“The only authority is anti-authority.” -from The Anti-manifesto: A Mini Manual For The Modern Day Machetero
When the idea to create MACHETERO came to me the first thing I wanted to do was tap into the righteous rage that simmers just below the surface of each of us who feel the indignation of an unjust system. I wanted to reclaim the fury that since birth we’ve always been told we have no right to have… I wanted to own that anger so that it could be shaped into action and that action would bring about change.
“Let Fury Have the hour
Anger can be power
Do you know you can use it?”
– The Clash
These authoritative power structures have ingrained this rage, this fury and this anger in an effort to give us the tools to destroy ourselves. It’s the fear instilled in us from the system, the intimidation from the powers that be, the retribution of authority that keeps us from completely owning the rage, the fury and the anger that when focused and used correctly has the power to set us free.
“The nature of your oppression
Is the aesthetic of our anger.”
The character of Pedro Taino (played by Not4Prophet) was someone who owned his rage and used it as a tool to destroy the very things that were trying to destroy him and his people. The ownership of that rage is something that i saw in Puerto Rican freedom fighters like Dylcia Pagan, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, Oscar Lopez Rivera, and Lolita Lebron. i also saw it in the struggles of other people like Kuwasi Balagoon the Black Liberation Army member turned anarchist, Russel Schoatz, a Black Liberation Army soldier, Leonard Peltier the Native American warrior and radical David Gilbert of the Weather Underground. They are all or were US held political prisoners and prisoners of war. It was the real life experiences of these people and others like them that grounded a character like Pedro Taino. It’s Pedro’s acceptance of his rage that sets him on a path to freedom. Without the fear of retribution from those who claim authority over him, he dispels the illusion of power that these powers structures have created and that so many of us have accepted as being real.
“Step aside and i and i will rise.”- RICANSTRUCTION
Pedro Taino is a true revolutionary in that he is creating his own reality, shaping the world into his own vision without permission, approval or validation from the existing power structures, forcing those power structures to deal with him in the most uncreative and unimaginative way possible, by imprisoning him. Placing Pedro in prison and having him talk about freedom created a dialectic that made for interesting cinema. It created a conflict of ideas that would pull the audience in. The 1st question in the film asked to Pedro by Jean Dumont the journalist (played by Issach de Bankolé) embodies this whole conflict…
“Do you find it strange that in your struggle for freedom you find yourself in prison?”
“No. Just because they’re aren’t any bars on the windows or locks on the doors or guards at the gates doesn’t mean you aren’t in prison.”
Pedro believes in a freedom that will allow him to control his own life without the interference of the self-serving political or authoritative forces that exert power over people’s lives. In his search for his own personal autonomy Pedro realizes that his freedom is tied up with the freedom of his people. Pedro’s then expands his personal sphere of autonomy to encompass the autonomy of his country and the colonial condition it suffers under. This ideology is made clear in the last line of the introduction to the Anti-manifesto, a guidebook that Pedro writes on how to be Machetero.
“The only authority is anti-authority.”
– Pedro Taino
It’s this strong desire for freedom at any cost and his anti-authoritarian approach to achieve that freedom that makes Pedro an APOC (Anarchist or Anti-authoritarian or Autonomous Person Of Color). APOC is a means to deal with the issues that people of color face within a framework that stresses anarchist, anti-authoritarian, or autonomous solutions. Pedro has had to deal with an authority that is designed for the pleasure and benefit of itself. Within that search for freedom Pedro realizes that he’s not the only one and it’s this realization that politicizes his actions and it’s in his actions that he begins to own the rage and the frustration and the fury that will sets him free.
“Wanting to be free, is to begin being free.”
However MACHETERO isn’t just an APOC film because the characters in it are APOC. MACHETERO is an APOC film because it was made by APOC’s. i identify as an APOC, Not4Prophet who played the role of Pedro Taino identifies as APOC. RICANSTRUCTION the band whose songs are featured prominently in the film are APOC. If a film is a reflection of those that made it then how could MACHETERO be anything other than APOC?
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.
“I’m not made to settle for injustice.” – Betances
There are people who come into this world who are not designed for oppression. People who cannot stand by and just allow injustice to stand. Since 1493 when Columbus came ashore the island nation of Borinquen (now known as Puerto Rico) with designs to plunder the wealth and resources through the mechanism of colonization, there have always been those who have always resisted against it and that resistance has always come at a price.
