Tag Archives: Olga Viscal
In Nationalist Heroines: Puerto Rican Women History Forgot 1930s-1950s (N.J.: Markus Wiener Publishers, Inc., 2016, 347 pp.), Puerto Rican historian Olga Jiménez de Wagenheim not only reminds her readers of the fact that Puerto Rican women were not (and still are not, allow me to add) invisible to our oppressor in the course of our struggle for independence from Yankee imperialism, but also guides us by the hand through a profusely and adequately documented exposition that provides a panoramic view of our most recent political history.
The book pays tribute to sixteen women, fifteen of which were persecuted and incarcerated for having participated or just seeming to the Invader to have participated in the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico’s 1950s armed struggle, plus one who heroically survived the 1937 Ponce Massacre. Regarding that self-imposed limitation, Jiménez de Wagenheim says she is “aware that other Puerto Rican women have been imprisoned for their political ideals since the 1950s and also merit an in-depth study of their deeds and contributions to the cause of Puerto Rico’s independence” and adds: “Regret not being that scholar.” In addition, she provides a brief and vivid introduction with a much needed account of the objective conditions that led to the 1950 insurrection against U. S. tyranny.
Although the title indicates that it is about Nationalist women, she justifiably includes one who was not: pacifist Ruth M. Reynolds, from The Black Hills of the Lakota natives, who played a very important role in our struggle, but was not a member of the Nationalist Party ―a point Jiménez de Wagenheim does make clear. On the other hand, the book’s subtitle, Puerto Rican Women History Forgot 1930s-1950s, invites a semantic analysis, for it could be argued that these compañeras were not forgotten by History, insofar as the Peoples, their leaders, and their historians are the ones who forget. Furthermore, most of them seem to have been forgotten, not all of them.
Jiménez de Wagenheim, for long a member of the Puerto Rican diaspora who, although in the monster’s belly, has held fast to her own family surname and even to its graphic accent, is no newcomer to these endeavors, having published books and articles on other aspects of Puerto Rico’s political history, including our rebellion against the Spanish empire. Above all, she has done so with utmost care and respect for historical facts, a methodology some authors and even some critics seem to shun. For this book, she availed herself of primary sources such as public documents, most of them only recently made available, written testimonies, and tape-recorded as well as personal interviews with sources which, contrary to some authors, she duly identifies.
However, although evidently quite fond of details, Jiménez de Wagenheim avoids mentioning meaningful events if only, in this particular case, at least in bibliographical notes. Such is the case of the Rhoads scandal ―very likely one of the reasons the Nationalist party resorted to armed struggle―; Albizu’s claims of exposition to radiation ―which Carmín Pérez and Isabel Rosado mention in their interviews as does Rosa Collazo in her memoirs―; and the insanity diagnosis governor Muñoz Marín ordered specially for the Nationalist leader in order to counter those claims.
On the other hand, this book’s abundance of biographical data is such that, despite my having conversed now and then with nine of the women here portrayed and having interviewed most of them decades ago, there is an array of facts I have come to learn only from reading the meticulous narrative it contains.
Despite its use of the verb “assassinate” in reference to the attempt by freedom fighters to execute President Truman and to assertions regarding Albizu’s state of health while in the U.S. that can be refuted on the basis of the historical record, Nationalist Heroines: Puerto Rican Women History Forgot 1930s-1950s is a reliable source of knowledge about our plight under U.S. imperialism. Written in English, it not only will tend to strengthen even more the cultural and political ties between Puerto Ricans in our motherland and those in the U. S. and elsewhere, but also will illuminate other readers who are just beginning to learn about our existence as a subjugated Caribbean nation.
Based on experience, one can reasonably expect the Puerto Rican Independentist Party to go out of its way to make sure that it is widely distributed throughout the Island.
La inscripción de Albizu para el servicio militar
La tarjeta de inscripción de Albizu para el adiestramiento militar (Officers’ Reserve Corps), la cual él firmó de su puño y letra el 5 de junio de 1917, cuando sólo tenía 23 años de edad y estudiaba en Harvard (da como fecha de nacimiento el 29 de junio de 1893), sugiere, si es que no revela, a un Albizu en temprano proceso de desarrollo ideológico y presagia al Albizu revolucionario de quien he dicho ―para disgusto de algunos― que no era lo intransigente que parecía ser. En el mismo acepta jurisdicción del gobierno de Estados Unidos sobre su persona al decir que es ciudadano natural de ese país y solicitar que se le exima del reclutamiento militar por estar en vías de convertirse en oficial del ejército de esa nación.
Además, el documento augura la estratégica flexibilidad que demostrará como presidente del Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico-Movimiento Libertador en aras de dejar sentada la ilegalidad del traspaso de Puerto Rico a EE. UU. por medio del Tratado de París al defender a Luis F. Velázquez en una corte colonial en 1932, ante una corte de apelaciones de Estados Unidos en 1935 y finalmente ante la máxima corte del imperio, la que rehusó ver el caso.
En 1943 Albizu asume una posición intransigente al negarse a aceptar la jurisdicción del gobierno de EE. UU. sobre su persona cuando le corresponde salir en probatoria de la cárcel federal de Atlanta en la provincia de Georgia. (En aquel momento sale de la cárcel con sus propias condiciones por las razones que ya he dicho y repetido en otros escritos). Ya antes había rechazado la llamada bonificación por buena conducta.
A partir de 1948, tras su regreso en diciembre de 1947, recurre a la desobediencia civil violando con sus discursos por todo el País la recién aprobada ley de “La Mordaza” al tiempo que promueve la lucha armada. Después de la insurrección de octubre vuelve a defenderse en las cortes coloniales como lo hicieron el resto de sus seguidores en el Partido, con excepción de Olga Viscal Garriga.