Blanca Canales Rifle by vagabond ©

Arm In Arm With Arms: The Puerto Rican Uprising Of 1950

Blanca Canales Rifle by vagabond ©
Blanca Canales Rifle by vagabond ©

“Every man got a right to decide his own destiny
And in this judgement there is no partiality
So arm in arm with arms we’ll fight this little struggle
‘Cause that’s the only way we can over come our little trouble”
– Bob Marley from the song Zimbabwe

In the years that followed World War II colonized nations all over the world began actively seeking independence through the United Nations. The United Nations was forced to respond to these demands and so in 1946 a list of non self-governing nations was made. From time to time that list was revised.

Puerto Rico is the oldest colony in the western hemisphere. It was a colony of Spain for almost 400 years and has been a colony of the US since 1898. Throughout that whole time Puerto Ricans have fought for their freedom. In the 1930’s the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party,  led by Don Pedro Albizu Campos, came to prominence by directly and openly challenging US authority in Puerto Rico. The US responded with increased repression against the Nationalists in the form of arrests, imprisonment and murder.

The situation between the Nationalists and the colonial Puerto Rican government was intense. In 1935 five Nationalists were killed by police at a demonstration at the University Of Puerto Rico in what became known as the Rio Piedras Massacre. In retaliation the Nationalists Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp assassinated the Chief Of Police, Colonel Elisha Francis Riggs.  Rosado and Beuchamp were captured and executed without a trial by the police. Albizu Campos and other Nationalists were imprisoned for inciting violence. In 1937 the Nationalists held a demonstration in Ponce on Palm Sunday demanding Albizu Campos freedom. The demonstration turned into the Ponce massacre when the governor and the police responded by shooting into the crowd wounding 235 people and killing nineteen among them a seven-year old child.

The repression against those seeking independence did not end there. In 1948 it became illegal to display the Puerto Rican flag, speak of liberation, sing patriotic songs and fight for the cause of liberation. In 1950 the US Congress proposed making Puerto Rico a “Free Associated State” or “Commonwealth” of the US. The Nationalists saw this as a move by the US to keep Puerto Rico off the UN’s list of colonized nations and so the Nationalists planned a series of actions and uprisings to openly challenge the semantic game that the US was playing with Puerto Rico.

On October 30th of 1950 a Puerto Rican woman by the name of Blanca Canales led an uprising in the mountain town of Jayuya. Under her leadership the Nationalists took Jayuya and Blanca Canales declared Puerto Rico a free republic. At the same time in the town of Utado Nationalists were fighting the US National Guard and other Nationalists were attacking “La Forteleza” the governors mansion in San Juan and the Federal Court House in Old San Juan.

Blanca Canales and the Nationalists were successful in holding Jayuya for three days until the US military bombed them from the air and sent in ground troops. In Utado nine Nationalists were captured and summarily sent to be executed without a trial. Five of the nine survived in what would become the Massacre of Utado. In San Juan the attack on “La Fortaleza” and on the Federal Court building in Old San Juan failed because the Nationalists were betrayed by one of their own who warned the government of the attacks. The betrayal of the attacks led to the deaths of four, the wounding of two and the arrest of six Nationalists.

The next day on October 31st the police were tipped off to a cache of weapons in a barber shop in Santurce called Salon Boricua owned by Vidal Santiago who was a Nationalist and the personal barber for Albizu Campos. The police shot and bombed the barbershop fearing that there was a group of Nationalists in the shop. However the only person in the shop was Vidal Santiago who only had a pistol and used it to defend himself against the police aggression. After a three-hour firefight Vidal Sanitago was shot five times, once in the head, but he survived and was arrested. There police found no cache of weapons in the barber shop.

On November 1st of 1950, the assault by the Nationalist Party continued as Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola (who was the brother of Balnca Canales) attempted to assassinate the President of the United States, Harry Truman. The assassination attempt took place at the Blair House. The White House was under renovation and Truman was staying in Blair House when Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola attacked the guards in an attempt to get into the house to kill the president. Oscar Collazo was wounded while Griselio Torresola was killed along with another policeman in the gun battle that took place just outside Truman’s bedroom window.

