On April 4th 1980, Elizam Escobar, Ricardo Jiminez, Dylcia Noemi Pagan, Carmen Valentin, Adolfo Matos, Alfredo Mendez, Alicia Rodriguez, Luis Rosa, Maria Hayde Torres, Carlos Alberto Torres, and Ida Luz Rodriguez were arrested in Evanston Illinois. They were all members of the clandestine Puerto Rican organization Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional or the Armed Forces of National Liberation. The FALN were an armed underground organization that were dedicated to ending US colonialism in Puerto Rico by any means necessary.
The FALN considered itself to be at war with the US government and didn’t recognize the US government as having any legitimate power over Puerto Rico. When they were arrested they took a ‘prisoner of war’ status as per the Geneva Convention and refused to participate in their trials outside of an opening statement declaring that they were captured combatants in an anti-colonial war and according to UN regulations were within their rights to achieve liberation in whatever means they chose. Only Alfredo Mendez eventually cooperated with the US government for a reduced sentence and induction into a witness protection program. The other members of the FALN did twenty years in prison except for Carlos Alberto Torres who did thirty years. They were all freed after an international campaign led by Puerto Ricans pressured the US government to commute their sentences.
There is still one member of the FALN who is languishing in prison and his name is Oscar Lopez Rivera. He’s been in prison since May 29th of 1981. Oscar is 70 years old, and there’s an ongoing campaign to free him. To learn more about Oscar check out his new book put out by PM Press, Between Torture And Resistance.
There are more than a few links between what happened on April 4th with those captured FALN combatants and my film MACHETERO. Dylcia Pagan, who was among those who were captured on April 4th, is one of the lead characters in the film. The film’s other lead character Pedro Taino is an amalgamation of two currently held US political prisoners Oscar Lopez Rivera and Black Unity Council member and Black Liberation Army soldier Russell Maroon Shoatz. (Check out the 11 part documentary web series ‘An Ongoing Cost To Be Free’ on Maoon that i recently did.) i chose to use this day, April 4th, to launch a new weekly web series on the songs that were used in MACHETERO that came from the NYC based Puerto Rican punk band RICANSTRUCTION. The web series kicks off this week with Breakfast In Amerika because it’s April 4th and that song is relevant to this day…
While writing the script for my film MACHETERO, i played RICANSTRUCTION’s 1st album Liberation Day for inspiration. As I went through the writing process the songs started to spill over into the script and seep into the very structure of the film. In a way it made sense that this would happen, Liberation Day was a concept album about Puerto Rico’s violent struggle for independence. MACHETERO was turning out to be the same thing shaped in part by the songs from the album.
MACHETERO’s narrative was literally shaped by Liberation Day. The songs are like a modern day Greek chorus that add another level of narration to the film. A level of narration that brings a macro perspective to the film. Breakfast in Amerika was the 8th track on Liberation Day. The first half of the song talks about the how US political dissidents quickly become US held political prisoners. The history of US political dissidents to US political prisoners is more common than you’d care to think. The Black Panther Party, the Weather Underground, the Black Liberation Army, the American Indian Movement, the FALN and many others can attest to this dynamic. Breakfast In Amerika captured this dynamic…
Soldiers sectioned off the street while I was sleeping
something ‘bout the company that I was keeping
crashing throughout the bedroom door one early morning
mashing me onto the floor without a warning
sons of bitches wanted I to give ‘em an answer
meddlers were to my surprise government gangsters
didn’t they know that I was sleeping?
Barrio in barricades without a reason
rounded up in midnight raids and shot for treason
mothers, daughters, fathers, sons placed in detention
bullets beating torture guns to cruel to mention
Sons of bitches wanted I
to tell them my mission
jury declared that I should die
didn’t they know that I was just sleeping
The second part of the song is a call and response for Latin American nations to awaken. The call and response comes from Africa and it’s been incorporated into Puerto Rican music. Breakfast In Amerika is essentially a Salsa with distorted guitars. Joseph Rodriguez and Arturo Rodriguez talk about the ideas they were trying to incorporate in Breakfast In Amerika in the video below. Following the interview i did with them is the scene from MACHETERO that incorporated Breakfast In Amerika. The scene is of one of the lead characters Pedro Taino (played by Not4Prophet lead singer of RICANSTRUCTION and author of the lyrics to Breakfast In Amerika) getting arrested in the small hours of the morning. The song was a kind of ode on a certain level to political prisoners and the scene in MACHETERO is a reflection of that… Check it out…
MACHETERO opens in New York City for a one week limited theatrical run.
WED. JUNE 12TH – TUES JUNE 19TH
CLEMENTE SOTO VELEZ
KABAYITO’S THEATER (2ND FLOOR)
107 SUFFOLK STREET
NY NY 10002
(BTWN RIVINGTON & DELANCEY)
SCREENING TIMES • 1PM • 3PM • 5PM • 7PM • 9PM
F Train to Delancey Street or J , M , or Z Trains to Essex Street.
Walk to Suffolk Street, make a left.