The Myth of Pedro Albizu Campos
by Raul Soto
November 9, 2000
[NOTE: Since a number of people have in the past expressed interest in using some posts for radio programs or other types of communications in the States, I'm sending this in English to save you all the trouble of translating it. ]
One of the most interesting things about today's 'independentismo' is its nationalistic streak, and their newly-found devotion to the figure of Pedro Albizu Campos. T-Shirts, posters, portraits, and quotes of Albizu are common in 'independentista' nazionalist rallies around the Island and in the US.
But how just much of what they say about Albizu is true, and how much is product of historical revisionism, of an attempt to manufacture a legend, a mythical hero, marthyr, prophet and leader, which can be used to rally together and unite the numerous pro-independence tribelets?
Here are some of the most common myths about Pedro Albizu Campos and some answers to them, from a conversation a statehooder friend of mine had with an Independentista professor from the UPR :
1. Albizu dedicated his life to be the lawyer of the workers and the poor
This is a lie. After 1937, Albizu spent most of his time perpetually in jail, not because he "dedicated his life to the poor", but because he was perpetually inciting those of weaker minds to violence.
2. Albizu was the President and Leader of one of the most influential political parties of his era
The Nationalist Party, contrary to this claim, was numerically tiny (just look at the 1932 election results, less than 4,000 votes). Of course, old Pete couldn't deal with the fact that *practically nobody* liked him. This, by the way, included INDEPENDENTISTAS themselves (think his color had to do something with that? Doesn't anybody find curious that all those lilly-white present-day "patriotas" who wouldn't be caught DEAD shaking the hand of a black man, give all these hellium-filled speeches about Albizu? I'll tell you why - because he's DEAD. If he were alive, Mari, Gallisá, Fufi Santori, Muriente, Farinacci, and yes, the little troika of Ruben, Fernando and Manuel wouldn't touch him with a ten foot pole). So dear old Pedro, after his crushing electoral defeat, decided to denounce the electoral process (talk about a sore loser).
I guess it all comes down to how one defines "influential". If by influental one means a small rabble of black-shirted (just like Mussolini's boys. Coincidence? Read on...) fanatics running amok and attempting to (and succeeding, as in the case of Riggs) murder anyone who disagrees with them (they even tried to off Santiago Iglesias, the labor leader, because he was pro-american), then I guess they might be 'influential'.
3. With his potential, his education, experience and proven intelligence, he could have been rich, successful, and maybe even challenge Luis Muñoz Marín for political power in the colony.
There's an old Aerosmith tune called "Dream On", and the title applies here. Albizu wouldn't have been elected dog catcher. Just ask any old geezer who lived through that era. Albizu was the kind of guy whose speeches are perhaps fun to listen (if you like screaming), but who scares the bejeezus out of people if the prospect of his gaining power became a reality.
Besides, he went to the polls only ONCE, and he got LESS than 4,000 votes. Some potential for political power...
4. Albizu decided to give his life, talents in the struggle for the freedom of Puerto Rico, when PR was threatened with the loss of its culture and "collective being" under the forced-americanization programs of the 20's and 30's
And instead, he was a sickening Hispanophile (funny, he wasn't into mentioning his African side) who even supported Franco, and before that, the Spanish Monarchy. Of course, all good fascists stick together.
Think about that, the grandson of people who were brought to the Island as SLAVES, under the lash and the most cruel conditions, and he supports the very regime that enslaved his family. Well, if statehooders are "pitiyankis", does that mean that Albizu was a "piticatalán" o "pitigallego"?
As for this "collective being" psychobabble: get real, we're all INDIVIDUALS. By the way, what happened to the Spaniards who populated the Island and then became Puerto Ricans, who took away their "collective being"? And why is it OK for that to have happened, but ANY kind of cultural influence from the US is not? And what about the Africans? You're not going to tell me that those folks were Catholic, ate rice and beans, and spoke Spanish in Ghana and Guinea, now are you? What happened to their "collective being"?
5. One can disagree with his rethoric and his methods, as the PIP did, and perhaps his personality, but no one can dismiss that he's a central figure in our history, because he directed a movement of people with the balls to risk their lives, families and property to fight for the freedom they thought was necessary
Hogwash. Albizu is a pimple in the history of Puerto Rico. He had NO popular support, his political thinking was profoundly FASCIST; he was also a conservative catholic who probably would have persecuted protestants, and he was NO FRIEND of labor, as you and the PIP would have us believe.