Some three thousand Puerto Ricans were rounded up and incarcerated for their role in the Nationalist uprisings of 1950. Among those who served the greatest amount of time in prison was Blanca Canales who served seventeen years in prison for her role in the Jayuya Uprising. Albizu Campos was arrested and sentenced to 80 years. Oscar Collazo was sentenced to death but Truman commuted his sentence to life in prison and he served 25 years there before being pardoned in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter.

Although the Nationalists uprising of 1950 did not succeed in freeing Puerto Rico they did succeed in catapulting the colonial situation of Puerto Rico onto a world stage. The US could rename its relationship with Puerto Rico as a “Free Associated State” or “Commonwealth” all it wanted but colonialism by any other name is still colonialism. No matter what the US did now, the world could no longer afford to see a Puerto Rico as being a “Free Associated State” as the US wanted it. Puerto Rico was not free to be associated with the US or anyone else… The Nationalists may have failed to free Puerto Rico but they succeeded in keeping the US from hiding it’s colonial possession with semantic Orwellian double speak like “Free Associated State”… The Nationalists succeeded in making it be known all over the world that Puerto Rico wanted to be free and was willing to fight to do so…

To commemorate and honor the great Puerto Rican heroine Blanca Canales, RICANSTRUCTED, the design company dedicated to the supporting independence for Puerto Rico, has issued two Blanca Canales T-shirt designs… The first shirt design is reminiscent of a baseball T-shirt design. The NATIONALISTS are the team that Blanca Canales places on. The number 50 is symbolic of the 1950 Jayuya Uprising that Blanca Canales led.


The second design is of Blanca Canales herself with a Nationalist Cross design element on her face. The back of the shirt also features the RICANSTRUCTED logo.



100 Fires by vagabond ©

100 Fires

100 Fires by vagabond ©
100 Fires by vagabond ©

100 fires
(for Camilo Cienfuegos)
February 6, 1932 – October 28, 1959

we fight today
so we can dance tomorrow

we reject this history that marginalizes us
we prefer to rewrite it with ourselves as the heroes
the bullets flying past our heads
headlong into the danger without hesitation

we fight today
so we can drink tomorrow

the fear kept us compliant
but the joy of defiance is intoxicating
as we charge death now with a smile
awake in knowing

we fight today
so we can tell the stories tomorrow

and this new found courage
sparks a doubt that lights 100 fires
and burns down everything
that ever stood in our way

we fight today
so we can love tomorrow

100 fires to remind us of what was
and what could be
the phoenix of the future burns bright
in the ashes of the past

we fight today
so we can laugh tomorrow

100 fires burning a hole
where our uncertainty resides
the embers floating upward
carried on the smoke of our oppressors bones

- vagabond ©





Who’s ready?

Who’s ready to rip the throats of politicians to silence the lie and clear the air of the noise pollution so the voiceless can be heard…?

Who’s ready to liberate the airwave frequencies of the toxic fascism of fear and financial profits…?

Who’s ready the bite the hand that sustains our hunger…?

Who’s ready to stop taking the medicine that’s making us sick…?

Who’s ready to feed bankers silver spoons either in liquid or solid form, we’ll let them decide…?

Who’s ready to make the cops come out with their hands up…?

Who’s ready to surround theses many Jericho prisons and blow horns for seven days until the walls come tumbling down…?

Who’s ready to level the playing field by swinging a wrecking ball into stock exchanges and driving bulldozers across banks…?

Who’s ready to light a match to the money that’s been blocking the warmth & the light of the sun…?

Who’s ready to pull back the curtain to light up and disinfect the bleak future that’s hobbling in with a bad cough…?




Don’t worry this isn’t an indictment of you, i’m not an armchair revolutionary poet, i’m afraid too, of what they can do…

We know the future fear is greater in comparison to the present fear but i guess it’s not a sure thing until it’s too late…

But when will our future fear, surpass the present fear?

What will it take for our future fear to give us a present courage?

