Tag Archive for independence movement

Manuel Rafael Suárez Díaz, Martyr Of The Puerto Rican Flag

The Puerto Rican people are well known for the proud display of their national symbol, the flag adopted in 1895 in New York City. Lesser known are the acts of sacrifice in defense of its patriotic root – a yet extinguished independence sentiment.

One such act occurred 82 years ago, on April 16, 1932.

PRflagBlogThat day, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was holding one of its several commemorative events recognizing the life of a patriotic figure. The focus was José de Diego, the “father of the independence movement” who died supporting the goal of an Antillean Confederation that included a free Puerto Rico. Hundreds filled San Juan’s main plaza that night listening in silence to the captivating, inspiring, and informative oratory of Pedro Albizu Campos.

At the same time, however, a special meeting of the colonial legislature was being held in the nearby Capitol building. During this session, a project to convert the Puerto Rican flag into the official symbol of the colony was to be proposed for approval.

Receiving word of this toward the end of the nationalist rally, Albizu Campos took the audience’s attention and informed them of the legislator’s plans. He provoked a great commotion among them when he asked, “And what shall we do now?!” The response was, “Let’s stop it!” The crowd of hundreds voiced their agreement that attempting to convert the flag into a colonial symbol on José de Diego’s birthday was a double insult. What followed was a protest march, led by Albizu Campos, to the Capitol.

Once there, the mass of people confronted the armed police at the entrance, passing them without a single shot being fired. As people entered the building, rock throwing and stick fighting began outside, much of it including young students.

Inside the building, Albizu Campos led a group up a flight of stairs, leading to the legislators on the second floor. In a tragic turn of events, the struggle between the mass and police caused the railing and part of a balcony to collapse, throwing everyone 25-feet to the ground, injuring dozens. Once everyone had crawled off each other, one person laid dead: Manuel Rafael Suárez Díaz, a nationalist high school youth. Albizu Campos was arrested under charges of inciting a riot, but later acquitted. Suárez Díaz was buried in San Juan and raised to the status of martyr for sacrificing his life defending the honor of the Puerto Rican people’s national symbol.

Few peoples on this Earth have given as much to preserve the meaning of their flag as have Puerto Ricans. As we note the prominent display of la bandera puertorriqueña throughout the communities of the Boricua Diaspora, let us also note the history of sacrifice that made the flag the sacred symbol it is today.

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Puerto Rico’s New Immigrants Raises Questions about Race and Empire

On March 28, LatinoUSA published a story about Dominican and Haitian immigration to Puerto Rico. The report raises (but doesn’t discuss thoroughly) some interesting questions about race, the island’s colonial status, and Caribbean solidarity and xenophobia. Disrupting Race in Puerto Rico “In 2006, only two Haitians were apprehended by Border Patrol. Last year, the number…

Pedro Albizu Campos: The Teacher

Pedro Albizu Campos (1893-1965) is at the same time one of Puerto Rico’s most accomplished individuals, and its foremost nationalist leader of the 20th Century. Starting school at the late age of 12, he distinguished himself at Ponce High School with his intelligence, as well as public speaking and debating skills. All of this while being taught in the U.S.-mandated English. Albizu Campos would go on to the University of Vermont and Harvard University on scholarships, becoming licensed in Chemistry, Philosophy and Letters, and Military Science, and earning a degree in Law. In addition, he was fluent in English and his native Spanish, more than proficient in French, Portuguese, Italian, and German, and also comfortable with Greek and Latin.

An exceptional student, he became an exceptional teacher. The following video, from the upcoming documentary Who is Albizu?, gives one interpretation of how Albizu Campos came to be called ‘El Maestro’, or ‘the Teacher’.

On a personal level, i have been greatly influenced by what i have learned about the legacy of Albizu Campos. The more that i learn, the more he seems to offer me. And the more that i seek out information about his life and legacy, the more i appreciate how misunderstood and misrepresented he is by mainstream society. Over the past number of years learning about Albizu Campos, as a native of the Boricua Diaspora, i’ve also come to appreciate the need there is for comprehensive information about him in English. In my opinion, most of these resources usually either contain historical errors, or focus on his politics, both painting him as an extremist and neglecting the deeper content of his character and message, or both. My hope is to one day write a book that can fill this gap.

But for sure, Pedro Albizu Campos is still my teacher. And i mean this in a very real way. After going through much of the English-language resources on Albizu Campos, it got to a point where i had to look at Spanish-language sources if i wanted to learn more. So i did exactly that. Now, as i increase my knowledge of Spanish by reading about el Maestro, i can say that he still teaches me today.

More on Albizu Campos to come.

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