Albizu Campos, Pedro (c. 1891–1965)

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Albizu Campos, Pedro (c. 1891–1965)

Pedro Albizu Campos (b. ca. 12 September 1891; d. 21 April 1965), president of the Puerto Rico Nationalist Party in the 1930s and figurative head of the island's struggle for independence. Albizu Campos was born in Ponce, the illegitimate son of a black mother and a white Spanish father. He excelled in his studies as a young man, obtaining a scholarship to attend college in the United States. While at Harvard, he was drafted to serve in the U.S. army, in which he was placed in a segregated regiment. He returned to Harvard Law School after the war and obtained his degree in 1923.

Back on the island that year, Albizu became active in the Nationalist Party, founded in 1922. In the final years of the decade, he traveled to several Latin American and Caribbean countries, advocating the cause of Puerto Rican independence before government leaders and thus internationalizing "the colonial question." Upon his return, he took over a divided movement that weakly opposed the U.S. presence on the island, began to criticize the nature of existing relations between Puerto Rico and the United States, and committed himself to end U.S. colonial domination through the use of force. Under Albizu's leadership (he was elected president in 1930), the Nationalist Party of the 1930s was pro-Hispanic, militant, and violent. Its membership reached nearly 12,000.

The activities of the Cadets of the Republic, the paramilitary arm of the Nationalist Party, led to frequent clashes with government authorities. In 1936 chief of police Francis Riggs was shot to death, and shortly thereafter two nationalist supporters were seized and killed by police. Albizu and seven others were arrested in connection with the assassination and accused of conspiring to overthrow the government of the United States. The court sentenced Albizu to imprisonment in a federal penitentiary, where he remained until 1947.

In a climate of economic uncertainty following the Depression and political persecution promoted by U.S. colonial authorities, violent confrontations continued in the late 1930s. The "Ponce Massacre" gained the most notoriety, as twenty-one persons, including two policemen, were killed in what had been planned as a peaceful march. The commotion arose when Nationalists, shortly after Albizu's conviction, decided to hold a parade in Ponce, despite the last-minute revocation of their permit to march. The demonstrators apparently carried no arms, although a shot provoked the police into firing at the crowd. An American Civil Liberties Union investigation concluded that the ensuing violence was the result of extremist agitation and lack of police restraint.

Albizu returned to the political scene as Puerto Rico debated the benefits of permanent association with the United States, following the approval of Public Law 600, the precursor to local self-government. In 1950 from the mountain town of Jayuya he was involved in the declaration of independence. In a simultaneous move, police headquarters and the Puerto Rican governor's residence were attacked, as was Blair House, the temporary home of the U.S. president in Washington. Albizu was again arrested and found guilty of attempted murder, illegal use of arms, and subversion. Governor Luis Muñoz Marín granted him conditional freedom in 1953.

In 1954 three young nationalists fired their guns at U.S. representatives while the House was in session, wounding six people. Again, Albizu was jailed, until declining health required his transfer to a hospital in 1964. Governor Muñoz pardoned him on 15 November 1964; he died shortly thereafter. Although many have rejected Albizu's glorification of violence to achieve the lofty ideal of independence, his unequivocal actions and fiery rhetoric have inspired nationalists of all persuasions for many decades.

See alsoPuerto Rico, Political Parties: Overview .


Fernando Picó, Historia general de Puerto Rico (1988).

Luis A. Ferrao, "Pedro Albizu Campos, el Partido Nacionalista y el catolicismo, 1930–1939," in Homines 13, no. 2 (1989) and 14, no. 1 (1990): 224-247.

Carlos Rodríguez-Fraticelli, "Pedro Albizu Campos: Strategies of Struggles and Strategic Struggles," in Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños Bulletin 4, no. 1 (1991–1992): 24-33.

Ruth Vassallo and José Antonio Torres Martinó, Pedro Albizu Campos: Reflexiones sobre su vida y su obra (1991).

Marisa Rosado, Las llamas de la aurora: Acercamiento a una biografía de Pedro Albizu Campos (1992).

Additional Bibliography

Ferrao, Luis Angel. Pedro Albizu Campos y el nacionalismo puertorriqueño. San Juan: Editorial Cultural, 1990.

Gutiérrez del Arroyo, Isabel. Pedro Albizu Campos o la agonía moral: el mensaje ético de Pedro Albizu Campos. San Juan: Editorial Causa Común, 2000.

                             Teresita MartÍnez-Vergne

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Albizu Campos, Pedro (c. 1891–1965)

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