Puerto Rico – Rich in Culture, Rich in History

The Jayuya Uprising

Troops_in_Jayuya.     The National Guard, commanded by the Puerto Rico Adjutant General Major General Luis R. Esteves and under the orders of Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín, occupy Jayuya

Troops_in_Jayuya. The National Guard, com­manded by the Puerto Rico Adju­tant Gen­eral Major Gen­eral Luis R. Esteves and under the orders of Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín, occupy Jayuya

The Jayuya Upris­ing, also known as the Jayuya Revolt or El Grito de Jayuya, refers to the revolt against the United States gov­ern­ment which occurred on Octo­ber 30, 1950 in var­i­ous local­i­ties in Puerto Rico, but mostly based in the town of Jayuya, Puerto Rico.

P. R. National guardsmen and undercover police fire back at Nationalists.

P. R. National guards­men and under­cover police fire back at Nationalists.

Events lead­ing to the revolt

On Sep­tem­ber 17, 1922, the Puerto Rican Nation­al­ist Party was formed. Jose Coll y Cuchi, a for­mer mem­ber of the Union Party, was elected its first pres­i­dent.  He wanted rad­i­cal changes within the econ­omy and social wel­fare pro­grams of Puerto Rico.  In 1924, Pedro Albizu Cam­pos, a lawyer who once served in the U.S. Army dur­ing World War I as a Sec­ond Lieu­tenant, joined the party and was named its vice pres­i­dent.  He believed that Puerto Rico should be an inde­pen­dent nation even if it meant an armed confrontation.

By 1930, Coll y Cuchi departed from the party because of his dis­agree­ments with Albizu Cam­pos as to how the party should be run.  On May 11, 1930, Albizu Cam­pos was elected pres­i­dent of the Nation­al­ist Party.

In the 1930s, the United States-appointed gov­er­nor of Puerto Rico, Blan­ton Win­ship, and police colonel Riggs applied harsh repres­sive mea­sures against the Nation­al­ist Party.  In 1936, Albizu Cam­pos and the lead­ers of the party were arrested and jailed at the Princesa Jail in San Juan and later sent to the Fed­eral Prison at Atlanta, Geor­gia.  On March 21, 1937, the nation­al­ists held a parade in Ponce and the police opened fire on the crowd in what was to become known as the Ponce Mas­sacre. Albizu Cam­pos returned to Puerto Rico on Decem­ber 15, 1947 after spend­ing 10 years in prison.

jayuya-1950-4On June 11, 1948, the United States appointed Gov­er­nor of Puerto Rico, Jesus T. Piñero, signed the infa­mous “Ley de la Mor­daza” (Gag Law) or Law 53 as it was offi­cially known, passed by the Puerto Rican leg­is­la­ture which made it ille­gal to dis­play the Puerto Rican Flag, sing a patri­otic song, talk of inde­pen­dence and to fight for the lib­er­a­tion of the island.  It resem­bled the anti-communist passed in the United States. On June 21, 1948, Albizu Cam­pos gave a speech in the town of Man­ati where nation­al­ists from all over the island and Jayuya were gath­ered in case there was an attempt by the police to arrest him.  Later that month Cam­pos vis­ited Blanca Canales and her cousins Elio and Grise­lio Tor­resola, the nation­al­ist lead­ers of the town of Jayuya. Grise­lio soon moved to New York where he met and befriended Oscar Collazo.

Upris­ing

From 1949 to 1950, the nation­al­ists in the island began to plan and pre­pare an armed rev­o­lu­tion.  The rev­o­lu­tion was to take place in 1952, on the date the United States Con­gress was to approve the cre­ation of the polit­i­cal sta­tus Free Asso­ci­ated State (“Estado Libre Asso­ci­ado”) for Puerto Rico.  The rea­son behind Albizu Cam­pos’ call for an armed rev­o­lu­tion was that he con­sid­ered the “new” sta­tus a colo­nial farce. Albizu Cam­pos picked the town of Jayuya as the head­quar­ters of the rev­o­lu­tion because of its loca­tion.  Weapons were stored in the Canales residence.

