Pedro Albizu Campos
Pedro Albizu Campos (September 12, 1891 April 21,
1965) was born in Tenerías Village in Ponce , Puerto Rico
was the son of Alejandro Albizu and Juana Campos.
He was also the nephew of Juan Morel Campos,
one of Puerto Rico 's greatest composers of danzas.
Albizu was the leader and president of the Puerto
Rican Nationalist Party and avid advocate of Puerto
Rican independence from the United States .
Albizu felt that Puerto Rico deserved the
same right as the United States and other
countries had to fight for independence.
Known as an energtic orator he is known
also as El Maestro ("The Teacher").
In 1912, Pedro was awarded a scholarship
to study Engineering, specializing in
Chemistry at the University of Vermont .
In 1913 he continued his studies at Harvard University .
At the outbreak of World War I, Pedro volunteered
in the United States Infantry
where he was
assigned to an African-American unit.
During this time he was exposed to the racism of the
day which left a mark in his beliefs towards the
relationship of Puerto Ricans and the United States .
In 1919, Albizu returned to Harvard University and was
elected president of Harvard's Cosmopolitan Club.
He met with foreign students and lecturers, like Subhas
Chandra Bose (Indian Nationalist leader with Gandhi)
and the Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore.
He became interested in the cause of Indian
independence and helped to establish several
centers in Boston for Irish independence.
He met Eamon de Valera and later became a consultant
in the drafting of the constitution of the Irish Free State.
He graduated from Harvard University obtaining
a Law degree as well as degrees in Literature,
Philosophy, Chemical Engineering and Military Science.
He was fluent in English, Spanish, French,
German, Portuguese, Italian, Latin and Greek.
At the time he received job offers as Hispanic
representative for a Protestant church, as a legal
aide to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in the U. S.
State Department's diplomatic corps in Mexico ,
yet Albizu opted to return to Puerto Rico .
In 1919, José Coll y Cuchí, a member of the Union
Party, felt that the party wasn't doing enough for
the cause of Puerto Rico and he and some followers
departed from the party and formed the Nationalist
Association of Puerto Rico in San Juan .
During that time there were two other organizations
that were pro-independence, they were the Nationalist
Youth and the Independence Association.
On September 17, 1922, the three political
organizations joined forces and formed
the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.
José Coll y Cuchí was elected president of the party.
In 1922, Albizu married Dr. Laura Meneses, a
Peruvian whom he had met at Harvard University .
Two years later in 1924 he joined the Puerto Rican
Nationalist Party and was elected vice president.
On May 11, 1930, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was
elected president of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.
In 1932, Albizu publishes a manuscript in which
he exposes Doctor Cornelius P. Rhoades.
In the manuscript Doctor Rhoades admits to killing Puerto
Rican patients and injecting many with cancer cells as part
of a medical experimentation conducted in San Juan 's
Presbyterian Hospital for the Rockefeller Institute.
This letter revealed the racist vision that some
Americans harbored toward people-of-color.
The Nationalist Party obtained poor results in the 1932
election, but continued with their campaign to teach
and unite the people behind a free Puerto Rico .
At the same time, continued repression from the
United States against Puerto Rican independence
was now met with armed resistance.
In 1934, Albizu represented sugar cane workers as a
lawyer against the U.S. sugar and utilities monopolies.
In 1935, four Nationalists were killed by the police under
the command of Colonel E. Francis Riggs, the incident
became known as the Río Piedras Massacre.
San Juan Federal Court ordered the arrest of Pedro
Albizu Campos and several other Nationalists for
"seditious conspiracy to overthrow the
U.S. Government in Puerto Rico ."
A jury of seven Puerto Rican and five
Americans voted 7 to 5 not guilty.
Judge Cooper called for a new jury, this time
with ten Americans and two Puerto Ricans
and a guilty verdict was achieved.
In 1937, a group of lawyers, including a young
Gilberto Concepción de Gracia tried in vain to
defend the Nationalists but, the Boston court
of appeals, which holds jurisdiction over federal
matters in Puerto Rico , upheld the verdict.
Pedro Albizu Campos along with other Nationalist leaders
were sent to the Federal penitentiary in Atlanta , Georgia .
On March 21, a protest march was held in Ponce
in which police opened fire on the crowd.
Twenty-one unarmed marchers and bystanders as well as
two policeman were killed, and 200 others wounded in
what has become known as the Ponce Massacre.
