“but it is all for others and nothing for yourself expect no rewards…
for the machetero there is only the prison or the cemetery
your reward is a good death…”
– Pedro Taino
from the Anti-Manifesto: A Mini Manual For The Modern Day Machetero
Although my film MACHETERO is a work of fiction i wanted the film to be based on real people and real situations. When i was looking for someone to base the character of Pedro Taino on, one of the people i looked to was Oscar Lopez Rivera. Oscar is a US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war, charged with sedition and sentenced to 70 years. Puerto Rico has been a colony since 1898 when it defeated the Spanish in the Spanish-American War and took the island of Puerto Rico as war reparations. Oscar was part of the clandestine armed resistance known as the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional – Armed Forces of National Liberation). The FALN believed that Puerto Ricans had the right to extricate themselves from the yoke of US colonialism by any means necessary, as made clear by UN resolution 1514 on the rights of colonized nations.
When Oscar was captured in 1980 he took a prisoner of war status during his trial and refused to recognize the US as having any legitimate power over him. He refused to take part in the trial outside of an opening statement explaining the colonial situation of Puerto Rico and his own status as a Puerto Rican political prisoner of war. It must be a strange thing to be charged with sedition by a country that’s imposed its power over you. A country that you don’t recognize as having any legitimate power over you. A country that not only imposes its power and will over you but also imposes its will and power over the nation you fight to free.
Today marks the thirty-second year that Oscar is in prison. He is the longest US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war. The irony of Oscar’s situation is not lost on anyone who even takes a precursory look at Oscar’s life or at the history of US colonialism in Puerto Rico. Oscar Lopez Rivera is Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico is Oscar Lopez Rivera. It’s got to be unimaginably difficult to be a living symbol that most don’t want to pay attention to. It’s got to be unimaginably difficult to have your life reduced to that of a living martyr by both the US government that labels you a “terrorist” and to many Puerto Ricans who are reluctant to call him a hero and support him or his cause, much less follow his example.
The very nature of US colonialism is that those who step up and defy their power must be made an example to anyone else thinking of doing the same so the threat of prison or an early grave is by its very nature an apparatus that ensures the colonial condition in Puerto Rico. It’s not an easy example to follow, to sacrifice ones life for others is never easy. Those are the realities that someone like Oscar faces and unfortunately those are the realities that all Puerto Ricans face when they decide to follow in Oscar’s footsteps.
The character of Pedro Taino in my film MACHETERO had to be someone who was driven to go to the extreme but not in an effort to be an extremist but in an effort to be a reflection of the extremism that he and his people were suffering under. In my own humble opinion i think that this is what Oscar was trying to do. It’s also the crux of what i’m trying to say in my film MACHETERO. The first thing that happens when the oppressor is attacked from below is cry “terrorism” and “terrorist” and a propaganda campaign is unleashed to wash the sins of the oppressor and paint the oppressed as an “extremist”. In the case of Oscar the inverse is true. Oscar is a freedom fighter, the terrorism isn’t coming from Oscar the terrorism comes from US colonialism in Puerto Rico. Oscar’s struggle is one in which he’s chosen to take on the very heavy burden of embodying not just Puerto Rican resistance to US colonialism but also the reality of US colonialism in Puerto Rico…
More than a few people who have seen MACHETERO have said that some of the characteristics of Pedro Taino reminds them of Oscar Lopez Rivera. i just wanted to say that this is by design. i also wanted to say that this is also the burden of shame that we carry in having someone who is as talented and capable as Oscar spend 32 years of his life and counting… in a prison embodying the colonial situation of Puerto Rico to a world that for the most part continues to ignore him. It’s been 32 years… maybe it’s about time the world paid attention to Oscar and in doing so take notice of US colonialism in Puerto Rico.
To see what you can do to help free Oscar Lopez Rivera check these links below…
Sign the Petition President Obama for the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera
Boricua Human Rights Network
Pro-Libertad Freedom Campaign
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)
TICKETS $10 http://machetero.bpt.me
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.