The price that has been exacted from Dylcia Pagan has been high, higher than any of us can imagine. Dylcia is a former US held Puerto Rican Political Prisoner and Prisoner Of War. She was a member of the FALN, the Fuerzas Armadas Liberaciòn Naciònalistas – the Armed Forces of National Liberation. The FALN were a clandestine armed organization that believed that they were at war with the US government, who have been a colonial power in Puerto Rico since 1898. Shortly before Dylcia went underground she gave her newborn child to strangers who were sympathetic to the Puerto Rican independence movement to raise. Shortly after that she was arrested in Evanston Illinois and charged with seditious conspiracy and sentenced to 65 years. She would not see her son for ten years and she would not get out of prison for another 10 years after that.
The sacrifice that Dylcia made is not finite. The bond that was broken with her only son can be patched but never made whole, the 20 years she served in prison cannot be repaid. It’s a price she continues to pay because like Betances (the father of the Puerto Rican nation), she isn’t made to settle for injustice.
Struggle is a Weapon is a simple short film about Dylcia Pagan that i made a few years ago. Dylcia tells her own story in her own words… i’m in the process of trying to make another film that Dylcia has been a complete inspiration to… PAWNSHOP DREAM. We are trying to raise $5000 to make the film any help financially or spreading of the word is very much appreciated… For more info click here…
“In this great future, you can’t forget your past.” – Bob Marley
“Puerto Rico has a history that is very heroic and prolific. Naturally, as a colony, there exists a history of double interpretation; the colony, and the history of the anti-colonial struggle. In reality, the colonial history does not apply to us. It is more fitting for the colonizer. Ours, the only one, is the anti-colonial history because it is the history of our native people who survived and are in constant battle to defeat the powerful colonial forces. It is the history of our Puertorriqueñidad.” – Comandante Filiberto Ojeda Ríos
On September 23rd of 1868 a few hundred Puerto Ricans marched into the Puerto Rican mountain town of Lares waving a flag with a white cross in the center dividing four rectangles, two blue rectangles on the top and two red rectangles on the bottom with a star in the left hand top blue rectangle. They marched into Lares with weapons and took over the municipality and declared Puerto Rico free and independent from Spanish colonial rule. That flag and the rebellion that carried it was designed by Ramon Emeterio Betances and sown by Marianna Bracetti and would become know as the flag of Lares and the rebellion that took Lares would become known as El Grito De Lares, The Cry of Lares.
This uprising was 12 years in the planning and was initially planned for September 29th, but had to be pushed up due to a betrayal the rebel forces suffered. However Lares was taken by these Puerto Rican revolutionaries without resistance and before the Spanish even knew there was a revolt. The Puerto Ricans immediately set up a provisional government with a President, Government Minister, Justice Minister, Minister of Treasury and Secretary of State.
Betances who was born in Cabo Rojo to a Dominican father and Puerto Rican mother planned the revolt in exile from the Dominican Republic and was struggling to get arms and ammunition to Puerto Rico in time. On the next day, September 24th the Puerto Rican revolutionaries marched into the town of San Sebastiàn where the Spanish were prepared for them. The Puerto Ricans were defeated in San Sebastiàn. The betrayal which had pushed the attack on Lares up by six days prevented Betances from getting his shipment of arms and ammunition to Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic in time to support the ongoing revolt.
Although the Puerto Ricans lost the battle they did not lose the war. Puerto Ricans continued to organize and fight for their freedom. In the following year slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico and the Puerto Ricans were eventually able able to negotiate their autonomy from Spain. In November of 1897 Spain granted Puerto Rico it’s autonomy only to have it revoked in July of 1898 when the United States invaded Puerto Rico during the Spanish American War. On December 10th of 1898 the Treaty of Paris was signed between the United States and Spain and Puerto Rico was handed over to the United States as war reparations.
The United States is still a colonial power in Puerto Rico and the struggle that began with the father of Puerto Rican independence, Ramon Emeterio Betances, still continues. In the late 1960’s Comandante Filiberto Ojeda Rios took the battle for Puerto Rico’s independence into a new stage. It was 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.
