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