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 continues to be highly regarded in Latin American history and revered as Puerto Rico’s leading symbol of Puerto Rico’s independence cause in the Twentieth Centur

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.

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.

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

By 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.

 

 

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Fred Hampton with leaders of the Rainbow Coalition. Jose Cha-Cha Jimenez, 2nd to the right.

 

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 17, 1970, about 100 members of the Young Lords boldly seized control of Lincoln Hospital. For 24 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.

 

 

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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 by internal hostilities which were instigated by FBI Operation 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.

 

 

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

 

The Young Lords were socialist youth 

 

Shamefully, because the Young Lords no longer exists, diluted, non-revolutionary interpretations of that period 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 as harmless to the capitalist system and irrelevant to the struggle for socialism today. In other words, despite historical versions that seek approval by the publishing houses of the mainstream the Young Lords were fundamentally revolutionaries and 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 Party.

 

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 “liberal” 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 colonial rule by U.S. rulers. 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. After many attempts by the colonial government and the FDR Administration 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 the Puerto Rican people 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 8, 1938

 

By Carlito Rovira

 

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was an Afro-Boricua scholar who devoted his entire life to compiling vast collections of writings and art documenting significant events in Black history. When Shcomburg 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.

 

African chattel slavery also touched upon Puerto Rico, which became the consequence of Spanish colonialism in both Africa and Latin America.

 

Before moving to New York City, Schomburg was a member of the clandestine Revolutionary Committees of Puerto Rico. Years before Schomberg’s birth it organized an anti-slavery & pro-independence uprising in 1868 known as El Grito De Lares. Although that attempt to rid Puerto Rico of Spanish colonialism failed, the movement for independence continued to exist. Throughout his life Schomburg remained a firm advocate for Puerto Rico’s independence.

 

As the persecution of Black people in the United States intensified, with 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.

 

Ridiculing the racist fables about the origins and history of Black people became Schomburg’s central focus. His noble quest eventually proved indisputably 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.

 

Schomburg’s scholarly work was indeed revolutionary; it was part of a historical countering trend in academic and scientific fields that exposed the hypocrisy of racist and anti-working class apologists for capitalism — such were adherents of Social-Darwinism, Eugenics, etc.

 

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Arturo Alfonso Schomberg

 

Schomburg became a prominent figure during the Harlem Renaissance. Along with famous figures like Langston Hughes this movement succeeded in challenging the ideological facets of white supremacy through the literary, visual and performing arts.

 

The collection of literature and art materials he compiled are permanently housed at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located in Harlem. Arturo Alfonso Schomberg shall forever be remembered as a hero of the oppressed, by those who fight for Puerto Rico’s independence and by those engaged in the historical struggle for Black liberation.

 

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 poet Lola Rodriguez De Tio and was later on developed into musical rendition by Cuban poet and revolutionary leader Jose Marti. It was used to describe 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 and Jose Marti to use this life form as poetic symbolism in revolutionary politics. The “bird” they 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 in 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!

Remember the 1978 CERRO MARAVILLA murders!

By Carlito Rovira

 

On July 25, 1978, Puerto Rican police assassinated two young pro-independence activists. This brutal and blatant murder, known as the Cerro Maravilla murders, exposed for the world to see the violence with which U.S. imperialism keeps Puerto Rico in chains to this day.

 

The controversy and the cover-up that followed were like none other in Puerto Rico’s political history. It involved government officials at the highest level, top police brass as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Justice Department.

 

Arnaldo Darío Rosado, 24, and Carlos Soto Arriví, 18, had been involved in pro-independence groups before. Inspired by the heroes of independence who championed the liberation of the homeland from U.S. rule by any means necessary, they joined the Armed Revolutionary Movement (MRA). The MRA had no experience in such matters, it never carried out any military actions in the past.

