Kelvin Fernandez as the Young Rebel by vagabond ©

The Way Of Machetero

Kelvin Fernandez as the Young Rebel by vagabond ©
Kelvin Fernandez as the Young Rebel by vagabond ©

“It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything that is called a Way. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all ways and be more and more in accord with his own.” – from the Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659 – 1719)

“if you die fighting then that is the legacy you left to your people the prize you granted them the present you gave them the time you bought them but it is all for others and nothing for yourself…” – from The Anti-manifesto: A Mini Manual For The Modern Day Machetero

The intersection between Comandante Filiberto & my film MACHETERO…

The word Machetero has several meanings. In Spanish the word is used to describe someone who cut sugar cane with a machete and those who wield a machete are called macheteros. In Puerto Rico the word has an added cultural meaning that is attached to anti-imperialist resistance movements. Puerto Rico has been a colony for over 500 years. In 1493 Columbus claimed Puerto Rico for Spain and the Spanish colonized Puerto Rico for the next 400 years. Throughout that time there were resistance groups that banded together to resist imperialism on the island. The first among these groups were the Cimarones or Maroons, groups of Taino’s (the indigenous population of the island) and escaped African slaves that created communities of resistance across the island. As time went on much of the indigenous population was decimated by foreign disease and war.

Sugar became the main export of the island and so the workers who worked the sugar cane fields were among the most exploited class of people on the island. Out of this exploitation a resistance movement grew from the sugar cane workers. They fought against Spanish colonial rule and affectionately were know across the island as Los Macheteros and by 1897, Puerto Rico was on the road to negotiating it’s autonomy from Spain.

On July 25th of 1898 the US invaded Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War and Los Macheteros were dispatched throughout the island to lead militia forces against the US invasion in 1898. The last battle that Los Macheteros fought against the US forces in the Spanish-American War was on December 9th of 1898. It had the American forces retreating in the central mountain town of Aibonito, (where my mother’s family is from) in the Battle Of Asomante. However the next day the Spanish conceded to the US and signed the Treaty Of Paris and in the process gave  Puerto Rico (along with Guam and the Philippines) to the United States as reparations for the war. Puerto Rico was handed from one imperialist power to another without any regard for what the Puerto Rican people may have thought and the island has been under the colonial rule of the United States since then.

In the late 1960‘s an underground army known as the EPB (Ejercito Popular Boricua – Popular Puerto Rican Army) was formed and took the United States to task on it’s imperial designs in Puerto Rico. (Boricua is the name of the people from the island Boriquen which is what the island was called by the Taino’s before Spain renamed it Puerto Rico). The EPB was founded by Filiberto Ojeda Rios and were labeled a terrorist group by the United States for the military operations that they performed in clandestinity against US imperialism. Comandante Filiberto was the number one most wanted man by the FBI for 10 years and on the top ten list for 15 years. Filiberto led the EPB, Los Macheteros until 2005 when he was assassinated by the FBI in his home in Puerto Rico.

Two weeks before his death we were in Puerto Rico shooting scenes for my film MACHETERO which is not a documentary but a fictional narrative film about the idea of being a Machetero or being Machetero and we were listening to Comandante Filiberto doing a radio interview while he was still in clandestinity. Comandante Filiberto used to do interviews and commentary in all forms of media while he was in clandestinity. It was a way for him to prove to the Puerto Rican people that US government was not as all powerful as they would have people believe. After all Comandante Filiberto was one man on an island that is 100 miles long by 35 miles wide and with hundreds of Police, FBI and CIA agents they were unable to find him for 15 years.

The EPB, Los Macheteros had a saying “Todo Boricua Machetero” – “All Boricuas/Puerto Ricans are Machetero” you’ll notice that the word Machetero is not plural and that’s because for the EPB, Machetero was a way of living, a way of being, a warrior culture, like Bushido which is the way of the Samurai. If Machetero was a Way, then it was something that could be claimed by anyone who was willing to live by the tenets and mores of that Way. The saying “Todo Boricua Machetero” was a way for the EPB, Los Macheteros, to have an open door to being or becoming Machetero.

Rastafari or Rasta is also a Way and i bring that up because Bob Marley was a Rasta. There where two instances that Bob Marley was asked in interviews how long he had been a Rasta. Bob answered the question in two different ways that may seem on the surface like two different answers. In one interview he answered… “I been a Rasta ever since…” and that was all he said. In another interview when the question was posed he said “It not how long you been a Rasta but how long it take you grow to Rasta…” These were masterful answers and again on the surface they seem contradictory but in all Ways you are identifying with the thing you are struggling to become. So if you’re a Christian you identify with being a Christian while you are trying to be more Christ like, being a Christian is a Way, like Rastafari is a Way, like  Bushido is a Way and like Machetero is a Way.

The saying “Todo Boricua Machetero” was a door that the EPB, Los Macheteros left open and that door allowed me to allow Pedro Taino, the main character in the film, (played by Not4Prophet) to identify with being Machetero, to be in accord with that Way of being. As i said earlier, MACHETERO is not a documentary about the EPB or Los Macheteros but it is about their Way. It is a film about their warrior culture and because it is a Way it gave me the license to use MACHETERO as a title for the film. My only challenge in taking that on as a title was that i needed to have the film be Machetero. The film had to follow the Way of the Machetero in order to live up to it’s title.  And so i shot as much of the film as i could without permission, and utilized guerrilla tactics in making it and turned the obstacles that were put in front of me as i made and after i made it into opportunities. i tried to be Machetero with my filmmaking. i did the best that i could…

After i finished the film i showed it to Dylcia Pagan (who is also in the film) and according to Dylcia Pagan who served 20 years in US prisons for wanting to free Puerto Rico and who followed the Way of Machetero and led the life of a Machetera, i did a pretty good job. It’s all the endorsement i needed… But still, i remain humbled and indebted to the Way, as it should be…

MACHETERO opens in New York City for a one week limited theatrical run.

NY NY 10002

F Train to Delancey Street or J , M , or Z Trains to Essex Street.
Walk to Suffolk Street, make a left.



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