History of Puerto Rico

La Insurreccion Nacionalista de
Puerto Rico: The 1950 Uprising of
October 30
  (Also know as
The Jayuya Uprising)

Carlos Rovira - "Carlito"

October 30th is the anniversary of the 1950 uprising (also know as Jayuya Uprising), a legacy of Puerto Rican history in the 20th century. It was an armed battle that began in the municipality of Jayuya and extended throughout Puerto Rico, expressing the will of the people to fight for their national liberation. Fighters of the Nationalist Party, determined to make their dream of an independent republic come true, carried out armed confrontations with U.S.-trained police and the National Guard.

Historic evidence shows us that the causes for this event are rooted in the colonial presence of the United States in Puerto Rico, which began with the U.S. military invasion of the country 52 years previously. The Jayuya Uprising was the response of the Puerto Rican people to the repression experienced during this period. Brute force was used by the U.S. Government to establish a colonial regime and to maintain its dominion over Puerto Rico.

The invasion and colonization of Puerto Rico was motivated by the Economic interests of banks and corporations owned by rich and politically powerful people in the United States. During this period the United States and the other industrial capitalist nations such as Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Japan - maintained competitiveness among themselves in the conquest for colonies. With the invasions of the Philippines, Guam, Cuba and Puerto Rico, the U.S. became an imperialist power. The Most economic and politically powerful figures in the U.S. envisioned implementing a strategy for the eventual control of the world, especially Latin America supported by the Monroe Doctrine

This historical tendency did not proceed unchallenged. Millions of people from all continents resisted the savage exploitation by this system. In its beginning, the imperialists did not realize they would have to face the resistance of their victims, as millions of people from various lands rebelled against foreign domination. The outcry for national liberation was increasingly heard throughout world.


THE 1950 UPRISING (JAYUYA UPRISING)

Under the leadership of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, which advocated an end to U.S. colonialism and the independence of Puerto Rico, gained the respect and admiration of multiple sectors of the population. Unlike its predecessor, the Unionist Party that advocated independence early in its history but eventually withdrew that demand from its program, the Nationalist Party unconditionally proclaimed the inalienable right of the colonized people to independence. The Nationalist Party also became known for advocating the right of the colonized people to use any means necessary including the use of arms, to win the independence of Puerto Rico. The revolutionary impetus in Puerto Rico which is credited to the Nationalist Party was the main target of the colonizers' repressive agencies as they sought to destroy the independence movement.

Facing severe consequences, the Nationalist party stood firm in its quest. When the progressive movement in the U.S. experienced persecution in the late 1940's and early 1950's, the result of an anti-communist, anti-labor and racist witch-hunts spearheaded by the notorious Senator Joseph McCarthy, Puerto Ricans witnessed a more intense and brutal version of that same repressive campaign. People in the United States hardly knew that members of the Nationalist Party were systematically jailed and assassinated in Puerto Rico. Laws were created that gave the colonial police the "right" to gun down members of the Nationalist Party in plain view, without provocation.

Although Washington wanted to give the impression that these actions were executed exclusively by the colonial government, that is, an "internal matter among Puerto Ricans", the law mandated U.S. President Harry Truman to take direct charge in all matters concerning Puerto Rico. In addition, the presidential appointed colonial governor of Puerto Rico was required to consult directly with the White House.


At the beginning of October 1950, the intelligence of the Nationalist Party obtained information of a secret government plan to eliminate the independence movement; the tactics included banning the Nationalist Party, attacking offices and homes, arresting all members of the party, especially Pedro Albizu Campos. Washington officials sought to use "seditious conspiracy" laws to silence the most militant individuals with imprisonment and thus destroy the independence movement.

With knowledge of the imminent government plan to repress its existence, the experience of the Massacre of Río Piedras of 1935 and Ponce Massacre 1937, and having no alternative but to demonstrate dignity and exercise their right to self-defense, the Nationalist Party chose to take the initiative in landing the first blow.

On the morning of October 30, 1950, a young woman named Blanca Canales led an armed contingency of Nationalists towards the city of Jayuya where they attacked the headquarters of the colonial police. Once the Nationalists surrounded the police station, a brief gun battle ensued. The civil employees of the police were surprised and intimidated by the unexpected tenacity of these patriots. The police were ordered to surrender their arms and leave the building with their hands raised.

The people of Jayuya embraced the nationalists with sympathy for their brave act. Surrounded by the residents of the town, the freedom fighters raised the Puerto Rica flag that was strictly prohibited by colonial law. With weapon in hand, Blanca Canales prepared herself to address the crowd in the town plaza. Canales began her speech, inspiring everyone by shouting the solemn words of the historical fighter of Puerto Rico's independence, "Que viva Puerto Rico libre!”She then defiantly declared the independence of the Republic of Puerto Rico.