 

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A police agent, Alejandro González Malavé, infiltrated the group. He recruited Darío and Soto to set fire to a communications tower on the mountain named Cerro Maravilla. The act was supposed to protest the imprisonment of Oscar Collazo (imprisoned for the 1950 armed attack on U.S. President Harry Truman) and Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores, and Andres Figueroa Cordero (imprisoned for a 1954 armed attack on the U.S. Congress).

 

By 1978, the freedom of these political prisoners was a campaign of paramount importance, both to the pro-independence movement in Puerto Rico and to human rights advocates around the world. In fact, it was a frequently mentioned issue in news outlets throughout the world and at United Nations Organization discussions on decolonization.

 

It was a clever manipulative tactic by the Puerto Rico Police. First and foremost, July 25th is the date of the U.S. military invasion in 1898. And because Arnaldo and Carlos were highly devoted to the cause for Puerto Rico’s independence but were too inexperienced to detect how they were being lured into a trap, it was easy for the police to lead them to their deaths.

 

COLONIAL POLICE MURDER ARNALDO & CARLOS

 

On the evening of July 25, 1978, the three forced taxi driver Julio Ortiz Molina to drive them to the communications tower at the top of the mountain in Cerro Maravilla.

 

Once the vehicle arrived at the location, heavily armed police opened fire on the cab. Darío and Soto shouted, “Don’t shoot, we surrender,” according to well-documented testimony. The two were dragged out of the car, savagely beaten then forced to kneel. They were then shot, execution style.

 

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A sketched depiction of Arnaldo and Carlos being murdered.

 

Cops who testified during the investigation disclosed that several hours before the murders, officers assigned to the sting were ordered by Col. Angel Perez Casillas, commander of the Intelligence Division, that, “These terrorists should not come down (from the mountain) alive.”

 

Eyewitness accounts confirmed what many in the independence movement had all along asserted. The assassination of the two independence activists was a political statement on the part of the colonial Puerto Rico Police.

 

Then Governor of Puerto Rico, Carlos Romero Barcelo, of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, immediately hailed the cops as heroes.

 

Pretentious investigations were conducted by the colonial government, as well as by the FBI and the Justice Department, but only to assist in a systematic cover-up motivated by the already existing colonial setting in Puerto Rico.

 

In the aftermath of the killings, every agency involved in the investigation was quick to exonerate the killer cops and demonize the two victims, and for clear-cut and well-defined reasons. The Puerto Rico Police exists as the principle enforcer of U.S. colonial policy.

 

Historically, every political repressive act by the U.S. rulers involved the complicity of the Puerto Rico Police. It has served as the pit bull of U.S. agencies, most especially the FBI; dating back to the attacks on Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, the Nationalist Party and the brutal Rio Piedras and the Ponce Massacres.

 

This specially trained armed attachment of U.S. colonialism is perhaps one of the most sophisticated apparatuses of law enforcement in all 50 states and occupied territories. It is defined by colonial law as a “quasi-military” organization which is granted assistance by the National Guard, in everything involved to the work of a “civilian” police force.

 

TYRANTS ARE NOT INVINCIBLE. POLITICAL ADVANTAGE CAN SHIFT

 

Regardless of differences in political beliefs, widespread indignation to these murders came from all sectors of the population. A momentum grew to such a degree of pressure that it caused a political crisis for the U.S. colonizers in Puerto Rico.

 

On April 29, 1986, undercover cop/provocateur Alejandro González Malavé was assassinated in front of his mother’s house in Bayamón. He was shot three times by a group identifying itself as the “Volunteer Organization for the Revolution.” Boricuas in Puerto Rico and the diaspora applauded his death and viewed it as a well deserved act of justice.

 

The FBI considered this group “one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the United States.” On December 3, 1979 the V.O.R. claimed responsibility for an attack on a U.S. Navy bus in Puerto Rico in which two Navy personnel were killed and 10 injured, and the destruction of 6 jet fighters at a National Guard base on January 12, 1981.

