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Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Nov. 9, 2000
issue of Workers World newspaper
¡Doña Vera presente!
Doña Adelfa Vera Vega Melendez, long-time leader and symbol of the struggle for Puerto Rico's independence, passed away on Oct. 22. Doña Vera, as she was familiarly called, was suffering from cancer at the time of her death. She is survived not only by her children but by a whole community that loved and learned from her over the century of struggle that she represented.
Doña Vera was born to a political family on March 25, 1917. Her parents were members of the Socialist Party of Puerto Rico, founded in 1920. The Socialist Party arose from the tobacco workers' struggles of the time. She was only 13 when she and her mother were arrested for the crime of raising the Puerto Rican flag in front of their home.
Only a few years later, at the age of 17, Doña Vera joined the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico and became an active member. She was arrested that year for fundraising for Pedro Albizu Campos' legal defense. Albizu, founder of the Nationalist Party, was repeatedly arrested for his militant actions on behalf of Puerto Rico's independence. Undeterred by the arrest, Doña Vera continued the campaign amidst fierce repression, getting arrested again, until 1948 when she was put on a list of those prevented from working in Puerto Rico.
This situation forced her to move to the United States. As soon as she arrived she started working with the Movimiento Libertador, an organization based in New York closely linked with the Nationalist Party. Her work with the group and later with other pro-independence and socialist organizations continued throughout her life, in New York and in Puerto Rico.
Doña Vera was a fierce fighter who became a fixture at all events demanding that the U.S. stop bombing the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, even when her participation endangered her own health. She marched and carried banners in the worst weather, under difficult conditions, even as her illness advanced.
Only at the very end was she unable to attend some events, particularly Fidel Castro's recent speech in New York. Doña Vera remarked from her bed how unhappy she was that she could not participate. But the struggle was brought to her by the voices and stories of all those who shared her life.
Doña Vera demanded that all events in her name were done for the good of Puerto Rico's independence and in the name of the struggle. We can safely say that when Doña Vera closed her eyes for the last time, she did not think of herself, but thought about the awakening of the Puerto Rican people to a future of freedom and social justice.
A memorial for Doña Vera will be held on Dec. 2 at the Martin Luther King Labor Center, 330 West 43rd Street in New York, at 6:00 p.m.
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