Pedro Albizu Campos

"El patriotismo require la ofrenda y en esto no hay parcialidad. O todo o nada."

He was called "El Maestro" by all who loved him and valued his leadership. Pedro Albizu Campos was the most prominent Puerto Rican political figure of the 20th century, a National Hero who sacrificed his life for the freedom of his country. Under his direction, the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico became a major force in the fight for independence. A powerful speaker, thousands would gather to listen to his passionate discourses of freedom. He urged the Puerto Rican people to reclaim their cultural history and national symbols such as the flag and the national anthem.

Pedro Albizu Campos was instrumental in winning an island wide sugar cane strike and exposing secret medical experiments sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute. He developed the theory of non-collaboration (retraimiento) with the colonial structures, i.e. boycotting elections and military service. He soon became a target of the colonial forces and was arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy. From the mid-thirties to the early sixties, Pedro Albizu Campos would be in and out of U.S. prisons (25 years). During his incarceration, he repeatedly charged that he was a target of human radiation experiments. His skin severely swollen and cracking he covered himself with wet towels. Jailers thought he was crazy, but today there is proof that radiation experiments did take place.

Philosophically Pedro Albizu Campos was neither a communist nor an anti-American. In fact, he was a deeply religious man of the Catholic faith.

"The good people of the U. S. are not to be blamed for the shameless conduct of certain government officials." He argued in court and at the podium, that the U.S. occupation of Puerto Rico was illegal. His legal argument was based on the question of the USA being awarded proprietary rights over Puerto Rico by virtue of the Paris Peace Treaty of 1898. The island was handed over by Spain along with Cuba and the Philippines as spoils of war to the U.S.

He claimed that the treaty was nullified by the fact that Spain had previously granted Autonomy to Puerto Rico in 1897. By the time of the Treaty, Puerto Rico had its own coin, its own postage stamps, mail and custom service and was therefore a sovereign independent nation under international law. Spain, he claimed, had no rights to give away another sovereign nation.

Further more, Puerto Rico per se had never participated at the treaty nor even been consulted. His summation was to the effect that  "this countries consent to its association with the US, never having been asked, nor conceded, the acquisition effected by the U.S. under said treaty, is a violation of international Law"

He never accepted the United States rights to govern in Puerto Rico. He did reach that "if they won't listen to legal reason, then we must take up arms against the invaders." When he issued his call to arms, he cited as legal precedents the Boston Tea Party and the drawn sword of George Washington. Ironically, he also mentioned that Luis Muñoz Rivera got Puerto Rico's Autonomy from Spain by means of a threat to take his case to the U.S., both parties understanding that the liberal Yankees, would sympathize with the concept of independence. It is curious to note that both Cuba and the Philippines where the Spanish/American War was fought were granted their independence. Only Puerto Rico where there was no major fighting is still controlled by the U.S.

Because of his teachings, the Puerto Rican people and the Latino world called, Pedro Albizu Campos, "El Maestro". He was the first great Puerto Rican theoretician of anticolonial thought and the first to describe the contradictions of the colonized. Today there are parks, streets and schools named after him. Institutes and scholars study his work as well as activists look to his example to continue their struggle for Puerto Rico's independence. People of all ages wear T-shirts adorned with his picture and famous quotes. In all the major struggles presently taking place in Puerto Rico you will always see and feel the presence of "El Maestro" at a demonstration or at rally.

Chronological History of the life of Pedro Albizu Campos:

1891: Pedro Albizu Campos is born in Tenerias Village in Poncé, Puerto Rico, September 12, 1891-1893

1898: Witnesses the U.S. Army march through his town.

1912: Awarded a scholarship to study engineering at the University of Vermont.

1913: Transfers from the University of Vermont to Harvard

1917: World War I. Served in an African-American unit. Volunteer to General Frank McIntyre, was trained by French Military mission, organized NCO school and Home Guard in Puerto Rico. Discharged as First Lieutenant, US Infantry.

