04 December 2016

Pedro Albizu Campos – Nationalist Party President - Speech January 1934

War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis, 2015, Excerpts

In 1930, Albizu became president of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico. The Nationalists were dedicated to one overwhelming cause: achieving independence for Puerto Rico as quickly and unconditionally as possible. This included the reclamation of all Puerto Rican lands, the nationalization of all banks, the reinstatement of Spanish as the primary language of public school instruction, and the elimination of tariff payments to the United States.

This platform of unconditional independence became more compelling as the Great Depression swept through Puerto Rico, and hunger gripped the island. As the great Depression deepened, the US banks that controlled Puerto Rico’s sugar plantations cut wages all over the island. Starvation was rampant, and during the last six months of 1933, eighty-five strikes and protests erupted in the tobacco, needlework, and transportation industries. The bitterest conflict, however, was in the cane fields.

On January 11, 1934, Albizu, as head of the Nationalists Party, addressed a crowd of 6,000 people. Albizu spoke to the people for two hours about their work, their land, and their island. He recited “Puerto Rico, Puerto Pobre,” a poem by Pablo Neruda. El Emparcial ran his entire speech on its front page. When he finished, the crowd of 6,000 applauded for over five minutes and asked him to lead the workers through the bitter sugar cane strike. In a twentieth-century version of David versus Goliath, Albizu Campos and the Nationalists were waging a revolution against the most powerful nation in history.

Note: Google his speech, not easy to find, but worth reading once found.

03 December 2016

Pedro Albizu Campos – Rise of a Nationalist

War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis, 2015, Excerpts

Ponce’s La Cantera was one of the island’s poorest districts. Albizu rented a wooden house on a dirt road and from a hill behind his house, he could see the Central Constancia sugar cane plantation. The vista showed an infinity of cane: thousands of rows, multiplied in successive mirrors, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Albizu was practicing povety law, and his clients were simple people – mostly sugar can workers and jibaros – who paid with chickens, vegetables, and sometimes a simple thank-you. Albizu had no savings or property, but he was building something more important:” a reputation as a man of principle, a man who could be trusted. This reputation grew when he started writing for El Nacionalista de Ponce and advocating for independence around the island.

From 1927 to 1930, he traveled to Cuba, Panama, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, campaigning and networking for his revolution. When he spoke about US banks owning Puerto Ricans’ land, the US Navy controlling their borders, the US Congress writing their laws, and US companies paying them starvation wages in the sugar fields, everyone knew what he was talking about.

02 December 2016

Pedro Albizu Campos – Harvard Law 1921

War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis, 2015, Excerpts

Albizu was born out of wedlock to a local mestizo named Julian Campos, who died when he was four. His father was a wealthy merchant who refused to acknowledge his dark-skinned son, so Albizu ran barefoot through the Barrio Tenerias of Ponce. His maternal Aunt, Rosa Campos, adopted him.

In 1914, Pedro Albizu Campos became the first Puerto Rican to be admitted to Harvard College. In addition to his Harvard studies, Albizu taught Spanish classes at Walpole High School and tutored other Harvard students in chemistry, French, and Spanish. He wrote articles for the Christian Science Monitor and was voted president of the Cosmopolitan Club, which sponsored visits from foreign scholars and dignitaries. An exceptional student, he graduated with honors in 1916 and was admitted to Harvard Law School.

When the United States entered WWI, Albizu volunteered and served as a first lieutenant in the US Army. He helped to organize and train the Third Battalion Infantry of Puerto Rico and was the only “colored” officer at Camp las Casas, the army training base on the island. Both in the army and during a military tour through the American South, Albizu encountered widespread racism.

By the time he returned to law school in 1919, Albizu had made a decision, he would never be one of ”them.” The United States would never take him, his people, or his homeland seriously. Albizu devoted himself to the cause of Puerto Rican independence.

In 1921, Albizu graduated from law school as class valedictorian and received multiple job offers. Albizu refused them all and returned to his hometown of Ponce to pursue his growing obsession: the independence of Puerto Rico.

01 December 2016

Puerto Rico Series

This is a series about another country getting into financial difficulties. I previously chronicled Zimbabwe as it went through a massive inflationary period that lasted years into the realm of ridiculousness and is still suffering the aftermath. It eventually pushed Zimbabwe into China’s camp. Greece is still dealing with the impact of austerity measures to pay debt [Greek Series]. And now, Puerto Rico appears on the horizon as the next candidate for debt default, a territory of the United States. Puerto Rico is referred to as the “Greece of the Caribbean”, somewhat ironic. What if austerity measures in Puerto Rico appear punitive, as they do in Greece, and everywhere else. How will the Puerto Ricans respond? Puerto Ricans have clashed with the United States before, an assassination attempt of President Truman and fired shots in the House of Representatives, wounding five lawmakers. There’s a huge Puerto Rican community in the United States, especially in NYC, Bay Area, and Hawaii.

In this series, excerpts from a few books [War Against All Puerto Ricans being a primary source] and laying some groundwork of historical reference. The Puerto Rican debt crisis may turn into a headline dominating issue. Its implications could resonate far and wide through Latin America. Puerto Ricans span all ethnicities, all colors. This should prove to be an interesting series.

