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.
“American colonialist imperialism by it’s application of politics that are genocidal and destructive to the personality of the Puerto Rican people to this day, has managed to create a Puerto Rican with a profound dose of repressed violence whose explosion if released would be completely uncontrollable.” – Comandante Filiberto
Today is the 115th anniversary of the insurrection by Puerto Rican revolutionaries against Spanish colonial rule known as El Grito de Lares. On September 23rd of 1868, in the mountain town of Lares Puerto Rico in the center of the island nation a few hundred men and women staged a rebellion to declare Puerto Rico a sovereign nation in the eyes of the world. It was an audacious, risky and daring move on the part of these few brave revolutionaries but isn’t it always that way?
The rebellion was initially planned for September 27th but the revolutionaries were betrayed and the declaration of the Republic of Puerto Rico was declared four days early. The rebels were waiting for a cache of weapons to arrive by sea but when they found out about the betrayal they were forced to move the attack up to the 23rd. Those few days cost them the rebellion. Spain was prepared for the ill-equipped rebels and the rebellion was quickly put down.
Despite the betrayal and it’s subsequent putting down, El Grito de Lares was not a complete failure. In the years following it spawned other revolts against Spanish colonial rule in Las Marías, Adjuntas, Utuado, Vieques, Bayamón, Ciales and Toa Baja. The abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico in 1873 can also be traced back to these revolts. El Grito de Lares also led to a framework of autonomy that Puerto Rico achieved from Spain in 1897. An autonomy that would never come to its full fruition when the US invaded Puerto Rico in 1898 and took the island nation as its own colony after the Spanish-American War.
The significance of El Grito de Lares continues to both haunt and inspire Puerto Ricans. It’s a day that’s celebrated and commemorated each year in the mountain town of Lares. It’s also the day that the FBI assassinated independence leader Comandante Filiberto in 2005 a few miles from that annual celebration. As a speech that Filiberto had sent to the celebration played the FBI and Filiberto were locked in a gun battle that resulted in Filiberto being shot and wounded. As he lay bleeding his speech played. The FBI refused to approach him as he laying bleeding and left him to bleed out for over 24 hours. The esoteric distant memory of El Grito de Lares in 1868 became the tangible weight of El Grito de Lares in 2005.
Filiberto was given a warrior’s funeral. The outrage of the FBI going after Filiberto and assassinating him on this day of all days that all Puerto Ricans consider sacred was expressed in a mixture of rage and sadness the days that followed his assassination and reached a fevered apex on his burial day. Filiberto had the largest funeral in the history of Puerto Rico.
MACHETERO is my narrative feature film debut as a writer, producer and director and it’s a film that was made in a very large part to help address this rebel history that’s been kept hidden from both Puerto Ricans and non Puerto Ricans alike.. The film won awards in South Africa, Wales, England, Thailand, Ireland and New York. It’s a labor of love. A love for cinema, love for art, and love for freedom. It wasn’t easy to make and it’s been a long hard road filled with obstacles that needed to be overcome. So it’s with great pride and immense joy mixed that i’m choosing this day to announce the release of MACHETERO online On Demand through Vimeo. However that pride and that joy is mixed with an equal dose of rage and sadness because Puerto Rico is still a colony of the US and the ghost that is the spirit of El Grito de Lares still haunts us…
“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…
“While thousands of Puerto Ricans on the island/nation of Puerto Rico were commemorating El Grito de Lares, our national day of revolutionary struggle against Spanish colonialism, and were listening to the annual message of our Comandante Filiberto Ojeda Rios, the feds chose to begin their attack on his home. This was not a routine arrest of a “criminal”. On the contrary, it was a planned military assassination of one of our most important leaders in the struggle for Puerto Rican independence.” – Dylcia Pagan former Puerto Rican political prisoner & prisoner of war
On September 23rd of 1868 in a mountain town of Lares in the center of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico a few hundred men and women led a revolt for independence against Spanish colonial rule. Since Columbus first landed on the island and “claimed” it as a possession of Spain in 1493 there has been a resistance to imperialism. The first struggles were waged by indigenous Taino populations and as the Spanish brought African slaves to the island they joined the Tainos and built communities around their resistance that were known as Cimarones or Maroon communities.
The mixture of Taino, African and European blood and culture had created something new and in the 1850’s Puerto Ricans began to act on seeing themselves as a distinct nation. The man who was known to have been the catalyst for this new paradigm shift into nationhood was Ramon Emeterio Betances. He planned and led the revolt on Spain in September of 1868 and because he did, he’s known as the father of the Puerto Rican nation. Although the revolt of September 23rd of 1868 better known as El Grito de Lares (the Cry of Lares), failed at it’s goal of achieving independence, in the short term, it galvanized support for independence and in the long run put Puerto Rico on the road to autonomy and independence from Spain. The failed uprising inspired other Puerto Ricans to organize for their independence and to protest against . There were times when the protests escalated into battles as was the case in Las Marias , Adjuntas, Utado, Vieques, Bayamon, CIeles and Toa Baja. And it’s for this reason that September 23rd of 1868, El Grito de Lares, will forever be known as the birth of the Puerto Rican nation.