1919: Returns to Harvard where he got his law degree as well as degrees in Literature, Philosophy, Chemical Engineering and Military Sciences. Fluent in English, Spanish French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Latin and Greek. The Puerto Rican Mulatto was elected president of Harvard's Cosmopolitan Club. He dealt with foreign students and lecturers, like Sudas Ghandra Gose (Indian Nationalist leader with Ghandi) and the Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore. Became interested in the cause of Indian independence, helped to found several centers in Boston for Irish Independence. He would meet Eamon de Valera and later be consulted in the drafting of the constitution of the Irish Free State.

Upon graduating from Harvard, he received job offers as Hispanic repres entative for a protestant church, as a legal aide to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in the U.S. State Department's diplomatic corps in Mexico. He opted to return to Puerto Rico.

1922: Married Dr. Laura Meneses, a Peruvian he had met at Harvard.

1924: Joins the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico and is elected vice president.

1927: Travels to Santo Domingo, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela, seeking solidarity for the Puerto Rican Independence movement.

1930: Elected president of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. Forms the first Women's Nationalist Committee, in Vieques.

1932: Caused an international scandal by publishing (in English and Spanish) a manuscript in which a Doctor Cornelius P. Rhoades, admits to killing eight Puerto Rican patients and injecting several others with cancer cells as part of a medical investigation conducted in San Juan's Presbyterian Hospital for the Rockefeller Institute.

Storms the San Juan Capitol in protest against a move to use the Puerto Rican flag as a colonial symbol. A railing gave way in the rush and one youth protestor was killed in the fall.

1934: Became lawyer for striking sugar cane workers against the U.S. sugar and utilities monopolies. Warnings were issued against the Nationalist that the U.S. authorities were mounting a campaign to discredit him and the Nationalist party.

1935: Four Nationalists are killed by police under the command of Colonel E. Francis Riggs. (The Rio Piedras Massacre)

1936: Nationalist Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp kill Colonel Riggs. They are arrested, then executed without a trial at the police headquarters. Pedro Albizu Campos proclaims them heroes.

San Juan Federal Court orders the arrest of Pedro Albizu Campos and several other Nationalists for "seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. Government in Puerto Rico." A jury of seven Puerto Rican and five North Americans voted 7 to 5 not guilty. Judge Cooper called for a new jury, this time ten North Americans and two Puerto Ricans and guilty verdict was achieved.

1937: The Boston appeals court upheld the verdict. Pedro Albizu Campos along with other Nationalist leaders were sent to the Federal penitentiary in Atlanta.

A protest march was held in Poncé with a municipal permit on March 21st. The police opened fire. Twenty-one unarmed marchers, bystanders were killed, and 200 others wounded in what has become known as the Poncé Massacre.

1947: After two years of hospital treatment in New York, Pedro Albizu Campos returned to Puerto Rico.

1948: Enactment of Law 53 known as the ley de la mordaza (the law of the muzzle). Law, which criminalizes all acts which favor Puerto Rican Independence.

1950: The Nationalist Insurrection (El Grito de Jayuya). A car load of Nationalist attack the Fortaleza. Four Nationalists were killed, the fifth wounded. A defending policeman died.

In the following day, a team of Nationalist attacked the Blair House in Washington D.C. One guard killed and one Nationalist. Pedro Albizu Campos is arrested at his home after a brief shoot out with the police. Subsequently 3,000 independence supporters were arrested.

1951: Pedro Albizu Campos is jailed. Sentenced to eighty years.

1953: Governor Muñoz Marín granted a pardon.

1954: Four Puerto Rican Nationalist fire into the gallery of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. Members of Congress are wounded, no one was killed and the shooters did not resist arrest, claiming the action was to attract the worlds attention to their cause. Pedro Albizu Campos' pardon was revoked. He refused to allow the police to enter his home in San Juan. A shoot out occurs. He is arrested in an unconscious state and jailed.

1956: He suffers a stroke in prison and is transferred to Presbyterian Hospital under police guard.

1964: Out going Governor Luis Muñoz Marín grants a pardon.

1965: Pedro Albizu Campos dies on April 21, in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.


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Connerly, Charles, ed. Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos. Vieques Times, Puerto Rico, 1995

Corretjer, Juan Antonio, El Lider De La Desesperación. Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, 1978

Davila, Arlene M., Sponsored Identities, Cultural Politics in Puerto Rico, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1997

Torres Santiago, Jose M., "100 Years of Don Pedro Albizu Campos",

November 2000