All of this activity made FIliberto a target for the FBI. When the FBI raided his home, he was put on trial for shooting and wounding an FBI officer in 1985. An all Puerto Rican jury found him not guilty by reason of self defense. In 1988 he was put on trial again, this time for the 1983 Wells Fargo Armored Car Robbery in Hartford Connecticut that netted $7 million for the Macheteros. On September 23rd of 1990, while out on bail and awaiting trial, Filiberto cut off the electronic shackle that monitored his movements and went into clandestinity. Until September 12th of 2001, Filiberto Ojeda Rios was the FBI’s most wanted man. On September 23rd of 2005 the FBI surrounded Filiberto’s home in Hormigueros a short ride from Lares where thousands of Puerto Ricans were celebrating El Grito De Lares and listening to a speech that FIliberto had recorded for the occasion. As Filiberto’s speech played in Lares the FBI shot and wounded Filiberto Ojeda Rios at his home in Hormigueros. The wound was not fatal but the FBI refused to approach his body for over 24 hours and Filiberto bled to death…
If you didn’t know the history of El Grito de Lares it’s through no fault of your own. This history has been kept from you so that you’re separated from your past. If you’re separated from your past then your future can belong to anyone who lays claim to it. If our colonizers can erase our past then they can re-write our future. Knowledge of the past is a means of securing the future. Knowing the secret rebel history kept hidden from you is a weapon that can be used to reclaim a future that is and has always been rightfully yours…
“It would have been good to see her go free, instead of going from owner to owner.” – Eugenio Maria de Hostos
On July 25th of 1898, on the southern coast of Puerto Rico along the Caribbean Sea in the town of Guanica only a few miles from Ponce a group of US sailors snuck up on the shore took down the Spanish flag from a beach flag pole and replaced it with an American flag. They then set up a machine gun nest to defend what they claimed now belonged to the US.
This was not the first time that invaders came to the island nation of Puerto Rico claiming what was not theirs. In 1493 Columbus claimed Puerto Rico for Spain and for the next 400 years Puerto Rico was a colony of Spain. In 1868 there was a rebellion against Spanish colonial rule in the mountain town of Lares led by Ramon Emeterio Betances who is considered the father of the Puerto Rican nation. The rebellion was betrayed and failed but it brought about the abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico and it sparked the imagination of the Puerto Rican people for freedom.
In 1897 Puerto Ricans began gaining significant ground towards their independence from Spain. They managed to negotiate a large degree of autonomy that would eventually lead towards full independence. However all that hard work was brought to a stand still when the US started the Spanish-American War. It was the first foreign imperial adventure for the US. An imperial adventure that began with the wholesale slaughter of indigenous peoples in America in the 1600’s and continued into the 1840’s with the expansionist Mexican-American War. These imperial adventures were solidified into an ideology in the 1860’s called Manifest Destiny which declared that the US should expand from its original humble beginnings along the Atlantic all the way to the Pacific and they should let nothing and no one get in their way.
Not satiated with the expansion west to the Pacific, Manifest Destiny grew to include “America’s backyard” in the south and so the US started a war with Spain in 1898 in an effort to test their imperialist ideology overseas in the Spanish colonies of the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico. The hubris of imperialism whether it be Spanish or American was that there was no thought given to the Puerto Ricans who lived, loved, worked and died on that island nation, not in 1493, not in 1898 and not today.
The Spanish lost the war with the US and Puerto Rico went from being a colony of Spain to being a colony of the US where it has remained a colony despite the pretty name redressing of “Free Associated State” or “Commonwealth”. The only state that is freely allowed to associates itself with Puerto Rico is the US and the only commonwealth that is being shared is the wealth of approximately $35 billion generated on the island nation which is siphoned off to be commonly held in US banks.
This exploitation continues despite the talk of “non-binding” plebiscites over the question of status. Despite the continued harassment of independence supporters by law enforcement agencies both on the island and in the diaspora. Despite the calls for decolonization at the UN by the international community during the UN’s decolonization hearings. Despite the Puerto Rican political prisoners and prisoners of war held in US prisons. Despite the assassinations of independence leaders by US colonial powers. Despite all that, US imperialism in Puerto Rico continues and as the US chalks up another year of colonial exploitation they can expect another year of resistance from the Puerto Rican people, because it’s not a question of IF Puerto Rico will be free but WHEN Puerto Rico will be free.