Tag Archives: Colonialism

THE PUERTO RICAN MANDELA


The Puerto Rican Mandela by vagabond ©
The Puerto Rican Mandela by vagabond ©

A few weeks ago i was asked by Benjamin Ramos of Pro-Libertad, an organization dedicated to the freedom of Puerto Rican political prisoners, to design a poster for US held Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera. For those who don’t know Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US since 1898. For more on that whole situation check this out… Ever since it’s colonization there’s been a resistance movement to liberate Puerto Rico from the US to quote Malcolm X “…by any and all means necessary”. Some of those means have included armed struggle which is the right of colonized peoples in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples under UN Resolution 1514.

Oscar Lopez Rivera is a freedom fighter not unlike the most famous political prisoner in the world, Nelson Mandela. Oscar is 72 and has been in prison since 1981, that’s almost half his life. He was charged, convicted and sentenced to 70 years for the crime of seditious conspiracy to overthrow the US government. Contrary to the lies and misinformation fed by the US government and the corporate media Oscar is not charged with killing or maiming anyone. He is charged with seditious conspiracy to overthrow the US government.

After i designed the image above Benjamin asked if i knew anyone who could print some posters and postcards. i reached out to the worker owned union shop of offset printers, Radix Media. i worked closely with Lantz Arroyo and he was able to print a run of 11″x17″ posters and 4″x6″ postcards of the image…

Puerto Rican Mandela posters
Puerto Rican Mandela posters

Some of the posters will be used as media to help spread the word about Oscar and some will be for sale with the proceeds going towards Oscar’s commissary. If you’re looking to try and get one let me know and we’ll work something out. i imagine Oscar will use some of those funds we raise to get art supplies since he is a painter. Check out some of Oscar’s work here…

The international campaign to free Oscar Lopez Rivera is asking people to call both the White House and demand that Oscar Lopez Rivera be released unconditionally. Call President Obama at 202-456-1111 and leave a message!  Let him know that Oscar Lopez Rivera has been in prison for too long and deserves to go home!  

Sample Message for your phone call:
President Obama, I ask that you free Puerto Rican Political Prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera.  Since 1981, he has been in jail for fighting for Puerto Rican independence; he never committed a violent crime and has been a model prisoner.  I ask that you follow in the foot steps of Presidents Truman, Carter, and Clinton, who freed other Puerto Rican activists, and set Oscar free!

For more info on Oscar Lopez Rivera the video below is from Democracy Now and gives some more detailed information on both Oscar and the campaign to free him…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1A9

A CINEMA OF UNDERSTANDING


The first version of the MACHETERO poster by vagabond ©
The first version of the MACHETERO poster by vagabond ©

“Now more than ever we need to talk to each other, to listen to each other and understand how we see the world, and cinema is the best medium for doing this.” – Martin Scorsese

My father was a big jazz fanatic. Growing up in my house meant listening to jazz, a lot of it (much to my mother’s chagrin who was no fan of be-bop and couldn’t stand free jazz). The truth is that i didn’t understand be-bop either but watching the way my father listened to Miles, Bird, Mingus, Trane, Diz and Monk i realized that this was important. He listened with an intensity and a kind of reverence. He used to listen to jazz historian, archivist and DJ Phil Schaap on 89.9FM WKCR in New York. Phil Schaap spoke about jazz with the fervor of a tent revival preacher that made you want to accept Jazz as your personal savior. My father would add his own commentary to Phil Schaap as we listened not really talking to me per se but talking out loud for me to hear and in looking back now that commentary cemented this idea that all great things have a genesis.

i couldn’t understand half of what was going on at the time but what i did take away from all of it was that there was a hidden history that existed in the genius of things and that the geniuses who created were leaving bread crumbs that led back to the past as they moved in to the future. So at 17 when i first decided that i wanted to make films i started to do research. If my future was going to be in cinema then i needed to go back into cinemas history in order to see where i wanted to take it.

