In honor of El Grito De lares an interview by Puerto Rican journalist Daisy Sanchez circa 1990 with the FBI’s #1 most wanted man at the time, Puerto Rican revolutionary Comandante Filiberto Ojdea Rios is live and available for rental on Vimeo On Demand. Watch it on your TV, Desktop, Laptop, Tablet or Phone.
The island nation of Puerto Rico has been a colony for over 500 years. It went from being a colony of Spain for 400 years to being a colony of the US in 1898. The US is still to this day a colonial power in Puerto Rico. Throughout that time there has been a long and rich history of resistance to colonialism in Puerto Rico. Filiberto Ojeda Rios figures prominently as one of the great leaders for independence in Puerto Rico.
Comandante Filiberto who was the father of the underground armed resistance movement in Puerto Rico and in the United States. In 1967 he founded MIRA, Movimento Independetista Revolucionario Armado (Armed Revolutionary Independence Movement). Shortly after that he had a hand in forming the FALN, Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nationalista (Armed Forces for National Liberation) in the United States. He also founded the EPB, Ejercito Popular Boricua (Popular Puerto Rican Army) affectionately known as Los Macheteros. All of these groups used clandestine guerilla warfare tactics against the United States in an effort to free Puerto Rico from colonial rule and all of the groups were considered terrorist organizations by the United States.
On September 23, 1990 while awaiting trial for a 1983 Wells Fargo depot robbery Filiberto cut off his electronic shackle and went underground in Puerto Rico. September 23rd is a date significant importance in Puerto Rico. In 1868 there was a violent rebellion against Spanish colonial rule in a mountain town called Lares and though the attempt at liberation did not succeed it brought about an end to slavery in Puerto Rico. Filiberto taking his electronic shackle off on that particular day in 1990 was more than a coincidence.
On September 23rd, 2005 Filiberto was assassinated by the FBI after they attempted to arrest him by surrounding his house in Puerto Rico. He was shot and wounded but left to bleed to death for over 24 hours. His assassination on that particular day was an attempt to kill the spirit of the independence movement.
This television interview was conducted while Filiberto was living clandestinely. From the information that we have gathered the interview took place sometime around 1990, a few months after Filiberto went underground and was the most watched television program in the history of Puerto Rico. At the time of this interview Filiberto was #1 on the top ten list of the FBI’s most wanted. His most wanted status remained until September 11, 2001. The interview was conducted with Daisy Sanchez, a courageous journalist who endured her own trials and tribulations when she refused to give up her sources on how she got the interview with Filiberto, to the FBI.
COMANDANTE FILIBERTO CLANDESTINA CLANDESTINE
You can rent and watch the interview on Vimeo On Demand for $2.50 and you have 48 hours to watch it. That’s plenty of time to watch it, digest it, watch it again, think on it and even get a third screening in. Watch it on your TV, Desktop, Laptop, Tablet or Phone.
Originally published on 7/4/10 and republished on 7/4/11, 7/4/12, 7/4/13 and in keeping with what has become a tradition… Republished today…
“Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. “
– Fredrick Douglass
Summer 1898, during the Spanish American War a rag-tag volunteer force of machete wielding sugar cane working Puerto Ricans known as Macheteros fought alongside the Spanish to repel the US forces that invaded Puerto Rico on July 25th. In the center of the island just outside of the mountain town of Aibonito in the mountain pass of Asomante the Macheteros fought the advancing US military to a standstill and then to a retreat. It was the greatest victory for the Macheteros. But the victory was short-lived when the Spanish surrendered to the US and the fighting ceased a few days later. In the process the island nation of Puerto Rico went from 400 years of Spanish colonial rule to US colonial rule. The true shame of it is that Puerto Rico was on the verge of gaining it’s independence from Spain when the Spanish-American War broke out. On December 10th of 1898 the Treaty Of Paris was signed and the US officially took control of the Spanish colonial possessions of the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. The colonization of Puerto Rico is the adolescence of US foreign imperialism. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
March 2nd, 1917, the Jones-Sahforth Act made Puerto Ricans citizens of the US without any consultation on the part of Puerto Ricans. Two months after that 18,000 Puerto Rican men were conscripted into the US military to fight in WWI. The US military needed to swell the ranks of it’s African-American canon fodder with Puerto Ricans where they were put to fight in segregated regiments. Many of these Puerto Rican troops were sent to Panama to be human guinea pigs in US chemical gas experiments where 335 of them were wounded. The Pentagon and the War Department never kept data on how many Puerto Ricans were killed or wounded in the war. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
Post World War I the US government began a wide-spread program of population control in Puerto Rico. They began sterilizing Puerto Rican women. The sterilization of these women was done without their knowledge and consent or was done by misinforming the women of the permanence of the sterilization procedure. By 1965 one-third of Puerto Rican women were systematically sterilized. The imperial design of the US was that they wanted Puerto Rico but not Puerto Ricans. So what is the 4th of July to Puerto Ricans?
