Tag Archives: Filiberto Ojeda Rios

COMANDANTE FILIBERTO


COMANDANTE FILIBERTO
CLANDESTINA CLANDESTINE

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.

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/comandantefiliberto

COMANDANTE FILIBERTO by vagabond ©
COMANDANTE FILIBERTO by vagabond ©

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1sw

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Mandela And Filiberto


Filiberto & Mandela by vagabond ©
Filiberto & Mandela by vagabond ©

“History is written by the victors.”
– common saying mostly attributed to Winston Chuchill

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
– Moises Santos (my grandfather)

With the physical passing of Nelson Mandela many will remember him as the man who brought freedom, democracy and reconciliation to South Africa. In this remembrance it’s important to note that this is being made possible because South Africans won their prolonged decades long battle with the Apartheid state. When the old adage ‘history is written by the victors’ is trotted out it’s usually in reference to the untold story of injustice that gets trampled beneath the victors parade. The losers always seem to lose more than the battle, they lose the ability to have their story told. They lose the ability to control the historical narrative. The history of the struggle against the apartheid state in South Africa and it’s victory inverted this. The victory in South Africa was not an effort to exclude a history but a means of including one that had been kept silenced.

In the case of Nelson Mandela if the South Africans hadn’t won their battle against the apartheid state then Nelson Mandela might have never been freed and his death in a prison cell would merely have been a new rallying cry to end apartheid in South Africa. The thing that allows political prisoners to become presidents is victory. My grandfather used to say – ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ and there is a heavy unspoken truth there. The unspoken truth is that in order to go from terrorist to freedom fighter you first need to win and winning means controlling the historical narrative.

This idea of controlling the historical narrative is important. In the 1980’s Ronald Reagan had the ANC (African National Congress) labeled as terrorist group and since Nelson Mandela was a member of the ANC he was a terrorist. Los Macheteros a clandestine armed organization fighting to free Puerto Rico from US colonial rule is today listed as a terrorist group and in 2005 the assassination of freedom fighter Comandante Filiberto Ojeda Rios who was the founder of Los Macheteros was labeled a terrorist. It was that label that allowed the FBI to assassinate him. Comandante Filiberto believed that armed struggle was a right afforded to Puerto Ricans towards the end of freeing Puerto Rico from US colonial rule. Not unlike Nelson Mandela who before he was arrested by the apartheid state of South Africa and sentenced to life in prison felt that violence was the only response left to the brutality Black South Africans faced.

Before Comandante Filiberto was assassinated he was a fugitive who went into clandestinity in 1990. Shortly after he went into clandestinity he did a television interview with a journalist in an effort to explain his thought process and his actions. It was the most watched television program in the history of Puerto Rico. This holds a strange parallel to an interview Nelson Mandela gave in 1960 to a journalist shortly after he went into clandestinity. In both interviews both Filiberto and Mandela speak about the brutality of their oppressors and the right for their people to defend themselves by any means against that brutality.

The widely accepted historical narrative written by the US is that Comandante Filiberto is a terrorist. When he was assassinated by the FBI he was labeled a terrorist because Puerto Ricans have not yet won their freedom from US colonialism and because they haven’t yet won their freedom the don’t control the historical narrative. The US controlled historical narrative dictates that Puerto Rican freedom fighting group like Los Machetero or the FALN be labeled as terrorists. In much the same way that the ANC was labeled a terrorist by the US government. That very same historical narrative also dictates that Filiberto is a terrorist in the same way that Nelson Mandela was at one time considered to be a terrorist by the US government.

i think that the life of Nelson Mandela is posing a question to the US, that the US is doing it’s best to ignore. Who are the freedom fighters in the US that are being labeled as terrorists? Who are the “terrorists” today that are languishing in prison right now who, but for having victory, would be freedom fighters?  In the struggle to free Puerto Rico from over 115 years of US colonial rule there’s Oscar Lopez Rivera who’s been held in US prisons charged with the very same charge Nelson Mandela was charged with, seditious conspiracy. Oscar’s been in prison for 32 years, 5 years longer and counting, than the 27 years Mandela served.