One of the people i studied (and still study today) is Martin Scorsese. Today is his birthday and i came across this quote…

“Now more than ever we need to talk to each other, to listen to each other and understand how we see the world, and cinema is the best medium for doing this.” – Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese

Beyond celebrity culture, beyond opening weekend box office numbers, beyond the hype, the red carpets, the glitz and the pretty lights… cinema is art… and art is a means of wrestling with the human condition. When i started to make MACHETERO that’s what i was trying to do. i was trying to get the human condition down as it relates to the colonized and the colonizer using the specific example of something i knew a lot about, the colonization of Puerto Rico by the United States.

Filmmaking for me has to be fun. i always have a saying with the friends who happen to be my collaborators on set “If we aren’t having fun, then its not worth doing…”. We had fun making MACHETERO. It was a lot of work but we laughed and we joked and kept our sense of humor. It was that laughter and joking and humor that made making MACHETERO a labour of love.

My initial conscious reaction to the Scorsese quote was that i had made MACHETERO to open up a dialogue, a debate, and a discussion about this colonial condition that had become a part of our human condition. To ask the hard questions, to pull no punches, to face the consequences of our decisions and to understand why we had taken them in the first place. However subconsciously it reminded of the of the responsibility that i carried for this film. For many people MACHETERO could be the first time they hear about the 100 plus year-old Puerto Rican colonial condition with the United States and the weight of that sat with me as i’m sure it did with everyone else (to varying degrees) who worked on the film. Not4Prophet (the actor who played Pedro Taino) and i had many conversations about this and i know that this responsibility weighted heavily on him as well. i wrestled with quite a few things in the making of this film, weighed down by the history, weighed down by the fact that this story had not been told in this way before.

When i decided to talk about the issue of Puerto Rico’s colonization by the United States i decided to do it in a film. When i set out to make MACHETERO i felt the same way that Scorsese felt. The world needed to know about the Puerto Rican colonial situation, they need to hear it and understand it and see it and cinema was the best way to do this. i think that making a film is only the beginning of the conversation and that those who watch it are continuing that conversation. i know that the conversation continues past the roll of the credits and spills into the streets and seeps into the collective consciousness and one of the things that i’m very proud of is that because of MACHETERO people are talking about the Puerto Rican colonial condition. Whether or not people like the film or agree with the views it presents people have better understanding of what’s going on because i chose to use cinema to communicate these very complex ideas.

My scrappy little film made on the frayed edges of a shoestring is changing consciousness because cinema is more than a business, it’s art and art is the struggle to express and share the human condition with others. Cinema is the best way to seep into the collective consciousness. If you don’t believe me, ask Martin Scorsese…

“People have to start talking to know more about other cultures and to understand each other.”  – Martin Scorsese

PS – Happy personal new year Marty…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-go

Asking For Mercy From The Victims Of Violence


Prison Interview Rehearsal with Isaach de Bankolé, vagabond & Not4Prophet
Prison Interview Rehearsal with Isaach de Bankolé, vagabond & Not4Prophet

This is another excerpt from the script of the six-time award-winning film MACHETERO. Watch it VOD as a rental for 48 hours or download it to own it.

TRAILER

[vimeo 75167575 w=600&h=337]

CONTEXT ON THE SCRIPT EXCERPT

For some context to the script excerpt below… Jean is a French journalist who is interviewing Pedro about his decision to use violence as a means of liberating Puerto Rico from US colonialism. The interview takes place in a prison where Pedro is being held for trying to overthrow the US government in Puerto Rico. Pedro describes himself as a Machetero, a historical and cultural symbol of resistance to colonialism in Puerto Rico.

In the film the questions and answers are all in voice over with other images contrasting the dialogue. This scene is the climax of the film where for the first time we see and hear Jean and Pedro face to face and understand for the first time that the interview we have been hearing all along is this interview. In the film this dialogue goes on for much longer than is here so if this interests you consider renting or buying MACHETERO digitally…

Jean in the film is played by international film star Isaach de Bankolé who you may recognize from such films as Ghost Dog, Manderlay, The Limits Of Control, night On Earth, Chocolat and Casino Royale. Pedro is played by lead singer of Puerto Rican punk band RICANSTRUCTION and MC of the hip hop duo X-Vandals, Not4Prophet. MACHETERO’s story revolves around this interview between Jean and Pedro.

