On April 21st of 1965 the great Puerto Rican independence leader Pedro Albizu Campos died of radiation experiments that were done on his body by the US government while he was in prison serving a sentence for fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico. The US has been a colonial power in Puerto Rico since they invaded the island nation in July of 1898. Albizu was the leader of the Nationalist Party and was a staunch, ardent, charismatic and outspoken opponent of US colonialism in Puerto Rico and advocated independence by any and all means necessary, including the use of violence.
To get a better sense of who Albizu was check out the trailer for this documentary that is being made on him called Who Is Albizu Campos?
To give you an idea of how powerful a figure Albizu was let me tell you about the first time my mother heard the voice of Albizu Campos, after half a century. i had been working with RICANSTRUCTION on Liberation Day, their 1st full length album and the first album to be released by CBGB Records. The opening track on Liberation Day is Pedro’s Grave and Pedro’s Grave opens with a sample of Albizu giving a speech. i wanted to play Pedro’s Grave mostly because of the Albizu sample as my mom isn’t into Hardcore Punk. When i pressed play on the CD and she heard the first few seconds of Albizu’s voice she went into a state of shock and told me to turn it off. i asked why and she demanded that i turn it off. i turned it off because something was upsetting her. After a few moments she was able to compose herself and proceeded to tell me that when she was a little girl in Puerto Rico every time Albizu spoke on the radio the threat of a large-scale revolt loomed large. Her father, my grandfather was a follower of Albizu and after almost 50 years of not hearing that voice my mother was transformed into a little girl afraid of the impending revolution that Albizu’s voice might bring. That’s the kind of power and influence and dedication that Albizu had.
My film MACHETERO features several songs from Liberation Day which was a concept album centered around the liberation struggle of Puerto Rico. While writing the script I listened to Liberation Day and found the songs influencing the narrative and the way in which the film could be structured. The songs from Liberation Day became a kind of modern-day Hardcore Punk Rock Greek chorus to the narrative of the film. Imparting important information through the songs into the narrative of the film.
Arturo Rodriguez the bass player and Joseph Rodriguez the drummer and percussionist are two-thirds of the song writing trio for the band with singer Not4Prophet (who also plays the lead character of Pedro Taino in MACHETERO) being the final piece. When we were doing the final mix for MACHETERO Arturo and Joseph came by to talk about the how the songs for Liberation Day came together. In this segment they talk about the song Pedro’s Grave…
Pedro’s Grave is a kind of poetic history lesson that names various Puerto Rican revolutionaries like Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp who assassinated a police chief in Puerto Rico, Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo who attempted an assassination on President Truman. Pedro Albizu Campos is mentioned, as well as the famous Puerto Rican freedom fighter Lolita Lebron who along with three others shot up the US House of Congress in 1954 and served 25 years in prison for doing so. The song also lists a few of the towns in Puerto Rico in which their where important uprisings against US colonialism in Puerto Rico. Towns such as Ponce where a group of protesters were massacred in 1937 and Jayuya and Utado where in 1950 there were violent uprisings against US colonial rule. The very famous mountain town of Lares where there was a violent uprising against Spanish colonial rule in 1868 is also named in the song.
Using Pedro’s Grave in MACHETERO allowed me to impart part of that history in a compact and efficient way. The visuals could stay within the context of the film and continue to tell the story as the song with the lyrics placed across the screen gave a historical context to the visuals. Using the lyrics to be subtitled onto the screen allowed people to get an idea that their was a historical context for the violence that follows in the visuals. The various individual elements of the song, the lyrics and the visuals made a more cohesive whole that allowed more information to be passed onto the viewer than any one of those elements separately.
Check out the video interview of Arturo and Joseph Rodriguez talking about how Pedro’s Grave came to be followed by the song’s incorporation into MACHETERO.