October 20th, 1935 the founder and leader of the Nationalist Party Don Pedro Albizu Campos gives a radio address in which he criticizes a program to “Americanize” the University Of Puerto Rico that is being instituted by US colonial interests. A group of students in support of the measure want Albizu declared “Student Enemy Number One”. On October 24th Albizu is declared “persona non-grata” at a university demonstration. Students supporting Albizu respond in protest. Four Nationalists are killed by the police on that day which becomes forever etched into the history of Puerto Rico as the Rio Piedras Massacre. Eye witness evidence of the massacre is ignored and the police involved in the killing are promoted. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
February 23rd, 1936 Colonel Francis Riggs who is the commanding officer of the police on the island is assassinated by Nationalists Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp in retaliation for the Rio Piedras Massacre. The two Nationalists are caught by the police and executed without a trial right after the press takes their picture. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
March 12, 1937 Palm Sunday several hundred Puerto Ricans gathered in the city of Ponce to celebrate the abolition of slavery and to protest the incarceration of independence leader Pedro Albizu Campos on charges of sedition. Hours before the protest was to take place the Governor of the island Blanton Winship (installed by President Roosevelt) revoked the permit they had received from Ponce’s Puerto Rican mayor. In defiance to the revoked permit they marched anyway. Lines of policemen with rifles and machine guns were set up to meet the protesters in their defiance. The demonstrators would not be turned around by the threat of violence. They marched forward singing “La Boriqueña” the Puerto Rican national anthem. The police fired on the crowd then chased and clubbed them as they tried to escape the violence, 235 were wounded and 19 killed. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
June 11th, 1948 a law known as “Ley de la Mordaza” banned the display of the Puerto Rican flag, banned the speaking of independence and outlawed the struggle for independence. On October 30th 1950, in response to that and other indignities that Puerto Ricans suffered under, a woman named Blanca Canales led an armed uprising of Nationalists in the mountain town of Jayuya in an effort to free Puerto Rico from the clutches of US colonial rule. The uprising was put down and thousands of Puerto Ricans were rounded up and arrested and given long harsh prison terms. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
November 1st , 1950 Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola made an attempt to assassinate President Truman. Griselio Torresola was killed in the attempt. Oscar Collazo was caught tried and sentenced to death. In 1952 the US renamed their colonial relationship with Puerto Rico a “Free Associated State” so that the US would not seem like an imperial power in the eyes of the world. Once again this was all done without the consultation of the Puerto Rican people. Oscar Collazo’s sentence was then commuted to life imprisonment, he served 27 years before an international people’s movement succeeded in freeing him and four other Nationalists. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
March 1st of 1954 four Nationalists Andres Figueroa, Irving Flores, Raphael Cancel Miranda and Lolita Lebron fired shots into the US House of Congress while it was in session. They unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and yelled “¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!”. The goal of the operation was to bring international attention to the fact that the US was an imperial power in Puerto Rico. Some 30 shots were fired and five congressmen wounded in the attack. They were caught and served 25 years in prison for fighting for the independence of their country. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
April 21, 1965 Don Pedro Albizu Campos the Nationalist leader dies of injuries he sustained from the radiation experiments that were conducted on him while he was serving a second prison term that held him responsible for the US House of Congress shooting. After 11 years of serving his sentence he is pardoned only to pass away a few months later in his home. So what is the 4th of July to a Puerto Rican?
April 4th, 1980 a group of 11 Puerto Rican members of the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional – Armed Forces of National Liberation) a clandestine organization fighting for the freedom of Puerto Rico using military means and labeled by US law enforcement as a “terrorist group”, are arrested in Evanston Illinois. The 11 are brought up on various state and federal charges but are all charged with seditious conspiracy to overthrow the US government. In their trials they choose to take prisoner of war status under the United Nations Geneva Convention. As prisoners of war they refuse to recognize the US as having any legitimate power over them and because they chose this status they refuse to take part in their trials other than giving opening and closing statements. They are each found guilty and are sentenced to long harsh prison sentences. After 20 years some are pardoned and released. So what is the 4th Of July to a Puerto Rican?