EXCERPT FROM THE SCRIPT
JEAN AND PEDRO FACE TO FACE

JEAN
The US government has a policy of not making deals with terrorists.

PEDRO
“For the strong to hear the weak their ears will have to be opened with bullets” – Albizu.

JEAN
You had to know that you would have been caught eventually.

PEDRO
“It took seven of them to break my jaw, but the power of the whole American empire could not break my spirit.” – Rafa

JEAN
Sedition is a crime punishable by death in this country.

PEDRO
“I didn’t come to kill I came to die.” – Lolita.

JEAN
So you thought you could change the mind of the US congress with bullets? How will violence liberate you? Hasn’t the time of political power through violence passed? Haven’t the examples of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and even someone still here with us today Nelson Mandela shown us a new way? In South Africa black Africans are forgiving their white oppressors in an attempt to break this cycle of violence and hatred. Do you really believe violence will change anything?

PEDRO
Are you asking for mercy from the victims of violence? Have you asked those who want me dead, to show me mercy?

JEAN
Are you asking for mercy? Are you asking your oppressor for your freedom?

PEDRO
My freedom is not something that my oppressors can give me. My freedom is something that I take.

JEAN
Killing US congressmen and CEO’s and bombing US military targets is taking your freedom?

PEDRO
Yes.

JEAN
Your freedom? Doesn’t that sound egotistical, self-centered and selfish? Is that what this is all about? Your freedom? I thought you were fighting for more than that? I thought you were fighting for the freedom of your country. I thought you were fighting for ideals. I thought you were fighting for something greater than yourself.

PEDRO
No one is free until all of us are free. Steven Biko said “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” The decolonization of self is the decolonization of the nationless nation.

STILLS FROM THE PRISON SET

These are some stills taken from the prison set which was shot in an actual prison. The prison is the old Bronx House of Detention on River Ave just a stones throw from the old Yankee Stadium. The Bronx House of Detention is now gone. Replaced by a shopping mall. A Target now sits in its place.

TRAILER

[vimeo 75167575 w=600&h=337]

GOOGLE VOD & DOWNLOAD

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1oj

2013 MACHETERO Released


Six Time International Award Winning Film MACHETERO On Vimeo On Demand
Six Time International Award Winning Film MACHETERO On Vimeo On Demand

“I love the cinema passionately enough not to remain a spectator.”
– Francois Truffaut

As part of my looking back on my artistic accomplishments for 2013 the year marked 11 years after the script for MACHETERO was written, 7 years after i started shooting, 5 years after i finished shooting and 5 years after we won the first of six international awards. It also marked the DIY theatrical release of the film. From June 12th through the 19th i rented a small 55 seat theater with a video projector on the Lower East Side of NYC at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center and screened MACHETERO three times a day on weekdays and 5 times a day on weekends. The plan was to garner critical attention to a film that spoke about US colonialism in Puerto Rico that critics might champion, to encourage audiences to  see, so that a much-needed dialogue about US colonialism in Puerto Rico could be had.

i take my DIY seriously, i promoted the film both online and on the streets, sold tickets, popcorn, soda, Cracker Jacks, T-shirts and CD’s, ran the projector, introduced the film and answered questions afterwards. It was one of the hardest things i’ve ever done and it pushed me to my limits. It was a painful uphill battle. Financially i just barely broke even – that is if you don’t count the hundreds of hours of work i put in. i know that admitting to this kind of failure is not a smart thing for someone to do in this business but filmmaking has never been a business for me. Years ago i thought i had chosen to make films but i was wrong, i didn’t choose to make films, filmmaking chose me… i’m not making films for Hollywood, i make films because i have a question that only making a film can answer, so the rules of the Hollywood game don’t apply to me…

The process of a DIY theatrical release was an experiment in separating the wheat from the chaff. It was a means of discovering what filmmaking was for me. It was an attempt to rewrite the rules so that they worked for me rather than against me. On a certain level that attempt failed and on another level it was a resounding success. It failed in terms of trying to garner the critical attention needed for a film like MACHETERO to garner an audience. The film critics i tried courting on Twitter and on Facebook didn’t show any interest in reviewing the film. There was not much of an audience and so there wasn’t much of a discussion on the colonial relationship that the US has had with Puerto Rico for 115 years now. On that front, it failed miserably.