War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis, 2015, Excerpts
Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano, 1971, Excerpts
War Against All Puerto Ricans
Pedro Albizu Campos – Harvard Law 1921
Pedro Albizu Campos – Rise of a Nationalist
Pedro Albizu Campos – Nationalist Party President - Speech January 1934
Albizu Meets Chief of Police Riggs – January 1934
Governor Winship Strike Breaker - January 1934
The Rio Piedras Massacre 1935
Police Chief Riggs Assassinated 1935
The Ponce Massacre - Palm Sunday March 21,1937
The Ponce Massacre - Photographed and Filmed
Albizu Imprisonment – 1937 to1943
Albizu Returns to Puerto Rico - 1947

Cancer Transplanting 1931

Female Sterilization 1937

Sugar Conquest

Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano, 1971

Undoubtedly gold and silver were the main motivating force in the Conquest, but Columbus on his second voyage brought the first sugarcane roots from the Canary Islands and planted them in what is now the Dominican Republic. For almost three centuries after the discovery of America no agricultural product had more importance for European commerce than American sugar. Cane fields were planted in the warm, damp littoral of Northeast Brazil; then in the Caribbean islands – Barbados, Jamaica, Haiti, Santo Domingo, Guadeloupe, Cuba, and Puerto Rico – and in Veracruz and the Peruvian coast, which proved to be ideal terrain for the “white gold.” Legions of slaves came from Africa to provide King Sugar with the prodigal, wageless labor he required: human fuel for the burning. The land was devastated by this selfish plant which invaded the New World, felling forests, squandering natural fertility, and destroying accumulated soil humus.

The demand for sugar produced the plantation, an enterprise motivated by its proprietor’s desire for profit and placed at the service of the international market Europe was organizing. Internally, however, the plantation was feudal in many important aspects, and its labor force consisted mainly of slaves.

It was the fate of the “sugar islands” – Barbados, the Leewards, Trinidad-Tobago, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and Santo Domingo – to be incorporated one by one into the world market and condemned to sugar until our day. Grown on a grand scale, sugar spreads its blight on a grand scale and today unemployment and poverty are these islands’ permanent guests.

Nationalist Party Founded 1912

War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis, 2015, Excerpts

Founded in 1912, the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico quickly developed a clear and elegantly simple political platform: the complete and unconditional independence of Puerto Rico from the United States. Their objective was not outright military victory; rather, the aimed to focus international attention on the colonial status of Puerto Rico.

The Cadet Corps was the official youth branch of the Nationalist Party. By 1936, over 10,000 cadets were marching and training in twenty-one towns. All of them reported to Pedro Albizu Campos, the president of the Nationalist Party. The Cadets of the Republic also had a female component, the Nurse Corps of the Liberating Army, also known as the Daughters of Freedom.

Nearly every cadet and nurse, except for the officers, was between fourteen and twenty-five years old. The cadets posed no danger to the US regime. But they did represent a symbolic threat – and so, until the mid-twentieth century, many were shot and killed in police stations and at Palm Sunday parades, in town squares and dark alleys, in broad daylight and at dawn.

30 November 2016

First Civilian Governor 1900 – King of Sugar

War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis, 2015, Excerpts

Charles Herbert Allen was the first civilian governor of Puerto Rico [1900-1901]. Though he never served in the armed forces, he loved to dress in military regalia and have people address him as “colonel.” He arrived like a Roman conqueror with a naval cannon salute, infantry band, and hundreds of armed men. During his one year as governor, he developed a passion for business. He wrote:

Puerto Rico is a beautiful island with its natural resources undeveloped, and its population unfit to assume the management of their own affairs.
The yield of sugar per acre is greater than in any other country in the world.

On September 15, 1901, Allen resigned as governor. He then headed straight to Wall Street, where he joined the House of Morgan as vice president. He built the largest sugar syndicate in the world, and his hundreds of political appointees in Puerto Rico provided him with land grants, tax subsidies, water rights, railroad easements, foreclosure sales, and favorable tariffs. He used his governorship to acquire an international sugar empire and a controlling interest in the entire Puerto Rican economy.

By 1907 his syndicate, the American Sugar Refining Company, owned or controlled 98 percent of the sugar-processing capacity in the United States and was known as the Sugar Trust. Today his company is known as Domino Sugar.

Starting in 1926. The United Puerto Rico Sugar Company bought every tobacco plantation and built the second-largest sugar mill on the island, with a 205-foot chimney and boilers that processed 9 million pounds of cane per day. The National City Bank bought another 54,000 acres of farmland, plus warehouses, port facilities, and 133 miles of railroad. The American Colonial Bank, the House of Morgan, and Bankers Trust controlled another 100,000 acres. All of them turned Puerto Rico into a one-crop economy.

By 1931, all the island’s sugar farms belonged to forty-one syndicates. The banks owned 60 percent of the sugar plantations, 80 percent of the tobacco farms, and 100 percent of the coastal railroads, shipping facilities, and maritime vessels. Yale Historian Bailey W. Diffie noted in 1931, “land is passing into the hands of a few large corporations. The sugar industry, tobacco manufacturing, fruit growing, banks, railroads, public utilities, steamship lines, and many lesser businesses are completely dominated by outside capital. The men who own the sugar companies control both the Bureau of Insular Affairs and the Legislature of Puerto Rico.”