Remember what Albizu's solution to the cane workers' was during the strike of 1934-35? "Les daremos hombres de talla". As The Who put it: "Here's the new boss. Same as the old boss".
The quicker Albizu and his message of HATRED and DIVISION is relegated to the dustbin of history, the better off the Island will be. And, let's not forget, at his most violent, the PIP was the #2 party in Puerto Rico, poised to challenge the PPD for control of the Island. And just then Albizu and his yahoos decided to go for a coup d'etat. Ironic, ain't it? That the guy who spewed forth so much blather about independence is probably the guy responsible for hundreds of thousands of PRs turning AWAY from independence, and towards the USA? That's right, Albizu scared the hell out of people of that time. Incidentally, the Jayuya and Utuado fiasco is also where the independentistas got their "foaming at the mouth, bomb throwing, wild-eyed, raging lunatics" stereotype. If he had only let Concepción de Gracia and his guys do their stuff...
But no, as with all megalomaniacs, "I did it MY way"
6. We have to admire him for the same reasons that the world admires Washington, Bolívar, Sandino, Zapata, Mandela, Martin Luther Kind, José Martí, Maceo, San Martín and many others; because he decided to fight a clearly superior enemy, because he loved his people and wanted their freedom.
BS. It shows a remarkable lack of historical knowledge, or a serious ideological blindness, to say that. Unlike the men mentioned above, ALL of whom had MUCH MORE popular support than Albizu ever did, Albizu led a FASCIST movement (did you know what's the German word for Nationalist? NAZI). And you know what Fascism is all about, right? Well, we saw what it did in Europe during the 20's, 30's and 40's, right? And in Spain until the 70's. In fact, look at Milosevic, a good old nationalist if there ever was one. And this is to be admired???
And again, in 1948 the PIP got more than 22% of the vote. Why couldn't Albizu cooperate with them, his fellow independentistas? I'll tell you why, because his EGO got in the way. Funny, even TODAY, independentistas have more ego than camaraderie among themselves. Some things (and some people) never change.
Oh, and another thing: Fidel was in the Sierra Maestra with his troops. Washington was with his, crossing the Delaware. Bolivar put his own lands and his own money on the line to be with his troops. So did Mao during the "Long March". But WHERE was Albizu while his "troops" tried to take over Barrio Obrero, Jayuya and Utuado? Was he on the front, giving orders? Was he on a hand-to-hand battle against the oppressor or his colonial lackeys? NO! He was HIDING in an apartment in Old San Juan, and he came out naked, wrapped in a white towel, when the Police got him.
What a leader (not) !!!
7. He's worthy of an important place in the history of Puerto Rico and the Americas
I betcha if he were alive, YOU would be the first one to want him committed...
8. Statehooders say that Albizu was a terrorist. That's what the British said about Washington and his rebels, the Salvadorian oligarchy about the FMLN, Pinochet about Allende's people, Somoza and Batista about the guerrillas that confronted them, and so on. Each person should decide what his/her position in the political spectrum should be
The truth is that ALL those guys mentioned there had some measure of popular support, but Albizu? ONLY AFTER HE WAS SAFELY IN THE GRAVE. And even then it would be less than 3%.Albizu is a freaking myth created by the pseudo-intellectual petit-burgeois of the ivory towers, so that they could have some hero to follow and to brainwash impressionable minds with some of that good ol' patriotic fervor.
But not to worry, PRs have more common sense than that.
9. If Albizu was so insignificant as statehooders desperately claim, then why even mention him? One doesn't waste a pixel to criticize a myth, unless of course one views him as a threat
Just because someone disparages Albizu doesn't mean that he's a threat. Besides, the guy's been safely dead for over 30 years; and, at last glance, other than the usual blather from the ivory tower independentista set, his movement (mind you, I'll be GENEROUS and include ALL the independentistas under the same tent, although how the Frente Socialista with its classic adherence to Marxist crud, and the Partido Nacionalista with its adherence to Fascist standards get together is beyond me) has NO POPULAR SUPPORT. So, some threat.
10. Every movement has its heroes, and one of the PR Independence Movement's heroes is Albizu, for his dedication and courage to put his life in the line for his beliefs and the independence of Puerto Rico
Did you know that one of the requirements to practice Law in Puerto Rico is to swear loyalty to the US Constitution? So there's your 'patriot', swearing loyalty to the supreme law of the supposed oppressor. Albizu did it; as casey Stengel said "You can look it up".