On another level the film succeeded as a means of open political and artistic defiance. A film as outspoken as MACHETERO was never going to be distributed theatrically or otherwise in the US. There are many American films that are critical or call for reform but very few that are anti-American. i have no fear or apprehension in saying that MACHETERO is an anti-American film. US colonialism in Puerto Rico is a distinctly American phenomena and i am openly and unapologetically opposed to it. While it’s true that the first amendment allows you to express those kinds of views in America it doesn’t mean that anyone has to pay attention, it doesn’t mean anyone has to watch or listen to anything you have to say. The radical voice of MACHETERO wasn’t going to be given a chance to be heard within the Hollywood distribution game or the so-called independent alternative distributors. Even if there were a distributor bold enough to take the film on i highly doubt that they would handle the marketing and promotion of the film in a way that would have insured the film’s success. i would have been left alone to do everything i did in terms of a DIY release only now with the added burden of a partner that didn’t know how to pull its own weight.

As someone who wholeheartedly believes in the independence of Puerto Rico and as a filmmaker i wanted my film MACHETERO to start a conversation about US colonialism in Puerto Rico even if it meant releasing the film on my own. What other alternative was there? And so i released it knowing that there the odds were slimmer than slim in finding even a kernel of success. Knowing that the endeavor might destroy the 23 years relationship i’ve managed to have with my girlfriend. Knowing that being ignored by the critics and the machinery was all but guaranteed. Knowing that no one really cares about US colonialism in Puerto Rico. Despite all that, i did it anyway.

i knew that not taking the risk of releasing theatrically was a greater failure. i knew that the regret of not taking the risk was and always is greater than the regret of taking the risk. In that respect the act of releasing MACHETERO in a DIY Stylee {sic} is an act of political and artistic defiance. The world may not want to hear about MACHETERO and US colonialism in Puerto Rico but that doesn’t mean silence is an option… Hollywood has a way of mystifying the filmmaking process so that only a select few should make films and an even fewer number of those films that are made should be seen… By all accounts MACHETERO should never have been made or released theatrically, by all accounts, except mine… Che Guevara once said “The guerrilla wins by not losing” and in that respect the DIY release of MACHETERO was an overwhelming success that i could be proud of…

On September 23rd, a national Puerto Rican holiday celebrating a rebellion against Spanish colonial rule, MACHETERO was released on Vimeo On Demand and you can watch it on your TV, Computer, Tablet or Phone…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1hx

Fuck Columbus


DISCOVERED by vagabond ©
DISCOVERED by vagabond ©

“I should be judged as a captain who went from Spain to the Indies to conquer a people numerous and warlike, whose manners and religion are very different from ours, who live in sierras and mountains, without fixed settlements, and where by divine will I have placed under the sovereignty of the King and Queen our Lords, an Other World, whereby Spain, which was reckoned poor, is become the richest of countries.”

“These people are very unskilled in arms… with 50 men they could all be subjected and made to do all that one wished.”

“Gold is a treasure, and he who possesses it does all he wishes to in this world, and succeeds in helping souls into paradise.”
– Christopher Columbus

Fuck Columbus and the four horsemen of the ongoing capitalist apocalypse that he rode in on, racism, slavery, colonialism and genocide. It’s my contention that Columbus is the father of modern capitalism which is defined by me as the gathering of financial profit by any and all means necessary. There is no code, no moral, no rules that get in the way of financial profit when it comes to capitalism the only code, or moral (if it can even be called that) or rule in capitalism is financial profit at any cost. Slavery, imprisonment, war, famine, disease, genocide it’s all fair ground in capitalism. Nothing stands in capitalism’s way when it comes to making a profit.