April 19th, 1999 David Sanes a security guard was mistakenly killed by the US military during a bombing exercise on the island of Vieques that the US military used as a live exercise training area since 1941. His death galvanizes a successful peoples movement and Puerto Ricans go out into the military bombing zone to become human shields to get the US military out of Vieques. Although the US military has left Vieques it has not cleaned up the unexploded ordinance that litters the island. Among that ordinance is depleted uranium. The cancer rate in Vieques is 50% higher than it is in Puerto Rico. So what is the 4th of July to Puerto Ricans?
September 23rd, 2005, Puerto Rican independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios is assassinated by the FBI on a what is considered a national holiday to Puerto Ricans. On September 23rd of 1868 an uprising against Spanish colonial rule is fought in an effort to gain independence. Puerto Ricans remember and commemorate the uprising as the birth of the Puerto Rican nation. Filiberto Ojeda Rios was the father of the clandestine armed movement in Puerto Rico, he founded the Ejercito Popular Boricua the EPB, the Popular Puerto Rican Army affectionately known as Los Macheteros and labeled a “terrorist group” by US law enforcement. He had been a fugitive and one of the most wanted men by the FBI for fifteen years. When the FBI assassinated Filiberto they shot and wounded him but purposely decided to deny him medical attention as he bled to death for over 24 hours. So what is the 4th of July to Puerto Ricans?
This is only a select list of transgressions. This is only a random sampling of the wrong done to a people who have rightfully sought their independence as Malcolm said “By any means necessary”. This is only a small taste of the last hundred years of struggle in a nation that has fought for it’s freedom since 1493 when Columbus “discovered the Americas”. These are the fragments of a hidden history, of an ongoing struggle, for independence intentionally kept from us (both Puerto Ricans and non-Puerto Ricans alike) so that we can celebrate the independence of a nation that stands in the way of another nation’s independence. As a point of clarity we Puerto Ricans are not asking for our freedom. We are trying to take it in much the same way that the US took it’s independence. The difference is that the British Empire did not pretend to be an advocate of global democracy and freedom it was an openly imperialist nation. The US on the other hand preens and primps itself as a global bastion of democracy and freedom while in the same breath holding a colony and denying the self-determination of the Puerto Rican people for over a century. Puerto Rico is the oldest colony in the Western hemisphere so again I ask you what is the 4th of July to Puerto Rico?
Check out MACHETERO my six time international award winning film on the violent struggle for Puerto Rican independence from an anarchist POV with a Pan-Africantist vibe. It’s on VOD and available TODAY as a digital download. http://vimeo.com/ondemand/machetero
In this episode of The Liberation Day Tapes, Los Bros. Rodriguez, Arturo and Joseph the bass player and drummer of NYC based Hardcore Punk band RICANSTRUCTION and two-thirds of the writing team of the band talk about how the song Shithouse Serenades came about. Shithouse Serenades is a song that takes all the negativity of being one fo the oppressed and inverts it into a righteous revenge. The song was featured on the debut album Liberation Day originally released in 1998 by CBGB Records. i used RICANSTRUCTION’s Liberation Day album as a source of inspiration when writing the script of MACHETERO and the songs found their way into the film. The songs act as a kind of Modern Day Greek Chorus adding another layer of narration to the film. Shithouse Serenades was one of the songs from Liberation Day that was incorporated into MACHETERO. The scene that follows the interview with the Los Bros. Rodriguez is from MACHETERO.
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.
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.
In the years following World War II the colonized nations who had fought and died alongside the imperial Allied powers began seeking independence and Puerto Rico was no exception. The US government was not interested in giving up Puerto Rico but it also didn’t want to be seen as a colonial power in the eyes of the world. In 1947 the US Congress passed a law allowing Puerto Ricans the ability to vote for their own governor. As the US Congress allowed Puerto Ricans the right to vote for their own governor they passed a gag law in 1948 known as Ley de la Mordaza. It made flying or displaying the Puerto Rican flag illegal and barred anyone from speaking, printing, publishing, organizing or advocating for independence. In 1949 Luis Muñoz Marin was elected the first Puerto Rican governor. The leader of the Nationalist Party Don Pedro Albizu Campos saw this governorship as a means of having Puerto Ricans administer US colonial interests.