President Obama says he was inspired by Nelson Mandela. He said that his first political action was working with the anti-apartheid movement. He says he was inspired by the ability of Nelson Mandela to reconcile the transgressions of the past with truth. And yet there’s this disconnect between former political prisoner Nelson Mandela turned global heroic icon and and current US held political prisoners Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, Ruchell Cinque Magee, Eddie Conway, Sekou Odinga, Russell Maroon Shoatz, Jalil Muntaqim and David Gilbert to name but a few that are currently being held in US prisons. Most of them, if not all of them held in prison longer than Nelson Mandela.

It’s good that Nelson Mandela is being remembered for the freedom fighter that he is. He should be remembered for that. History should exonerate him for ever labeling him a terrorist. The US only took Mandela off their list of terrorists in 2008. But this collective historical exoneration of his “terrorist” past is selective. There are others who are struggling right now, languishing in prisons right now, for believing the very same things Mandela believed, for having the same politic as Mandela. What happens to them? How do you honor the former political prisoner Nelson Mandela and refuse to recognize the political prisoners currently being held by the US government? What will it take for the US government to recognize the their “terrorist” political prisoners are our freedom fighters… and in strange sense theirs too…?

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-17v

MACHETERO On Demand On El Grito De Lares


MACHETERO On Demand Poster by vagabond ©
MACHETERO On Demand Poster by vagabond ©

“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…

Shorlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1a4

MACHETERO The 1st APOC Film


La (A) por Amor Y Anarquia - Not4Prophet, vagabond, Resister & Kelvin in Puerto Rico during the MACHETERO shoot
La (A) por Amor Y Anarquia – Not4Prophet, vagabond, Resister & Kelvin in Puerto Rico during the MACHETERO shoot

“Behold your executioners…” – Lucy Parsons

“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.”
– Crass

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?”
Pedro’s answers…
“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.”
– Betances

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.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-158

The Way Of Machetero


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

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

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

The intersection between Comandante Filiberto & my film MACHETERO…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-gs

Terrorist Semantics


Terrorist Semantics by vagabond ©
Terrorist Semantics by vagabond ©

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”
 – George Orwell

With the reported discovery, attempted capture and assassination of Osama Bin Laden, the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the recent terrorist attacks in Boston, questions left lingering in the shadows since the terrorist attacks on the US on 9/11/2001 have once again stepped into the light. Questions that have not been answered and that haunt us not on a conscious level, but on a subconscious level. Questions like what lead to the US 9/11/2001 attacks. The exploration of those questions leads to other questions about American foreign policy and hegemony. Those questions lead to who and how are the terms “terrorism” and “terrorists” reshaped and to whose benefit. Those questions open up a whole new round of examination and each level of inquiry seems to only lead us further down the rabbit hole.

i was living in Harlem when the attacks took place. i watched the television news cameras trained to the aftermath of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center and thought it to be a horrible accident. When the second plane hit it became clear that this was an attack of epic proportions. Whoever planned this knew that with the first plane hitting there would speculation as to what happened, judgement would be withheld on whether or not it was an attack or an accident. In the process of trying to figure out what happened, every available camera would be trained on the World Trade Center and when that second plane hit all the hope of a horrible accident would be drained from us and there would be no doubt that this was an attack.

The second plane hitting the World Trade Center just a few minutes after the first would change the world. In the moment that second plane hit, the US would experience the fear, vulnerability and insecurity that is common place around the world due in large part  to US foreign policy. This is a lesson that the US never heeded when Malcolm X commented on the assassination of President Kennedy with his famous “chickens coming home to roost.” The same can be said of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. The terrorism sponsored by the US to achieve its own dominance in the world was coming back to haunt us. What kind of terrorism? The Iran-Contra Affair that lead to the crack cocaine epidemic in the US. The overthrow of governments who put their own interests ahead of US interests. The backing of dictators who put the interests of the US ahead of the interests of their own country. The use of torture in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo and other CIA black sites around the world. The karma laundry list goes on and on…

