War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America's Colony

War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America's Colony

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 1568585616

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In 1950, after over fifty years of military occupation and colonial rule, the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico staged an unsuccessful armed insurrection against the United States. Violence swept through the island: assassins were sent to kill President Harry Truman, gunfights roared in eight towns, police stations and post offices were burned down. In order to suppress this uprising, the US Army deployed thousands of troops and bombarded two towns, marking the first time in history that the US government bombed its own citizens.

Nelson A. Denis tells this powerful story through the controversial life of Pedro Albizu Campos, who served as the president of the Nationalist Party. A lawyer, chemical engineer, and the first Puerto Rican to graduate from Harvard Law School, Albizu Campos was imprisoned for twenty-five years and died under mysterious circumstances. By tracing his life and death, Denis shows how the journey of Albizu Campos is part of a larger story of Puerto Rico and US colonialism.

Through oral histories, personal interviews, eyewitness accounts, congressional testimony, and recently declassified FBI files, War Against All Puerto Ricans tells the story of a forgotten revolution and its context in Puerto Rico’s history, from the US invasion in 1898 to the modern-day struggle for self-determination. Denis provides an unflinching account of the gunfights, prison riots, political intrigue, FBI and CIA covert activity, and mass hysteria that accompanied this tumultuous period in Puerto Rican history.

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further discussed in Rosado, Pedro Albizu Campos, 215, and Ribes Tovar, Albizu Campos, 50. 33. Ribes Tovar, Albizu Campos, 55–57; Albizu Campos, Albizu Campos y la Independencia, 63–66; Rosado, Pedro Albizu Campos, 218–224, 229. 34. Albizu’s wife is very detailed in her recollection of these assaults. Here is a translation from her own book about the armed assaults on their home in 1935: “[Police Chief] Riggs sent agents to our home in Río Piedras. When we moved to Aguas Buenas in 1935, we had

68 Declaration of Independence, US, 113 Degatau, Federico, 55 Delgado Cotal Nieves, Juan, 48 La Democracia (newspaper) Barbosa denounced in, 82 Georgetti relocates, 89 on Gore, 63 Muñoz Marín’s use of, 96–98 on Reily, 59–60 Rhoads’s self-incriminating letter in, 35 Denny, Reginald, 140–141 Department of Defense, US, radiological warfare studies, 36, 243 Department of Energy, US, radiation experiments, 240 Los desaparecidos (Nationalists who “disappeared,”), 67, 103, 130 El Día

resembled those of World War II military officers.82 Governor Blanton Winship Courtesy of the Library of Congress The man FDR sent to solve “the Puerto Rican problem” was uninformed about economics and legislative procedure, but he clearly understood power, force, and fear. The general’s solution was similar to Jonathan Swift’s in “A Modest Proposal”: to cure the Irish problem, Englishmen should eat Irish children, preferably with succulent sauces as the tots were rather bony. General

malaria, and scurvy. As their digestive systems shut down, they lost all desire to eat. Many inmates did not survive the dungeons. The warden didn’t care because the calabozos housed highly accomplished criminals: men convicted of theft, looting, arson, murder, and even cannibalism. But the most dangerous prisoners were the Nationalists, and these he did care about. The career of every prison official in La Princesa—from warden to guard—would be destroyed if the Nationalists caused any trouble,

English as well—even though none of the students and few of the teachers could understand them. Beyond the obvious plan to enrich a few well-connected US publishers and pedagogues, this represented a direct assault on four hundred years of language and culture under the guise of “civilizing a savage people.”4 Educators like Paulo Freire, as well as sociologists and historians, have studied this “civilizing” dynamic in colonial relationships: “In the case of a colony—which by its very nature is

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