As governor Luis Muñoz Marin immediately endorsed a proposal known as “Free Associated State” to try to get as much autonomy for the island as possible. “Free Associated State” granted some autonomy over Puerto Rico but nowhere near complete autonomy. Albizu Campos, the Nationalists Party and other independence supporters all agreed that “Free Associated State” simply put a Puerto Rican face on US colonialism. In response to all these developments Albizu Campos and the Nationalists Party began to plan an island wide insurrection. On October 30th of 1950 in the towns of Jayuya, Utuado, Arecibo, Ponce, San Juan, Mayagüez, Naranjito and Peñuelas there was an open armed revolution to rid Puerto Rico of the US imperialism it had suffered under since the Spanish American War of 1898. The revolution failed and Albizu and hundreds of other Nationalists were rounded up and arrested.
In 1952 the US Congress ratified “Free Associated State” status for Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico has existed in this very confusing and very nebulous state since then. While in prison for his role in calling for and leading the revolution of 1950, Albizu began writing a young Puerto Rican Nationalist woman named Lolita Lebron. In that correspondence he asked Lolita to lead an attack on the US Congress. She accepted the mission and along with Raphael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andrès Figueroa she led an attack on the US Congress on March 1st of 1954. The date was chosen because it was the first day of the Interamerican Conference in Caracas, Venezuela and the attack was meant to draw international attention to Puerto Rico’s plight as a US colony especially to the Latin American nations meeting in Caracas.
Lolita, Rafa, Irving and Andrés got into the visitor’s galley of the Congress as it was in session. Lolita unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and screamed “¡Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre!” – Long Live A Free Puerto Rico! then the group shot into the Congress. Five Congressmen were wounded in the attack and the four Nationalists were captured. When Lolita was asked if it was her intention to kill she replied, “I didn’t come to kill, I came to die.”
Lolita, Rafa, Irving and Andrés all served 25 years in prison for the attack. At that time Lolita Lebron was the longest held female political prisoner in the world, a fact that did not go unnoticed during the Cold War. In 1979 President Jimmy Carter pardoned the Lolita Lebron and the other Nationalists after and a long and lengthy international campaign to free them. Carlos Romero Barceló the then governor of Puerto Rico was opposed to the pardon claiming that it would only encourage further acts of “terrorism” on the Puerto Rican government and US interests on the island. When the Nationalists returned home they were received as national heroes, much to Barceló’s chagrin.
Throughout the history of Puerto Rico’s long and complex colonial relationship with the US government there have been many of these uprisings that, at the time of these actions, seem to receive very little support from Puerto Ricans. Yet the Puerto Rican people have always supported their political prisoners and have had an outstanding track record of garnering global support for them that has brought pressure to bear on the US government to free Puerto Rican political prisoners time and time again. If Puerto Ricans don’t want independence from the US then why do they want independence for the political prisoners and prisoners of war who fight to free Puerto Rico from US colonialism?
There have also historically always been massive outpourings of support for these independence leaders when they die. Many Puerto Ricans agreed with the ideas of the Filiberto Ojeda Rios, the independence leader assassinated by the FBI in 2005, even if they didn’t agree with his decision to use violence as a means of expressing those ideas. Puerto Ricans felt that Filiberto was worthy of their admiration. Filiberto’s funeral procession was the longest in Puerto Rican history. The same could be said for Lolita Lebron. When she passed away in August of 2010 it wasn’t only the so-called minority of Puerto Rican’s who want independence that mourned her passing but the whole Puerto Rico nation that mourned. It was also the Puerto Rican diaspora that mourned as well as the international community that has always supported Puerto Rico’s independence. Many will say that the violent actions taken by Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andrés Figueroa on March 1st of 1954 can’t advance the cause of Puerto Rican independence but history has proven that this argument doesn’t hold up…
The images of Lolita Lebron above are available as T-shirt’s and as 1″ button from my design company RICANSTRUCTED. There are other designs that can be found there of other Puerto Rican independence leaders there as well… You don’t need to believe in Puerto Rican independence to wear a shirt with an independence leader on it like you don’t have to be Argentinian or Cuban to wear a Che T-shirt… Show your support for the independence of Puerto Rico and get yourself a RICANSTRUCTED shirt…
Luis Rosa Perez is a former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war. He served almost 20 in US prisons for fighting to free Puerto Rico from the colonial relationship it’s had with the US since 1898. In 1999 a group of Puerto Rican political prisoners and prisoners of war were given clemency by President Clinton. Luis Rosa Perez was among them. Sacrifice Without Hesitation is his story. This is part one of an ongoing weekly documentary web series.