[News] Puerto Rico - Lolita Lebrón remembered 1 year later
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Aug 3 18:44:18 EDT 2011
Lolita Lebrón remembered 1 year later
Nationalist leaders influence spanned almost a century
August 2, 2011
by Peggy Ann Bliss
Daily Sun/Humberto Trías
Nationalist leader Lolita Lebrón was remembered
Monday at the St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzis
Cemetery in Old San Juan by friends and political allies.
By Peggy Ann Bliss
Of the Daily Sun staff
pbliss at prdailysun.net
Late Nationalist leader Lolita Lebrón was
remembered Monday at her grave overlooking the
Atlantic Ocean on the first anniversary of her death.
Students, workers and church and social
organizations attended the 10 a.m. commemoration
in the St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzis Cemetery in
Old San Juan, where the remains of the Lares native are buried.
Born Dolores Lebrón Sotomayor on Puerto Rico
Discovery Day, Nov. 19, 1919, in one of the
historically patriotic towns, she was a lifelong
fighter for the cause of Puerto Rican independence.
The daughter of a coffee plantation foreman,
Lebrón joined the Liberal Party and became
involved romantically with Lares poet and
Nationalist Francisco Matos Paoli. Before the end
of World War II, however, she set out looking for
a better life in New York, where she became a seamstress.
Lebrón died at age 90, having spent 25 of her
life in United States prisons for having directed
a Puerto Rican Nationalist command of four that
on March 1, 1954 conducted a shootout on the U.S.
House of Representatives in Washington to
denounce the colonial situation after the
creation two years earlier of the Commonwealth status.
Todays activity is organized by the Puerto Rico
Nationalist Party, along with the Puerto Rican
Independence Party and the Caribbean and Latin
American Coordinator of Puerto Rico. Leaders of
the three groups will lead the tribute, according
to Linda Colón Lebrón, who represents the
Nationalist secretariats for Women and International Relations.
In the dramatic shootout, Lebrón and her
companions in the spectators gallery shot as many
as 30 bullets, wounding five congressmen.
Lebrón, who was the subject of movies, books and
paintings, always was proud of her role in the
shooting. She said the new status was only more
colonization. She fully expected that her
participation, brandishing a Luger and shouting
Viva Puerto Rico, would cost her her life.
She remained faithful to her ideals until her
death, and served 60 days in jail for protesting
the presence of the U.S. Navy base in Vieques.
However, she did reject violence in favor of
civil disobedience, which she said was more effective.
During the shooting 57 years ago, she wore bright
lipstick and appeared like a beauty queen. Later,
she wore her hair white and her clothes black.
She had fired her eight shots at the ceiling, and
therefore received a lighter sentence than the
other three men who joined her, Rafael Cancel ,
Andres Figueroa and Irving Flores. Later, all
four were pardoned, and released, by President
Jimmy Carter. Figueroa was released earlier
because he had cancer. She received a heroines
welcome, but the pardons were opposed by Gov.
Carlos Romero Barceló, who said it would encourage terrorism.
In New York, she joined the Puerto Rican
Nationalist Party, becoming a follower of Pedro
Albizu Campos, and promoting her strong feminist
ideals. It was Albizu who got her involved with
the dramatic attack on Congress, one of several
drastic moves, including the Jayuya Uprising in
which another young woman, Blanca Canales, was involved.
In prison, she built an altar in her cell and
said she had repeated ecstatic religious visions.
She refused to apply for parole because that
meant apologizing. Back in Puerto Rico, she
turned to religion with an unabashed passion,
speaking of her Christian principles at every
opportunity. Although some serious wounds were
inflicted during her 1954 actions, she never
expressed regret for what she believed she had to do.
Lebrón is survived by her husband, Dr. Sergio
Irizarry, whom she met when he monitored her
health in prison. The couple moved to a small
house in Loíza, filled with religious statues and
a large Puerto Rican flag, but the house burned
down in 2005. Since then, until her death last
year, she suffered a number of illnesses, but
remained true to her friends and her ideals.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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