment to the idea of affirming the validity and truth of Black history.

Schomburg firmly maintained the validity and truth of Black history.

Ridiculing the racist fables about the origins and history of Black people became Schomburg’s central focus. His noble quest eventually proved the extent of white supremacy’s corruption and baseless reasoning for existing.

Once in New York City, and for the remainder of his life, Schomburg collected large amounts of materials relevant to the history of Africa and the African diaspora. His work unavoidably brought to light the falsehood of white historians who interpreted the history of human social development strictly from a European perspective, thus concealing what are the African people’s pivotal role in that process.

Although Arturo Schomburg never proclaimed to be a revolutionary, his academic achievements coupled with such fervent passion to preserve and protect the historic culture of the Diaspora shows otherwise. Long after his death, Schomburg’s accomplishments continue to shatter racist myths.

His devotion to raise Black history to its rightful grandeur contributed immensely to the ideological struggle against white supremacy, thus, adding to the majestic qualities of Black nationalism.

Moreover, Schomburg was a consistent leader of debunking the dangerous narratives of racial superiority that ushered in social Darwinism and Eugenics. These world perspectives were often used by capitalists to politically hinder and divide working class people.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture — Harlem, New York City

The vast and beautiful collection of literature and art materials he compiled throughout his life are permanently housed at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center For Research of Black Culture, located at 515 Malcolm X Blvd, in Harlem, NYC.

Arturo Afonso Schomburg shall be remembered for his bold intellectual defiance and as a hero of the oppressed. His lifelong contributions have strengthened the legitimacy of Puerto Rico’s independence cause as well as the historical struggle for Black liberation. Schomburg’s’ life embodied the epitome of Black & Puerto Rican solidarity.

Arturo Alfonso Schomberg – PRESENTE!

QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!

Cuba and Puerto Rico: Two Wings of the Same Bird

 

By Carlito Rovira

Since the earliest human societies, people have used animal images to express their beliefs. Painting animals on pottery, garments and cave walls arose from ritual notions about the power of this imagery.

With the development of class society, animal symbols took on new meaning. Animal characteristics have been interpreted in folklore to explain the miserable reality of the poor or to justify social privileges for wealthy rulers.

Leading capitalists like J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie promoted Herbert Spencer’s “social Darwinism” during the rise of imperialism. This “theory” described the exploited and oppressed as “weaker species”, etc.

Moreover, the predatory bald eagle was chosen to glorify a government that sanctioned genocide and African chattel slavery.

On the other hand, the oppressed have also used symbols, in this case to express their resistance. One famous example is the “Two Wings of the Same Bird” concept. This metaphor was created by the legendary Puerto Rican revolutionary literary and poet Lola Rodriguez De Tio. It was later on used in musical rendition by Cuban poet and revolutionary leader Jose Marti. It describes the historical relationship of solidarity between Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Since some of the most beautiful birds in the world inhabit the Caribbean, it was easy for Lola Rodriguez De Tio to use this life form as poetic symbolism in revolutionary politics. The “bird” she described is made up of the island countries of the Greater Antilles — the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica, with Cuba and Puerto Rico on opposite ends of the region, functioning as wings.

The concept of a Caribbean federation of nations originated from the Haitian Revolution. For most of the 1800’s Haiti was the beacon of revolution in the Western Hemisphere, like what the Soviet Union was during the early part of the Twentieth Century.

Ramon Emeterio Betances, who was of African decent himself, was the symbolic leader of the 1868 El Grito De Lares uprising in Puerto Rico. He had a deep respect for the ideals of the Haitian struggle. Coupled with the political commonalities Betances had with Lola Rodriguez De Tio, his trusted comrade, is likely what motivated her poetic expression of “Two Wings of the Same Bird”.

Both Lola Rodriguez De Tio and Jose Marti were internationalists and expressed revolutionary traditions in poetic form. De Tio and Marti identified with all anti-colonial struggles in addition to having a special affection for the liberation struggles of each other’s country, which shared a common suffering under Spanish tyranny.

In the early 1860s revolutionaries from both countries secretly met in a hotel on Broome Street in New York City to form the Society for the Independence of Cuba & Puerto Rico.

Members of this group helped facilitate the 1868 “El Grito De Lares” uprising. Under the leadership of Ramon Emeterio Betances, African slaves, workers and peasants all did their part to build the efforts for this battle. When their attempt for independence failed, about 2000 Puerto Rican rebels went to Cuba to continue the fight against Spanish colonialism. Among the Puerto Ricans to join this venture was Juan Rius Rivera, who became a commander in the Cuban rebel army.

Caribbean People Fight for Cuban & Puerto Rican freedom

Haitians, Dominicans, Jamaicans and Puerto Ricans were among the insurgents who fought in El Grito De Lares and Cuba’s El Grito De Yara, both in 1868. This inspired Jose Marti to preserve the use of the “two wings” metaphor.

Marti recognized the threat a rising U.S. imperialist power would pose to the Caribbean peoples. His wish for a united Caribbean federation was based on a calculated necessity. Familiar with the atrocities the U.S. rulers committed against the oppressed at home, Marti knew he could expect no better treatment from the United States than from Spain.

In 1895 Cuban revolutionaries launched a war for independence. They were gaining the upper hand in the war against Spain. But in 1898 their efforts were interrupted when the United States invaded Cuba, Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.

Two years later on March 24, 1897 Puerto Ricans attempted once again to use force in their quest for freedom at the uprising known as “Intentona de Yauco.”

Jose Marti died in 1895. He never saw his wish for a free Cuba in a Caribbean federation come true.

But thanks to the 1959 Cuban Revolution, his ideals remain alive today. Although Puerto Rico and Cuba live under opposite social systems, there is still solidarity between the peoples of the “two wings.”

Cuba’s revolutionary government has officially recognized Puerto Rico’s independence struggle. It even established an “Office of Puerto Rico.”

Cuba has also given political asylum to Puerto Rican anti-colonial fighters sought by the U.S. government. At the United Nations, Cuba has fought for world recognition of Puerto Rico’s historical struggle for independence and self-determination.

Many Puerto Ricans return this solidarity by continuing to break the criminal U.S. blockade against Cuba, traveling there from Puerto Rico itself. For decades these anti-colonialists travel back and forth to Cuba.

The oppressed peoples’ drive to unite and maintain such traditions in their common struggle is a vital weapon to end U.S. imperialism’s rule. No country in the world has remained committed and firm in their solidarity to Puerto Rico’s struggle for national liberation than Cuba.

LONG LIVE THE TWO WINGS OF THE SAME BIRD!