- vagabond ©




Go Fuck Your Suicide Selfie series with two-fingered gun to the temple – i have the power to kill myself with myself by myself…

suicide selfie’s

i got new glasses
i can see clearly now
that the blur is gone
i can see what needs to be done
two fingers to the head
pressed up against the temple
i have the ability
to pull the trigger
but do i have the courage
from one moment to the next
i’m something different now

- vagabond ©

Props to Adál Maldonado for the concept and the inspiration…
For more Go Fuck Your Selfie’s go here virtually…

Or go here really


MACHETERO Goes To School


MACHETERO is a film that questions and challenges Puerto Rico’s colonial status in a way that brings post-9/11 definitions, ideas and notions of terrorism into play. Theatrically self-released in 2013, MACHETERO has screened all over the world and won awards in South Africa, Wales, England, Thailand, Ireland and New York. Check out the film in its entirety on Vimeo On Demand to determine if it’s right for your classroom or as a campus activity. MACHETERO is a perfect fit for:

  • Latin American Studies
  • Afro-American Studies
  • Post-Colonial Studies
  • Creative Writing
  • Media Studies
  • Film Studies
  • Music Studies
  • English Literature
  • Political Science Studies
  • Pan African Studies
  • Pan Latino Studies

For more information
Call: 347-772-9186

Other screening events have been sponsored by Latin American, Black, and Asian student groups as well as various social justice groups.

MACHETERO usually screens with a post screening Q&A with writer, producer and director vagabond (me). The film is a dense and layered mix of poetry, music, text, history and post-colonial theory placed within a fictional narrative framework in a manner never before conceived. The film is not just a film about revolution, but is revolutionary in it’s very form.

MACHETERO has engendered discussion, dialogue and debate on a variety of issues. There have been discussions about anti-colonial Puerto Rican history, the history of US imperialism and Puerto Rico’s global connection to the other anti-imperialist struggles. Dialogues have also incorporated the topics of filmmaking aesthetics, underground guerrilla filmmaking tactics, and the role of art as a tool for social change. The film has also sparked debates around  questioning of the definition and use of the terms “terrorism” and “terrorists” and how those terms are defined and used, who defines them and how they benefit from such definitions and labels.


Dylcia Pagan on the set of MACHETERO
Dylcia Pagan on the set of MACHETERO

There have also been MACHETERO screening events in the past that have included former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war Dylcia Pagan. Dylcia served 20 years in prison for fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico. Before she went to prison she was a TV producer, journalist and documentarian and so she has a unique perspective on the film and on the power of media in general. She also plays a pivotal role in MACHETERO. Her history and insights into the struggle against colonialism in Puerto Rico and how it’s connected to other global struggles is invaluable.


Chuck D quote

Bill Quigley QUOTE



For more information
Call: 347-772-9186




If you haven’t seen my film MACHETERO yet, maybe this collection of production stills will pique your interest…



LIBERATION DAY TAPES photo by Sam Lahoz design by vagabond ©

The Liberation Day Tapes

The genome of my six-time international award-winning feature film MACHETERO can be mapped right back to the NYC hardcore Puerto Rican punk band RICANSTRUCTION and their first album Liberation Day. When i write i often build a soundtrack to use as an emotional roadmap to guide me through the construction of the script. i often see songs as short stories or reinterpret them as short stories and i take those short stories and try to include them in my writing process.

MACHETERO is a film about terrorism and terrorists and how those terms are defined and by whom. The script was written a year after the terrorist events of September 11, 2001. i was waiting for a more nuanced analysis of those events to take place on a larger scale but they never did and so i wrote the script for MACHETERO and decided to explore those issues in a film. The terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 were polarizing and so referencing them in the script seemed counterproductive so i decided to use the struggle for Puerto Rico’s independence and the use of violence in that struggle as a means of liberation to talk about terrorism and terrorists.

RICANSTRUCTION’s Liberation Day was a concept album based around the Puerto Rican independence struggle. So when i was looking for music to inspire my scriptwriting for MACHETERO i was immediately drawn to Liberation Day. The songs from Liberation Day started to insinuate themselves into the script and they eventually became a part of the structure of the film.

