New York meeting
Puerto Rican revolutionary remembers Ponce Massacre
Carlos Rovira New York
On March 20 at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center on
New York's Lower East Side, Puerto Ricans commemorated the 62nd
anniversary of the Ponce Massacre. The ProLibertad-Amnesty
Campaign to Free Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and POWs
sponsored the event.
The featured speaker was the legendary Doña Isabel
Rosado, one of many exemplary and revolutionary women in the
Puerto Rican people's history.
Born in 1908, Rosado has witnessed some of the most
repressive episodes Puerto Rico experienced under U.S.
During the 1937 Ponce Massacre, Rosado saw many of her
compatriots murdered and wounded. The experience of this bloody
attack made her a staunch fighter, loyal to the cause of
On Oct. 30, 1950, beginning in the city of Jayuya, a
nationalist revolt against U.S. rule spread throughout the
It was in Jayuya where another female legend, Blanca
Canales, led the biggest gun battle and burned the colonial
police headquarters to the ground.
Meanwhile, in San Juan, the colonial police and National
Guard attacked the Nationalist Party office. Don Pedro Albizu
Campos, Doña Isabel Rosado and others barricaded
themselves in a violent siege that lasted 24 hours.
Isabel Rosado was one of Albizu Campos's bodyguards. Armed
when necessary, she vowed to protect with her own life the
integrity of the Puerto Rican struggle and the life of the
The Ponce Massacre
In the city of Ponce, independence supporters had scheduled
a peaceful protest for March 21, 1937, to demand Puerto Rico's
independence and Don Pedro Albizu Campos's release from
Although permits were unnecessary, the organizers requested
permission to have the event out of respect for the sympathetic
mayor. They got permission.
U.S. Army Gen. Blanton Winship was colonial governor at the
time. He had been appointed by U.S. President Franklin D.
Outright military rule was the form of colonial government.
Winship tried everything possible to stop the nationalist
protest, including force.
In this period of intense repression, the U.S. government,
through Winship, sought to stamp out all nationalist
sentiment--especially the quest for independence and
On that Palm Sunday morning, hundreds of people--women,
children and men--had gathered at the town plaza in defiance of
the wishes of the colonial government. Women dressed in all
white assembled as Nurses of the Republic. The youth
organization of the Nationalist Party, the Cadets of the
Republic, dressed in black shirts and white pants. Church
congregations and others also formed their contingents.
A Nationalist color guard in military formation unveiled the
outlawed Puerto Rican flag. With clenched fists in the air, the
crowd began singing "La Borinqueña"--the revolutionary
national anthem of the colonized people.
At this point, the police had completely sealed off the area
where the nationalist protest was gathering. With grenades,
tear-gas bombs, carbine rifles and machine guns, under the
directions of the central colonial government, the police
prepared to attack.
Once the crowd began to march, and with full knowledge that
the mostly young participants were unarmed, the police opened
The barrage lasted about 5 minutes. When the shooting ended,
19 people had been killed and 120 lay wounded.
"It was love for the freedom of our homeland--Puerto Rico,"
Doña Isabel Rosado said, "that gave strength to the
martyrs of Ponce. Nothing in this world is more powerful than
this emotion--not even the guns of the colonial assassins."
And it is precisely this emotion that worries U.S.
colonialism even to this day--an emotion that will prove fatal
to imperialism when the Ponce massacre is avenged, when the
Puerto Rican people finally win their historical struggle
against tyranny by expelling all foreign oppressors from their
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