On Octo­ber 26, 1950, Albizu Cam­pos was hold­ing a meet­ing in Fajardo when he received word that his house in San Juan was sur­rounded by police wait­ing to arrest him.  He was also told that the police had already arrested other nation­al­ist lead­ers. He escaped from Fajardo and ordered the rev­o­lu­tion to start.  On Octo­ber 27, the police in the town of Peñue­las, inter­cepted and fired upon a car­a­van of nation­al­ists, killing four.  On Octo­ber 30, the nation­al­ists staged upris­ings in the towns of Ponce, Mayagüez, Naran­jito, Arecibo, Utu­ado , San Juan Nation­al­ist attack of San Juan, and Jayuya.  The first bat­tle of the nation­al­ist upris­ings occurred dur­ing the early hours of the day of Octo­ber 29th, in the bario Macana of town of Peñue­las.  The police sur­rounded the house of the mother of Meli­ton Muñiz the pres­i­dent of the Peñue­las Nation­al­ist Party, under the pre­text that he was stor­ing weapons for the Nation­al­ist Revolt.  With­out warn­ing, the police fired upon the nation­lists and a fire­fight between both fac­tions ensued, which resulted with the death of two nation­al­ists and six police offi­cers wounded.

In Jayuya, Canales and the Tor­reso­las led the armed nation­al­ists into the town and attacked the police sta­tion. A small bat­tle with the police occurred and one offi­cer was killed and three oth­ers wounded before the rest dropped their weapons and sur­ren­dered. The nation­al­ists cut the tele­phone lines and burned the post office. Canales led the group into the town square where the light blue ver­sion of the Puerto Rican Flag was raised (it was against the law to carry a Puerto Rican Flag from 1898 to 1952).  In the town square, Canales gave a speech and declared Puerto Rico a free Repub­lic. The United States declared mar­tial law in Puerto Rico and sent the Puerto Rico National Guard to attack Jayuya. The town was attacked by air by U.S. bomber planes and on land by artillery. Even though part of the town was destroyed, news of this mil­i­tary action was pre­vented from spread­ing out­side of Puerto Rico.  It was called an inci­dent between Puerto Ricans. The town was held by the nation­al­ists for three days.

Grise­lio Tor­resola was in the United States where, together with fel­low nation­al­ist Oscar Col­lazo, he decided to assas­si­nate Pres­i­dent Harry S. Tru­man.  On Novem­ber 1, 1950, they attacked the Blair House where Tor­resola and White House police offi­cer Leslie Cof­felt lost their lives.

P. R. National Guard return fire at Nationalists in Jayuya.

P. R. National Guard return fire at Nation­al­ists in Jayuya.

After­math

The top lead­ers of the nation­al­ist party were arrested, includ­ing Albizu Cam­pos and Blanca Canales, and sent to jail to serve long prison terms. Oscar Col­lazo was arrested and sen­tenced to death. His sen­tence was later com­muted to life impris­on­ment by Pres­i­dent Tru­man, and he even­tu­ally received a pres­i­den­tial par­don. The City of Jayuya con­verted Blanca Canales house into a his­tor­i­cal museum.

The last major attempt by the Puerto Rican Nation­list Party to draw world atten­tion to Puerto Rico’s colo­nial sit­u­a­tion occurred on March 1, 1954, when nation­list leader Lolita Lebron together with fel­low nation­al­ists Rafael Can­cel Miranda, Irv­ing Flo­res and Andres Figueroa Cordero attacked the United States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Lebron and her com­rades were charged with attempted mur­der and other crimes.

Uploaded on Oct 29, 2010

Octo­ber 30 is the six­ti­eth anniver­sary of the 1950 Inde­pen­dence Revolt in Puerto Rico by the island’s Nation­al­ist Party. It marked the most sig­nif­i­cant attempt at armed rev­o­lu­tion in Puerto Rico since the late nine­teenth cen­tury. Democ­racy Now! co-host Juan Gon­za­lez, who’s writ­ten exten­sively on the upris­ing, dis­cusses its significance.

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