 

In the end, eight police officers were convicted and given prison sentences, ranging from 6 to 30 years. But these prison sentences were merely a concession made by the colonial court to ease the mounting outcry for justice. The greatest concern Washington officials have always had about it’s stranglehold on Puerto Rico is the everlasting potential for mass rebellion.

 

Protest demonstrations occurred everywhere in Puerto Rico and the diaspora, demanding justice for Arnaldo and Carlos. News of the details surrounding this case reached global attention and pointed to the inhumanity of the U.S. presence and domination in Puerto Rico.

 

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Protest gatherings occur annually on site of the tragic event.

 

The Cerro Maravilla murders were not the first lives to be taken away from brave men and women who fought for independence and loved their homeland. Nor will the threat be gone of future incidents like Cerro Maravilla in 1978, so long as U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico continues to exist. It is the armed agencies of U.S. colonialism who have repeatedly proven to be the real terrorists.

 

No matter where, when or how the decisive battles for Puerto Rican national liberation may ensue, it shall certainly be a contribution to the worldwide defeat of U.S. imperialism. The murders of Arnaldo Darío Rosado and Carlos Soto Arriví will most definitely serve as reason to condemn and bring about the demise of this vile system.

 

Arnaldo Darío Rosado & Carlos Soto Arriví – PRESENTE!

QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!

 

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December 22, 1895 the Puerto Rican Flag is born – An indisputable symbol of anti-colonial struggle

By Carlito Rovira

 

On December 22, 1895 Puerto Ricans in the Cuban Revolutionary Party, created the Puerto Rican Flag at a meeting held in the Chimney Corner Hall in New York City. The leader of this effort was the prominent Puerto Rican revolutionary Manuel Besosa.

 

The Puerto Rican revolutionaries chose to invert the colors of the Cuban Flag following the traditions of the “Two Wings of the Same Bird” – a poetic metaphor of the legendary Puerto Rican literary Lola Rodriguez De Tio and later on used in musical rendition by Cuban revolutionary leader Jose Marti. Revolutionaries of both countries collaborated with each other for centuries in a mutual struggle against Spanish tyranny.

 

To Puerto Ricans the flag represents many things. It is the one aesthetic that compels us to express our aspirations and deepest sentiments as a people, connected to history, culture and heritage.

 

In light of the devastation that occurred in Puerto Rico following the destructive force of Hurricane Maria and the continued crisis of earthquakes followed by many tremors, the flag has also become a symbolism of hope. But the destructiveness of nature can never compare with the outcome of a study made after Hurricane Maria that revealed a death toll of 4,645. That can only serve to accentuate in our minds the intentional neglect by the U.S. Government. The criminality of the Jones Act and the full spectrum of U.S. colonial policy in Puerto Rico affirms the charge of genocide.

 

When we wave the Puerto Rican Flag in annual events let’s do so without taking the flag for granted, as what we are always encouraged to do by those who have colonized our homeland and who want us to interpret our national symbol as just a fad. The Puerto Rican Flag came about as a result of the sacrifices made by many who fought for the freedom of our people; freedom fighters who struggled against the predatory aims of first the Spanish and then the U.S. colonizers.

 

On March 24, 1897, the present-day flag of Puerto Rico was flown for the first time in the municipality of Yauco in an uprising called “Intentona de Yauco.” The aim of this revolt was the independence of Puerto Rico from Spanish colonial rule.

 

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On March 24, 1897 the Puerto Rican Flag was raised for the first time at the uprising known as “Intentona de Yauco.”

 

After the U.S. invasion and colonization of Puerto Rico in 1898 use of the flag was discouraged and stigmatized as something evil by U.S. officials. But it was during the imposition of Law 53 of 1948, better known as the Gag Law, ( in Spanish: Ley de La Mordaza), anyone caught displaying or possessing the flag was immediately arrested by the colonial authorities. Thanks to the nationalist fighting spirit of the Puerto Rican masses the U.S. rulers were forced to eliminate this law.