At the end of the final sound mix for MACHETERO my friend and fellow filmmaker Omar came by and brought his camera to interview Arturo and Joseph Rodriguez about how Liberation Day came into being. Artie and Joey talk about how RICANSTRUCTION came about and how the concept for Liberation Day took shape. Arturo and Joseph talk about the ideas and the creation of each song and afterward there is the corresponding scene from MACHETERO.

Liberation Day by RICANSTRUCTION
Liberation Day by RICANSTRUCTION

RICANSTRUCTION’s Liberation Day is available on iTunes and i highly recommend picking it up. You can hear all the influences of Jazz, Funk, Salsa, Hip hop, Reggae and Merengue placed into a hardcore punk setting in the music of RICANSTRUCTION. The rest of their catalog – the EP Abu Jamal and their 2nd album Love + Revolution are also on iTunes.

You can watch The Liberation Day Tapes on the Vimeo On Demand page for MACHETERO. The Liberation Day Tapes are part of a collection of extra videos that give some background information on the film and that are free to watch. There is also a radio interview i did with Chuck D about the film and an interview i did with Sam Greenlee the author and co-screenwriter of The Spook Who Sat By The Door. There is also a scene from the film featuring former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war Dylcia Pagan who plays a pivotal role in the film.

Six Time International Award Winning Film MACHETERO On Vimeo On Demand
Six Time International Award Winning Film MACHETERO On Vimeo On Demand


Amor Y Rabia - photo by Sam Lahoz design by vagabond

Come Along

These are scenes from AMOR Y RABIA an unfinished and incomplete film i began shooting in 1999 and 2000 … i’ve posted  a few other scenes from the film… Don’t Want Your Authority and God Is An Anarchist… It was a pre-apocalyptic film about three anarchists who are dissatisfied with the world they live in so they go on a road trip to find a better place. When they don’t find one they decide to start a revolution in order to create a space that will allow them to live in peace. In essence they help to bring about the apocalypse, which seems like a bad thing but when you see the state of the world an apocalypse could be just what we need to turn everything around…

In this scene from the film two of the main characters, Rudeboy (played by me) and Flea (played by my girlfriend Resister) are struggling to live outside of the system. They have set-up home in an abandon factory. i wanted the scene to show that even though they were living hard and for all intents and purposes homeless they were happy…

The film was shot on 16mm Kodak film recans and short ends (film that usually comes in 400′ rolls and isn’t completely shot and either re-canned or left un-shot), with a Bolex… It was a kind of musical where no one sang but music helped to tell the story… The music is a song entitled Come Along by the Black Arks which i think was a Lee “Scratch” Perry production since he had a studio called the Black Ark and the production of the track has Scartch’s DNA all over it…

The film was never completed because due to a lack of funds… And finding the money to make this film was going to be more than difficult because the way that the three anarchists start the revolution is by killing cops. It was an artistic response to the police brutality NYC was experiencing during the mayoral years of Adolf Ghouliani… A piece of cinematic resistance… A push back against the shitstem and its ongoing violence… It’s sad to know that this film will never be completed, it would have been interesting to see how it turned out in the end…

It would have been good to see this film come to fruition because there were so many ideas that i was experimenting with that i really believed wholeheartedly would work. i was trying to create a new cinematic language by incorporating silent era film storytelling techniques and mixing that with music video like units strung together as a kind of musical to allow the story to be told as much as possible through music…

There were other ideas i had wanted to take a risk with, such as shooting all the scenes that had cops in them in video and blurring their faces out like an inverted episode of COPS… Amor Y Rabia never happened… And the chances of it happening in the future are slim to none…  It’s difficult when a project never comes to fruition… like watching a child never grow up… Sometimes being an artist is the best thing in the world… other times it just heart breaking…

Amor Y Rabia - photo by Sam Lahoz design by vagabond
Amor Y Rabia – photo by Sam Lahoz design by vagabond


less than ideal art and ideas for a less than ideal world…


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