Albizu Campos, Pedro
Albizu Campos, Pedro
April 21, 1965
According to popular historical accounts (i.e., Ribes Tobar, 1971), Puerto Rican labor leader and nationalist Pedro Albizu Campos was born on September 12, 1891 in Barrio Mochuelo Abajo, located in Ponce, Puerto Rico. However, in archival documents housed at Harvard University, Albizu Campos lists his date of birth as June 29, 1893. His parents were Alejandro Albizu Romero, who was from the Basque country in Spain, and Juliana Campos, a Creole. As a dark-skinned Afro–Puerto Rican, Albizu Campos felt much discrimination from North Americans and other Puerto Ricans across the color gradient who internalized racism. He once stated: "For us, race has nothing to do with biology. Nor dusky skin, nor frizzy hair, nor dark eyes. Race is a continuity of characteristic virtues and institutions. We are distinguished by our culture, our courage, our Chivalry, our Catholic sense of civilization" (quoted in Ribes Tobar, p. 17).
Albizu Campos was regarded as an intellectually gifted and brilliant student. His formative years through high school were spent in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where he attended Ponce High School from 1909 to 1912. As a result of his high academic achievement, the high school's principal, Charles Terry, recommended he receive an Aurora Lodge of Ponce scholarship. In turn, he was admitted to the University of Vermont, where he began a formal course of study in agriculture from 1912 to 1913. Because of his continued academic achievement, he was awarded a second academic scholarship to transfer to Harvard University to complete his undergraduate education from 1913 to 1916. He also studied law and military science (ROTC) from 1913 to 1916 at the same institution. His studies were briefly interrupted because of World War I, during which he served as a second lieutenant in the segregated U.S. Army. Most biographical accounts report that the discrimination he felt as an Afro–Puerto Rican soldier led to his eventual philosophical/political transformation to nationalist thought and its eventual application within a Puerto Rican context. In 1921, Albizu Campos returned to Harvard to complete his law degree.
Albizu Campos was heavily influenced by Irish and Indian nationalist thought. On the Irish side, Father Ryan of Boston, Massachusetts, conversed often with the future leader of Puerto Rican nationalism while at Harvard. Furthermore, both were influenced by Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader Eamon de Valera, who gave a speech at Harvard in 1919 seeking support for Irish independence. Finally, as founder of the Irish Socialist Party, James Connolly shaped Albizu Campos's thinking around challenging and dismantling "home rule" (i.e., colonial governors). On the Indian side, Rabindranath Tagore, a Hindu poet and supporter of Indian independence, also shaped the young Puerto Rican student's beliefs about nationalism and decolonization.
In sum, Albizu Campos was able to weave his passion for anticolonial politics in the various leadership positions he held while a student at Harvard. These included such organizations as the Cosmopolitan Club, the League to Enforce Peace, and the International Polity Club, among others. Moreover, he was conversant in Spanish, English, German, Latin, Portuguese, and French.
Upon his return to Puerto Rico in 1921 at the age of thirty, Albizu Campos began to represent the rights of sugar workers. He began to give public speeches denouncing U.S. imperialism and its colonial relationship to the island. As a result, he was arrested, tried, and convicted of "seditious conspiracy to overthrow the United States government" under the Smith Act of 1940, also known as the "Gag Law." This law (still in effect) declared it unlawful to encourage, teach, or belong to any group advocating the forceful overthrow of any government in the United States. The evidence produced against Albizu Campos by the U.S. government included Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tape recordings of his speeches, which are housed at the U.S. Library of Congress. Consequently, he was sentenced to ten years to the federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1947 he returned to Puerto Rico and subsequently helped lead and organize resistance movements against U.S. imperialism in the Puerto Rican municipalities of Adjuntas, Jayuya, Mayagüez, and Utuado. These protests were suppressed by the Puerto Rico National Guard with bombs and armed troops. In 1951 Albizu Campos was jailed again and sentenced to eighty years in prison.
While Albizu Campos served this sentence, his health began to deteriorate as a result of radiation exposure while incarcerated. Because of his deteriorating health and pleas by empathetic political leaders, Governor Luis Muñoz Marín (a former ally of Albizu Campos who later became the intellectual author of Puerto Rico's current colonial status) pardoned him in 1953. However, this pardon was revoked one year later by Muñoz Marín when Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andrés Figueroa, and Irving Flores opened fire in the U.S. House of Representatives and pronounced, "Long live a free Puerto Rico!" In 1964 Muñoz Marín again pardoned Albizu Campos, who died the following year on April 21, 1965. The memory of Albizu Campos lives through the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and in such Puerto Rican communities as Chicago, Illinois, and other urban centers in the diaspora. Additionally, several public schools in Puerto Rico and Havana, Cuba, are named in his honor.
Albizu Campos, Pedro. República de Puerto Rico. Montevideo, Uruguay: Siglo Ilustrado, 1972.
Albizu Campos, Pedro. Writings of Pedro Albizu Campos. New York: Gordon Press, 1993.
Corretjer, Juan Antonio. Albizu Campos. Montevideo, Uruguay: Siglo Ilustrado, 1969.
Ribes Tobar, Federico. Albizu Campos: El Revolucionario. New York: Plus Ultra Educational, 1971.
Rivera Correa, R. R. The Shadow of Don Pedro. New York: Vantage Press, 1970.
renÉ antrop-gonzÁlez (2005)