 

Adding to the continued disrespect for the people, once Law 53 of 1948 was removed in 1957 and the ban on the Puerto Rican flag was lifted the original turcois blue on the triangular part of its design was replaced by the same dark blue used in the U.S. Flag. The reasoning for this imposed change was an attempt by the U.S. rulers to aesthetically create a resemblance between the Puerto Rican people and their colonial oppressors.

 

 

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On the left the original version of 1895. On the right U.S. colonialism’s imposed version.

 

If we are to display the Puerto Rican Flag with meaningfulness know that our right to do so came at a cost that involved the lives and imprisonment of many who loved the homeland, Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican Flag is not for displaying in vain, it is a symbol of defiance and the highest representation of a people’s revolutionary traditions.

 

That is why on this date, December 22nd, we cherish and celebrate the Puerto Rican Flag. Despite everything that the colonizers have thrown at our people — physically with police terror and psychologically in their attempts to destroy the Puerto Rican self-identity — Boricuas continue to raise their symbol with pride. Que Bonita Bandera!

 

QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!

 

 

THE IMAGE OF DR. PEDRO ALBIZU CAMPOS MUST BE RESPECTED!

By Carlito Rovira

 

Latin America has produced many revolutionary figures who have left imprints in history with their outstanding examples of courage and selfless deeds. Whether or not these freedom fighters were conscious of it what they demonstrated in their actions would serve for future generations to emulate to complete the task of eliminating the reign of oppressors forever.

These exemplary men and women, like Anacaona, Simon Bolivar, Petra Herrera-Ruiz, Celia Sanchez, Augusto César Sandino, Lolita Lebron, Fidel Castro and Valentina Vazquez, just to mention a few, came about as a consequence of the determination of oppressed people who seek whatever means to achieve their freedom.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, the once leader of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico and present-day icon of the Puerto Rican liberation struggle, has secured an important place in the history of struggle of all oppressed people.

The imagery of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, like the photographic or artistic depiction of other renown revolutionary figures, ceases to be the visual property of the individual once it becomes a representation of a people with a cause. In actuality, such depictions are the visual expression of a people in a historical endeavor for emancipation.

And because it is an artistic rendition symbolizing a historical revolutionary quest it must therefore be treated with the utmost respect, as if it were a people’s national flag.

The recent defamation of a well known photographic pose of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos has to be viewed critically and the motives behind its creation must be questioned because of the context of who Don Pedro Albizu Campos was and precisely what would have been his disposition of the devastating events now occurring in Puerto Rico, which have exacerbated the impact of U.S. colonialism there.

Some will argue that this is an “art challenge”, elevating LGBTQ themes and so on. However, there is good art and there is bad art, no equilibrium among the two. There is art that serves the oppressors and art that serves the oppressed, that is, the liberation struggle. A quick view of the defamed image would tend to make the revolutionary appear as a clown or charlatan.

I know quite well that the once transgender leader of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising and eventual member of the Young Lords Silvia Rivera, would have been appalled by this.

To superimpose color shading on the facial features of this revolutionary is to diminish the dignity and seriousness of the memory of someone who the U.S. colonizers continue to despise and dread.

Placing lipstick and eyeshadow on an imagery many revolutionary nationalists view as unassailable is equal to placing shades over his eyes, a baseball cap over his head and a blunt in his mouth. That would naturally be offensive at the highest degree to anyone who embraces the meaning of Don Pedro.

Needless to mention, that the creation of such images can only entertain the wishes of those who are hostile to the cause for Puerto Rico’s independence.

Shame on those who endorse this display of self-hatred, whether implicitly or explicitly, especially as we approach the 53rd anniversary of Pedro Albizu Campos’ death, April 21, 1965.

The colonizers also understand that art is political and that it can be used as a weapon. The question automatically then becomes — who do you want art to serve, the aims of the colonizers or the aims of the colonized?