The decision to liberate Jayuya first was due to its strategic location in the mountains at the center of the island. It was thought that taking control of this municipality first would cut the supply lines to the enemy and would slow down troop reinforcements to the western portion of the island. Violent clashes between the police and nationalists also occurred in Utuado, Ponce, Mayagüez, Arecibo, Naranjito, Ciales, Peñuelas and others towns. In San Juan, the police attacked the headquarters of the Nationalist Party. Pedro Albizu Campos, Isabel Rosado and others undertook an armed battle until they were overcome by tear gas. The colonial government in San Juan imposed new repressive measures throughout Puerto Rico, including martial law. Military airplanes were deployed to bomb Jayuya in order to force the patriots to surrender. 70 percent of the city was destroyed, the result of the aerial bombing. The National Guard immediately pushed to suppress the uprising and regain control of Jayuya.

Well aware of the potential political impact news of the rebellion would have in the court of public opinion throughout the world the U.S. government imposed a news blackout of the situation in Puerto Rico. To silence the voice of the emerging struggle, there was a gradual but intense effort to twist the facts. In order to disguise the nature of events Truman characterized the conflict as "between Puerto Ricans."

When Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola were sent to the Blair House in Washington, D.C. by the Nationalist leader Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos in order to assassinate President Truman, it was indeed to refute the false notion of the nature of the conflict before the world. Torresola was killed and Collazo was critically wounded in a shootout with capital police and Truman's bodyguards.


THE MEANING OF JAYUYA

As Puerto Ricans rebelled with guns in hand, anti-colonial struggles in Africa, Asia and Latin America waged on. The Jayuya Uprising in Puerto Rico reflected the global resistance of oppressed people who yearned for liberation as they strove to break the domination of imperialism.

Although the efforts of the Nationalist Party failed in expelling the colonial presence of the U.S. in Puerto Rico, nevertheless a political victory was won, serving as an example of revolutionary valor for generations to come. This episode proved that colonial oppression will make popular rebellion an inevitable outcome. It does not matter how great the reach of the repressive arm of imperialism, it can never erase from the minds of colonized people the pride of their national identity and their revolutionary traditions.

What motivated the U.S. invasion and persistent colonial domination of Puerto Rico was the desire to appropriate the national wealth for the advantage of foreign corporative avarice. The more U.S. capitalists invested into ventures in Cuba and Puerto Rico during the 1890's, the louder the call for war with Spain.

This is why colonialism will show contempt for the people it robs natural resources from; it is an international system that can not prevent causing suffering to the inhabitants in the lands it invades. The ambition to plunder wealth in former Spanish colonies was also the driving force behind the U.S. military invasion and occupation of Iraq today. But the injustices that come with invasion and occupation by a foreign power will motivate people to find ways to challenge the occupation. What else could have been the cause for the fight that ensued in the island municipality of Vieques demanding an end to the bombing practices and the withdrawal of the U.S. Navy?

One only needs to examine the chronology of the atrocities committed by the U.S. government in Puerto Rico to conclude that the abuses perpetuated by the U.S. Navy in Vieques were just a continuation of colonial policy.

The U.S. government was apprehensive about the great potential that the fight in Vieques had, to galvanize the Puerto Rican people to rebellion. Such would explain why in May of 2003 the U.S. Navy chose to shut down its target practice range and other facilities on the island of Vieques. The hatred that developed towards the U.S. Navy during that struggle is consistent with the reasoning that many Puerto Ricans expressed towards the U.S. colonizers at the hour of the Jayuya Uprising.

This is why the colonizers of Puerto Rico, for their own reasoning of course, will also remember the Jayuya Uprising. U.S. officials are well aware of the ability that colonized people have. Puerto Ricans will apply the valuable lessons of their history for an eventual struggle that will win their national liberation.


Carlos Rovira - "Carlito"



Reproduced by la Juventud Nacionalista Puertorriqueña de Nueva York (JNP-NY)/ Puerto Rican Nationalist Youth of New York

For more information, go to our youth section or write to info@jnp-ny.org

More information on the Jayuya Uprising (in Spanish) can be found here: http://www.redbetances.com/html/jayuya.htm

"Los jovenes tienen el deber de defender su Patria con las armas del Conocimiento."

"The youth has the duty to defend the Fatherland with the weapons of Knowledge."

— Don Pedro Albizu Campos


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