This idea of profit at any cost can be traced back to Columbus. Just look at the rapacious addiction to wealth he created in Europe with his so-called “discovery”. The transatlantic slave trade was started because of him. The desire for gold in the so-called “new world” begat the slavery of indigenous people, which then begat the slavery of Africans which then begat colonialism in both the Americas and in Africa and it all starts with Columbus…

Columbus the harbinger of colonialism in the Americas bringing me to the oldest colony in the world can be traced right back to him. Puerto Rico… Columbus first landed in Puerto Rico in 1493 and claimed it for Spain. It remained a colony of Spain until 1897 when Puerto Ricans, after many revolts and insurrections against Spanish colonial rule, managed to negotiate the autonomy of the island nation. 400 years of colonial rule were coming to an end… that is until the bastion of democracy and freedom came to Puerto Rico. The United States of America… The US invaded Puerto Rico in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and Puerto Rico went from winning it’s autonomy from Spain, one of the greatest colonial powers in the world to being a colony of the United States the new kid on the colonialism block.

A few years ago i decided to try and create a piece of art work that detailed the history of colonialism in Puerto Rico right back to Columbus. i came up with the DISCOVERED Card as carried by Christopher Columbus. In the background of the card the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. The first set of numbers on the card 1119 1493 are the date that Columbus first landed in Puerto Rico November 19th of 1493. The second set of numbers on the card 1210 1898 are the day that Spain gave Puerto Rico to the US December 10th of 1898. Columbus has been a card member of DISCOVERED since 1493 and the expiration date of the colonization he began will hopefully expire 20XX sometime this century for Puerto Rico. The flag in the left hand corner of the card is the Lares flag. The Lares flag was the first Puerto Rican flag ever designed and it was designed for the insurrection known as El Grito de Lares (The Cry Of Lares). The insurrection of Lares, a small mountain town in the center of the island, set in motion the autonomy that Puerto Rico would win against Spain. Under that flag the words GOLD CARD – because what other kind of card would Christopher Columbus carry?

So in honor of this wretched holiday in which we celebrate the genocide, the transatlantic slave trade, the rapacious hunger for financial profits above all else, the rampant colonization of Africa and the Americas and even Asia i give you the DISCOVERED Card. So yeah… Fuck Columbus…

It seems that as much as i hate Columbus he’s had a huge impact on my creative life… So much of my art and filmmaking is about dealing with the effects of Columbus and his rampant capitalism and his opening the doors of colonialism and his conceptualizing multi-generational slavery with his blatant racism. The art i created for the independence of Puerto Rico might never have to be if Columbus had stayed put. My documentaries on political prisoners might not have to be if Columbus never reached these shores because there might not have ever been a need for those people to go to prison. My film MACHETERO about the violent struggle for Puerto Rican independence against US colonialism (which is a continuation of Spanish colonialism)  took me 11 years from the writing of the script to releasing it on Vimeo On Demand

i often think about how my life might have taken a different turn if Columbus hadn’t started all this shit… i often think about how different the world would have been if Columbus and his crew had just died at sea… i often think about how much time and energy and talent is wasted in the world combatting the bullshit Columbus started over 500 years ago… i often think about what i might create if i didn’t have to deal with the Pandora’s box of capitalism that Columbus opened with his colonization and slavery and genocide… So yeah… Fuck Columbus…

“In 1492, the natives discovered they were indians, discovered they lived in America, discovered they were naked, discovered that the Sin existed, discovered they owed allegiance to a King and Kingdom from another world and a God from another sky, and that this God had invented the guilty and the dress, and had sent to be burnt alive who worships the Sun the Moon the Earth and the Rain that wets it.”
– Eduardo Galeano

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1aC

A Splendid Little War Of Imperialism


405-115-520 by vagabond ©
405-115-520 by vagabond ©

“You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
– William Randolph Hearst speaking about trying to get support for the Spanish-American War so he can sell newspapers