 

 

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With this article is a rendition of the same pose ( featured photo ) which I painted 3 years ago. Dimensions: 24″ X 34″, acrylic on canvas. It was created with my love for Puerto Rico, our people and our historical national liberation struggle.

 

 QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!

 

 

THE SO-CALLED “GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN” IS A FARCE

By Carlito Rovira

 

There is no such thing as a “shutdown” of the capitalist state while the capitalist class is in power. The rulers are not that stupid to “shutdown” the apparatus that keeps them in power.

The police and the military will continue to function, maintaining this racist and criminal system of inequality. It is really a deception to make us believe that there is something fundamentally different between Democrats and Republicans, two political entities of the wealthy.

In actuality, what this debate among the different sectors of the ruling class is really about is to test how far they can go and get away with their political and economic subjugation of poor & working class people.

Trickery is a characteristic of those in this society who have made their fortunes at the expense of the many. In this case Republicans are attempting to demonize children of mostly Mexican origins as a way to sway the public to support the defunding and eliminate the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

But feverish and self-contradictory policies also existed under the Democratic Obama administration which contributed towards the anti-immigrant posture that exist today.

So-called “non essential” government workers will not be paid; recipients of social security and other desperately needed programs will not receive their checks. The military brass will continue to receive their payment and retain their privileges while the rank & file and their families will be left to float in the wind.

What is most ironic in all this is that the privileged men and women members of the U.S. Congress will continue to get paid, while millions of families throughout the country suffer.

Political crisis amongst the rulers such as what is now taking place, in which poor people are placed in a situation as pawns, is basically a fight among thieves. And as long as capitalism exist these farcical conflicts will continue to flourish as symptom of capitalist oppression. It is a reminder that WE NEED A FUNDAMENTALLY NEW SOCIETY.

Hurricane Maria Brings Out the Hypocrisy in “American Citizenship” for Puerto Ricans

By  Carlito Rovira

 

In the days following the massive devastation caused by Hurricane Maria news reports have emphasized the “American citizenship” of Puerto Ricans. But why are Puerto Ricans suddenly being projected actively as American citizens when, traditionally, this has not been the case?

The same media outlets have discovered that most people in the U.S. do not know that Puerto Ricans hold U.S. citizenship. For many North Americans—who often suspect that people who speak Spanish and come from a territory in Latin America are “illegal”—the concept of Puerto Ricans as “citizens” must be baffling indeed.

What is needed to clear up the confusion is a discussion of the origins of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the U.S. and the peculiarities of Puerto Rican “citizenship.” The contradictions of that relationship have been vividly captured in the savagely unequal deployment of relief to Houston, devastated by Hurricane Harvey, and Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, the underlying reason for the different responses—the colonial relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico—has not been clearly understood.

Puerto Rico was one of four countries colonized by the US in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War of 1898. In 1917, then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones–Shafroth Act. Commonly known as the “Jones Act” it imposed a second-class version of citizenship on Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico. The U.S. government expressed it’s imperial arrogance by ignoring opposition to the law by an organized sector of the island, including outspoken figures like Luis Muñoz Rivera and Jose De Diego.

The law identified the people of the island as “statutory citizens,” a new concept never before applied to anyone, anywhere, which means that certain rights and benefits of citizenship do not apply. Puerto Ricans residing on the island are denied the right to vote in Federal elections and the ability to declare bankruptcy, among other rights and benefits.

The double standard in the supposed “American citizenship” for Puerto Ricans was fueled by the same racist logic of the not-so-hidden second-class citizenship status this country maintains for Indigenous People and African Americans, only in the case of Puerto Ricans the second-class status was actually spelled out in the Jones Act itself instead of just existing de-facto.

The U.S. rulers concocted a way of disguising the fact that they had conquered and colonized a distinct nation, in a separate territory, with a separate economy and a distinct history, culture, language and national-identity. In short, the Jones Act allowed the U.S. rulers to disguise their colonizing intent and undermine the existence and identity of another nation.

