[News] Puerto Rico - Lolita Lebrón remembered 1 year later

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Aug 3 18:44:18 EDT 2011

Lolita Lebrón remembered 1 year later

Nationalist leader’s 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.

Today’s 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 heroine’s 
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.

Freedom Archives
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San Francisco, CA 94110

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