In the years following those attacks i struggled with the questions of defining “terrorism” and “terrorists” and how those terms are defined and by who and to what benefit. This is the question that you chase down into the rabbit hole. It was something that would not leave me alone because these were terms that i was already wrestling with in terms of the way US political prisoners and prisoners of war (PP & POW) are treated.  People like Oscar Lopez Rivera, Russell Maroon Shoatz, Leonard Peltier, Sundiata Acoli, Herman Bell, Marshall Eddie Conway, David Gilbert, and many others who had decided that they couldn’t stand by and allow US hegemony to exercise its will over Puerto Rican, African-American and Native American Peoples. They stood up in defiance to US empire within its own “borders” and in doing so their actions were often labeled as “terrorism” and they were often labeled as “terrorists”. With these recent terrorist attacks on the US the definition of these words “terrorism” and “terrorist” changed.

Within the zeitgeist of 1970 – 1980 the terms “terrorism” and “terrorist” didn’t hold the same kind of weight that it does in a post US 9/11 world. The US government and corporate media had refined and redefined “terrorism” and “terrorist” to now encompass anyone who disagreed with the American empire. The US was drawing a line in the sand and it couldn’t be more clear than when President Bush declared “You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists”. The US government and the corporate media had now found a way to compress all dissent to American Empire by expanding the definition of “terrorism” and “terrorists”.  As an added bonus this new refinement of the definition of “terrorism” and “terrorist” now seemed to remove any doubt that the actions that US PP & POW’s were accused of, convicted of and were serving incredibly long sentences for, were anything but “terrorist” actions and that they couldn’t be anything but “terrorists”.

In the days, weeks, months and years following those attacks the supporters of members of the Black Liberation Army, Weather Underground, American Indian Movement and Puerto Rican separatists groups languishing for three and four decades in the US now had to fight to keep them from being categorized in this new expanded definition of “terrorism” and terrorist”. We were saddled with the responsibility of having to explain that they were not terrorist’s, because their actions were not acts of terrorism. They were freedom fighters who fought against US oppression.

This issue of “grandfathering” in US PP & POW’s was one that led me to the writing of my film MACHETERO. It was this expansion of the terminology of “terrorism” and “terrorist” in the post US 9/11 attacks that inspired me to make a clear delineation that would exclude US PP & POW’s from the new “terrorism” and the new “terrorist” definition. The film takes a stand against including US PP & POW’s within this all-encompassing and ever-expanding terminology. In trying to get people to think about how and who defines these terms i needed to stay away from the US 9/11 attacks because they were so polarizing so i used a different approach to begin a dialogue that would get people to think outside of the parameters that were being defined within this post US 9/11 zeitgeist.

The issue of US imperialism in Puerto Rico is an issue that unfortunately most people don’t know about. Oddly enough it was the fact that many people didn’t know about the colonial relationship that the US has with Puerto Rico that allowed me to bring up the issues of how and who defines “terrorism” and “terrorist” in a kind of hermetically sealed bubble that could possibly circumvent post US 9/11 polarization. Within that hermetically sealed bubble these issues could spark a potential dialogue that could safely allow that to re-think the issues of 9/11/2001 while at the same time educating them on the US colonial relationship with Puerto Rico.

Now that the issues of terrorism and terrorist are on the minds of many once again i invite you to explore some of these issues through the prism of my film MACHETERO…

MACHETERO Poster by vagabond ©
MACHETERO Poster by vagabond ©

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.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-13T

March 1st 1954


BLUE LOLITA STAR RICANSTRUCTED by vagabond ©
BLUE LOLITA STAR RICANSTRUCTED by vagabond ©

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…

BLUE LOLITA STAR RICANSTRUCTED by vagabond ©
BLUE LOLITA STAR RICANSTRUCTED by vagabond ©
Flea wears a Lolita Lebrón RICANSTRUCTED T-shirt
Flea wears a Lolita Lebrón RICANSTRUCTED T-shirt
www.ricanstructed.spreadshirt.com
http://www.ricanstructed.spreadshirt.com

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…

RICANSTRUCTED RED KNOCKOUT

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-Xu