Over time the Spanish were forced to make concessions and give Puerto Rico more and more autonomy. In 1898 just as Puerto Ricans were on the verge of negotiating their complete autonomy from Spain the Spanish-American War broke out and Puerto Rico went from being a colony of Spain to being a colony of the US.
In December 1898 the US took control of Puerto Rico and has since then been trying to justify the colonization to Puerto Rican’s, the world and itself. The resistance to Puerto Rico’s colonization that began with Spain continued with the US. In the 1960’s Puerto Rican independence leader Comandante Filiberto Ojeda Rios began organizing clandestine armed organizations like MIRA, Movimiento Independentista Revolucionario Armado the Armed Revolutionary Independence Movement and the FALN, Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional the Armed Forces Of National Liberation and the EPB Ejercito Popular Boricua the Puerto Rican Popular Army that would use military means to fight for Puerto Rico’s independence. Filiberto was the father of the clandestine armed movement for the liberation of Puerto Rico. All of these groups were considered terrorist groups by the US and Filiberto was a fugitive of US law enforcement and one of the top most wanted men by the FBI.
In 2005 on the 137th anniversary of El Grito de Lares while Puerto Ricans gathered to commemorate the birth of their nation (albeit one still struggling with colonialism) the FBI had found Filiberto. He had been living clandestinity in Puerto Rico for 15 years and throughout those 15 years he frustrated US law enforcement by giving radio and television interviews and writing articles for the newspapers and magazines about the colonial situation in Puerto Rico. On every Grito de Lares, Filiberto would send a message to the crowds that gathered to commemorate El Grito in Lares. While the crowd gathered to hear speakers and poets and musicians in Lares the FBI had Filiberto’s home in the small mountain town of Homigueros just a few miles away, surrounded.
The FBI started a shootout and Filiberto defended himself by returning fire. In the gun battle Filiberto shot and wounded an FBI agent. It was one man against 300 FBI agents. The FBI brought in a special sniper team that shot and wounded Filiberto. The FBI refused to give him medical attention and as he bled the pre-recorded speech he sent to Lares played. The FBI waited over 24 hours to approach Filiberto and as they waited the 73 year old man bled to death.
Filiberto’s assassination outraged Puerto Ricans. Even Puerto Ricans who didn’t believe in independence or didn’t agree with Filiberto’s decision to use violence in furtherance of independence were outraged by the circumstances of his death. Filiberto’s funeral was the largest funeral in Puerto Rican history. The route from the church to the cemetery was lined with Puerto Rican men, women and children every step of the way waiting to catch one last glimpse of him, yelling slogans of support for Puerto Rican independence and accusing the FBI of assassination. The trip from the church to the cemetery should have been 25 to 30 minutes but it took ten times that amount of time, it took five hours because the streets were clogged with people paying their last respects to a hero who had sacrificed everything for his people and their freedom.
Dylcia Pagan, herself a former member of the FALN and former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner and prisoner of war noted that the assassination of Filiberto on El Grito de Lares, a national Puerto Rican holiday, was not just an attempt to assassinate Filiberto but an attempt to destroy the spirit of the Puerto Rican independence movement. Filiberto’s assassination by the FBI was a message meant to discourage those who fought for Puerto Rico’s independence but it backfired. Instead of discouraging the Puerto Rican people they created another martyr to the cause of Puerto Rican liberation and what began with a birth on September 23rd of 1868 and survived an assassination attempt on September 23rd of 2005, continues today. Instead of destroying everything that El Grito de Lares stood for, the US government created it’s own Grito de Lares.
¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre y Soberana! ¡Filiberto Vive!
The designs above are Limited Editions that were for done for RICANSTRUCTED, a design company that’s dedicated to supporting Puerto Rican independence. The designs were done to commemorate both El Grito of 1868 and El Grito of 2005. The first design is of Ramon Emeterio Betances marks the 143rd anniversary of the uprising and the birth of the nation. The second design is of Comandante Filiberto Ojeda Rios who was assassinated by the FBI in an attempt to destroy the idea of nationhood for Puerto Rico and it marks the 6th anniversary of his death. The designs are limited to 25 each and are available on Men’s and Women’s standard weight T-shirts and on organic unisex T-shirts. On September 23rd people will gather in Lares once again to renew their resistance and to remember the sacrifices made for a nation that still seeks it’s freedom, get a shirt, plan a trip to Puerto Rico and join Puerto Ricans and other freedom loving supporters of Puerto Rican independence and let your voice be heard.