At first many Puerto Ricans believed that “U.S. citizenship” would benefit them. But they soon discovered the opposite.

 

Statutory Citizenship and World War I

 

On April 6, 1917, barely a month after the imposition of “U.S. citizenship” on Puerto Ricans, the U.S. declared war on Germany. This was a war like none that had come before. It engulfed all the industrialized capitalist countries of the world. Their aim was the seizure of each others’ colonial possessions in order to obtain new commercial markets, new sources of raw materials and the labor of already-conquered and colonized people which they could then exploit for profit.

It was a struggle of global proportions facilitated by the most ruthless capitalists of the various imperialist countries. U.S. rulers did not want to be left out of the expected lucrative feeding frenzy, and so they sought ways to persuade the broader U.S. public to support corporate America’s desires to join one side in the conflict.

By November 1917, just 8 months after the imposition of citizenship, the military draft was applied to Puerto Rico. This came after government and military officials realized that Puerto Ricans were reluctant to voluntarily join the U.S. Armed Forces. About 20,000 young men were taken and sent to kill or be killed in the trench battles of Europe.

Many of these soldiers died or were maimed as a result of highly lethal chemical weapons used in this war. But the death toll among these soldiers is still unknown because U.S. military officials kept no records of Puerto Rican battle casualties.

It was of no concern to the warmongers in Washington that these Puerto Rican men did not have the slightest clue what the war was about in the first place. If we consider the chronology of events it becomes clear that the Jones–Shafroth Act, which imposed “U.S. citizenship,” was simply designed to use young Boricuas as cannon fodder.

 

2nd Class “Citizenship” and the Social & Economic Life of Puerto Rico

 

Today it has become indisputably clear that all of the facets of the Jones Act, especially its economic component, are designed to diminish and destroy the Puerto Rican nation—as Puerto Rican nationalist leader Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos predicted.

 

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Puerto Rico’s Nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos.

 

Giant U.S. corporations are now the sole beneficiaries of the imposed American “citizenship” in Puerto Rico. While it is true that Puerto Rico receives limited benefits from the colonial relationship it has also been historically subjected to a range of laws that benefit only the billionaires of Wall Street, and this is the primary effect. Not only are these avaricious capitalist enterprises exempt from paying taxes to Puerto Rico, they also extract from the country an annual average of $30 billion in profits. For an island with a population less than 3.5 million this is one of the highest rates of colonial exploitation per capita in the world.

And now there are new austerity measures known as the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), which aims to forcibly collect an imposed $73 billion dollar hedge fund debt by shutting down public schools, libraries, hospitals, and other public services, as well as eliminating pensions and reducing the minimum wage. This simply reveals what the aims of the U.S. colonizers have always been, since they militarily invaded Puerto Rico in 1898.

The draconian measures of PROMESA have become the latest version of U.S. colonial policy in Puerto Rico. Combined with the fact that Puerto Ricans residing in all U.S. territories constitute the second poorest nationality, this makes “American citizenship” for Puerto Ricans more meaningless than ever before.

 

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What Trump was expressing in this humiliating scene was not unique but the general disposition of U.S. colonialism.

 

When President Trump came to Puerto Rico it was certainly not to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Maria. Despite his stupid behavior of throwing paper towels at a Puerto Rican audience and offending them with false claims of how much money Puerto Rico was “costing the federal treasury,” etc., he was consistent by expounding the traditional racist views of U.S. colonialism. Trump was insidiously reminding Puerto Ricans, in his own disrespectful style, how worthless their “U.S. Citizenship” really is.

Puerto Rican citizenship, in the truest meaning of the word, can only come about when the Puerto Rican people achieve the freedom to exercise their human rights: that is, to exercise their right to political independence and self-determination free from the domination of the U.S. Colonizers. The U.S. rulers shall then be brought before justice and forced to provide Puerto Ricans with the reparations due to them.

 

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