11. Say what you want, and spin your disdain for Albizu any way you like. The fact remains that Albizu, as a man, may have been as flawed as any man is. But as a symbol of independence, of sacrifice, of love of his country, he will never lose his place in our history and in our hearts,
I assume that you speak for yourself. To me, he is the symbol of fanaticism, of racist hatred, and of immature passion. A guy who could have contributed a lot, but instead he wasted his life away.
12. The myth has public streets named in his honor, books written about his life and struggles, monuments stand for his memory. These things stand in diametrical contradiction to your ravings, and place him in the realm of the Titans of our independence movement as José de Diego, Betances, etc.
So? That's precisely the point. He's a myth created by the pseudo-intellectual petit burgeois of the ivory towers; and the monuments, books, and everything else is done in order to manufacture a Puerto Rican Bolívar, or Washington.
De Diego? Wasn't he Central Aguirre's lawyer during the sugarcane worker's strike? See, that's the essential problem with the supposed "independentistas" (really, now, isn't the sad truth that most of you talk the talk, but when it's time to walk the walk you get the shivers and vote Popular?). On the one hand, a lot of this "patriotero" talk; but on the other hand, it's TOTAL adherence to the status quo. What did Jacobo Morales call it? Oh, yeah, "Patriotas de Cafetín"...
13. You are sadly mistaken when you state "Albizu is a fricking myth created by the pseudo-intellectual petit burgeois of the ivory towers"
Where's the proof behind your claim? The FACT is that Albizu only went to the polls ONCE, and got LESS THAN 4,000 VOTES. Is that what you call a leader? When he was in jail, the VAST MAJORITY of Puerto Ricans, including Independentistas, were totally in agreement. It is only NOW, that he is safely dead and harmless, that he is supposedly venerated. Why?
14. More accurately, he was a product of the military colonial establishment of the US and their policies to erase our existence as a distinct culture
Really? The first thing is that by 1901, there was a CIVILIAN government in PR. The very first in our history, since Albizu's beloved Spaniards had never seen it fit to permit PRs to be ruled by civilians. There was also a Legislature that enacted all of the local laws, another first for PR.
As far as "erasing our existence as a distinct culture", the fact is that just as the Spanish imposed their Castilian language on the Taínos and the Africans they brought here under the lash, the US attempted to teach English (let's not even get into the historical fact that the FIRST public school system in PR was also part of the benefits of US rule, the Spanish believed in keeping the majority of the population illiterate and ignorant). Funny, all the hullaballo about English in the schools and not a single peep about the cultural GENOCIDE the Spanish perpetrated against the Africans and Taínos.
Albizu was more of a product of an illegitimate birth by a white man (a Spaniard) who did NOT recognize him as his son until Albizu was an adult, and of the racism of his independentista peers. Of course, to admit that his OWN kind rejected him because he was black would be too big an admission, right? Better to reject "the invader" than to actually look at Puerto Rico's society for what it REALLY was, and to a large degree, continues to be.
15. Albizu was the manifestation of the Puerto Rican Nation immune system, in raising to the defense of its identity. Without colonial rule, there would have been no Albizu, no need of him
The problem with what you say is that you seem to believe that there is some kind of "collective thought process" going on. Perhaps the Borg are like that, but human beings, and certainly Puerto Ricans, are not. The fact is, of course, that we are ALL individuals, unique, each and every single one of us. I don't want to burst your bubble, but I betcha if you ask 100 people what a Puerto Rican is, or what is the "Puerto Rican nation", you're going to get 100 totally different answers.
Albizu was simply a man faced with tremendous racism, rejection by both the blanquito society in PR and the racist society up north (although, with all the racism, he DID manage to go to Darmouth and Harvard. That's one hell of a way to stamp someone out, isn't it? By letting them go to the most prestigious institutions you have? To this day, independentistas are the maximum beneficiaries of the system they so delight in condemning. I wonder what would happen if it really came down to crunch time?)
Faced with that, he goes into this fantasy world where under the Spanish (notice that his father was a Spaniard that never took care of him. One could easily conclude that Albizu's EXTREME Hispanophilia was simply the little boy in search for the father that never was) everything was all right and all Puerto Ricans were taken care of. A culturally homogeneous Puerto Rico, where everyone had the same values and so forth.
What folly! It was false then and it is false now. Which, I guess, is probably one of the prime reasons Albizu couldn't get much popular support then...