In 1947 Albizu returned to Puerto Rico and it was believed
that he began preparing, along with other members of the
Nationalist Party, an armed struggle against the proposed
plans to change Puerto Rico's political status into
a commonwealth of the United States .
Pedro Albizu Campos would be jailed again after
the revolt of 1950 when a group of Puerto Rican
nationalists staged a revolt in the island, known
as the Jayuya Uprising (El Grito de Jayuya)
Albizu Campos was arrested at his home
after a brief shoot out with the police.
Subsequently 3,000 independence supporters were arrested.
In 1951 Pedro Albizu Campos was jailed
and sentenced to eighty years in prison.
Albizu was pardoned in 1953 by then governor Luis Muñoz
Marín but the pardon was revoked the following year after
the 1954 nationalist attack of the United States House
of Representatives, when four Puerto Rican Nationalist,
led by Lolita Lebron opened fire from the gallery
of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. .
Some members of Congress were wounded,
one seriously; but no one was killed.
The shooters did not resist arrest, claiming
the action was to attract the world's attention
to the US military occupation of Puerto Rico .
Albizu refused to allow the police
to enter his home in San Juan .
A shootout occurred but he was later placed
into custody in an unconscious state and
jailed again at La Princesa in San Juan .
Later Years and Death
While in prison, Pedro Albizu Campos' health deteriorated.
In 1956, he suffered a stroke in prison and was transferred
to San Juan 's Presbyterian Hospital under police guard.
He alleged that he was the subject of
human radiation experiments in prison.
Officials "suggested" that Albizu was insane --
although others who attended him believe that burns
on his skin where consistent with radiation-exposure.
On November, 1964 Pedro Albizu Campos was again
pardoned by outgoing governor Luis Muñoz Marín.
Pedro Albizu Campos died on April 21, 1965.
In 1994, under the administration of President Bill Clinton,
the United States Department of Energy disclosed that
human radiation experimentation was conducted
without consent on prisoners during the 1950's-1970's.
It is still unclear if Pedro Albizu Campos was
among the subjects of such experimentation.
The extent of Albizu's legacy is generally
the subject of -sometimes passionate-
discussion by both accolytes and detractors.
His followers state that Albizu's political and military
actions served (even unintentionally) as a primer for
positive change in Puerto Rico, these being the
improvement of labor conditions for peasants and workers,
a belated yet more accurate assessment of the colonial
relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States
by the political establishment in Washington, and a set
of social and political conditions that led to positive change
in the political -and eventually economic- environment
prevailing in the country (even if other politicians, such as
Luis Muñoz Marín, were the ones who reaped the political
benefit of these changes while essentially burying the
Puerto Rican independence movement in the process).
Detractors denounce Albizu as a radical fascist,
whose actions only brought turmoil to Puerto Rico .
Some claim that the weak following of the Puerto Rican
independence movement in the present day can be traced,
if not to Albizu, to the repression that his actions brought
upon the movement (which, during Albizu's lifetime,
attained its best acceptance levels in Puerto Rican history).
Albizu can be definitely credited, however, with
preserving and promoting Puerto Rican nationalism
and national symbols, at a time where they
were virtually a taboo in the country.
The formal adoption of the Puerto Rican flag as a national
emblem by the Puerto Rican government can be traced to
Albizu (even while he denounced this adoption as the
"watering-down" of an otherwise sacred symbol into
a "colonial flag"); the revival of public observance
of the Grito de Lares and its significant icons
was a direct mandate from him as leader
of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.
Albizu was the most vocal and visible Puerto Rican
of African descent of his generation; Afro-Puerto Rican
leaders of other political extractions (such as Ernesto
Ramos Antonini and Jose Celso Barbosa) attained
similar status only after facing (and
enduring) considerable bouts with racism.
Albizu, while not exempt from it, confronted it
head-on, and vehemently denouncing it publicly.
Albizu's diagnosis of the colonial relationship between
Puerto Rico and the United States earned him prison time,
yet modern scholars take surprise at how accurate the
diagnosis is, even years after Albizu's death.
Finally, his political philosophy persists to this
day, synthesized in quotes and verbal images.
An alternative high school in Chicago , called the
Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School,
is located in the Puerto Rican Cultural Center .
There, students learn about Puerto Rican history and
culture, in the context of local community development.
Archives there include original letters, representations
of Albizu Campos in sculpture and art, as
well as other material related to his life.
Additionally, five public schools in Puerto Rico
are named after him, as well as numerous streets
in most of Puerto Rico 's municipalities.
In 1976, Public School 161 in Harlem in
New York City was named after him as well.