“In the prosecution of war against the kingdom of Spain by the people of the United States, in the cause of liberty, justice, and humanity, its military forces have come to occupy the island of Puerto Rico.  They come bearing the banner of freedom, inspired by a noble purpose to seek the enemies of our country and yours, and to destroy or capture all who are in armed resistance.  They bring you the fostering arm of a free people, whose greatest power is in its justice and humanity to all those living within its fold.  Hence the first effect of this occupation will be the immediate release from your former relations, and it is hoped a cheerful acceptance of the government of the United States.  The chief object of the American military forces will be to overthrow the armed authority of Spain, and to give the people of your beautiful island the largest measure of liberty consistent with this occupation.  We have not come to make war upon the people of a country that for centuries has been oppressed, but, on the contrary, to bring you protection, not only to yourselves, but to your property; to promote your prosperity, and bestow upon you the immunities and blessings of the liberal institutions of our government.  It is not our purpose to interfere with any existing laws and customs that are wholesome and beneficial to your people so long as they conform to the rules of military administration of order and justice.  This is not a war of devastation, but one to give all within the control of its military and naval forces the advantages and blessings of enlightened civilization.”
– General Nelson A. Miles after landing in Guanica, Puerto Rico 

“A splendid little war.”
– Ambassador John Hay, writing from London to Theodore Roosevelt, about the Spanish-American War

“I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”
– Mark Twain

Very few people know that the US is a colonial power. Not a neo-colonial power, in some esoteric, behind the scenes, pulling the strings sense, as in Afghanistan or Iraq but in a very real and classical sense like in the case of Puerto Rico. The history of colonialism in Puerto Rico goes back 520 years to the Spanish landing of Columbus in 1493. Spanish colonialism in Puerto Rico lasted about 400 years. In 1868 a failed insurrection against Spanish colonial rule led to a more rigorous political decolonization process by both Puerto Rico and Spain. By 1897 Puerto Rico had successfully negotiated it’s independence with Spain.

On November 25th of 1897 an Autonomic Charter “Carta Autonomica” was approved by Spain. Puerto Rico had both political and administrative power over itself. A legislature was set up with a Council of Administration consisting of 8 elected members and 7 appointed members and that was countered by a Chamber of Representatives with a representative for every 25,000 Puerto Ricans.  By Spring of 1898 Puerto Rico had complete autonomy from Spain.

In April of 1898, the US declared war against Spain in order to try to gain control of Spain’s colonies in the Caribbean. On May 12th the US navy bombed San Juan. In June the US set up a blockade in Puerto Rico and on July 25th General Nelson A. Miles led his naval troops into the southern coastal town of Guanica and began the invasion of Puerto Rico. By August the Spanish were defeated and on December 10th Spain relinquished Guam, the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico to US power. The US has been a colonial power in Puerto Rico ever since then…

The artwork i created today for the 115th year of US colonialism in Puerto Rico is of a record of of resistance to foreign imperialism. Puerto Rico is the oldest colony in the world. In the center is the sketched figure of a Machetero holding two machetes. A machetero in Spanish is someone who works in the sugar cane fields cutting sugar cane but it’s also a symbol of cultural resistance in Puerto Rico. Throughout Puerto Rico’s rich rebel history of resistance macheteros banded together to fight against both Spanish and US colonial domination in Puerto Rico and in the process became the Macheteros, cultural symbols of Puerto Rican resistance.

The drawing was purposely done on black paper with a light gray pastel crayon to give the feeling that it was scrawled on the wall of a prison. The Machetero figure is surrounded by 520 markings, 405 markings for resistance to Spanish colonial rule and 115 markings for US colonial rule. At the end of the 405th marking is the crossed out word España for the 405 years Puerto Rico spent as a Spanish colony. The next 115 markings are followed by the crossed out name of the United States for the past 115 years of US colonial rule.  The space beyond that is left blank in hopes that the next set of markings will be a record of Puerto Rico’s self-rule…

http://wp.me/p1eniL-199

What Is The 4th Of July To A Puerto Rican?


Six Time International Award Winning Film MACHETERO On Vimeo On Demand
Six Time International Award Winning Film MACHETERO On Vimeo On Demand

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?

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