Pedro Albizu Campos

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Pedro Albizu Campos
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Pedro Albizu Campos

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos (September 12, 1891April 21, 1965) born in Tenerias Village in Ponce, Puerto Rico was the son of Alejandro Albizu and Juana Campos. He was also the nephew of Juan Morel Campos, one of Puerto Rico's greatest composers of danzas. Albizu was the leader and president of the "Partido Nacionalista Puertorriqueño" (Puerto Rican Nationalist Party) and avid advocate of Puerto Rican independence from the United States by what ever means necessary, especially since no real "Democratic process" in Puerto Rico did exist until 1952, when Puerto Rico became a colony of the United States under the name of "Commonwealth," after the independence movement was decimated. Albizu felt that Puerto Rico deserved the same right as the United States and other countries had to fight for independence.

Known as an energetic orator he is known also as El Maestro ("The Teacher"), and considered the spiritual leader of the Puerto Rican people.

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Education

Pedro demonstrated exceptional intellect at an early age. In 1912 he was awarded a scholarship to study Engineering, specializing in Chemistry at the University of Vermont. In 1913 he continued his studies at Harvard University.

At the outbreak of World War I, Pedro volunteered in the United States Infantry. Albizu was trained by the French Military mission and served under General Frank McIntyre where he was assigned to an African-American unit and was discharged as a First Lieutenant. During this time he was exposed to the racism of the day which left a mark in his beliefs towards the relationship of Puerto Ricans and the United States.

In 1919, Albizu returned to Harvard University and was elected president of Harvard's Cosmopolitan Club. He met with foreign students and lecturers, like Sudas Ghandra Gose (Indian Nationalist leader with Gandhi) and the Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore. He became interested in the cause of Indian independence and helped to establish several centers in Boston for Irish Independence. He met Eamon de Valera and later became a consultant in the drafting of the constitution of the Irish Free State. He graduated from Harvard University obtaining a Law degree as well as degrees in Literature, Philosophy, Chemical Engineering and Military Science. He was fluent in English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Latin and Greek. At the time he received job offers as Hispanic representative 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, yet Albizu opted to return to Puerto Rico.

Nationalist Campaign

In 1922 Albizu married Dr. Laura Meneses, a Peruvian whom he had met at Harvard University. Two years later in 1924 he joined the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico and was elected vice president. In 1927, Albizu travels to Santo Domingo, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela, seeking solidarity for the Puerto Rican Independence movement. In 1930 he was elected president of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and formed the first Women's Nationalist Committee, in the island municipality of Vieques, Puerto Rico.

In 1932 Albizu publishes a manuscript in which he exposes Doctor Cornelius P. Rhoades. In the manuscript the doctor admits to killing Puerto Rican patients and injecting many with cancer cells as part of a medical experimentation conducted in San Juan's Presbyterian Hospital for the Rockefeller Institute. This letter revealed the racist vision that some Americans harbored toward people of color.

The Nationalist Party obtained poor results in the 1932 election, but continued with their campaign to teach and unite the people behind a free Puerto Rico. At the same time, continued repression from the United States against Puerto Rican independence was now met with armed resistance.

In 1934 Albizu represented sugar cane workers as a lawyer against the U.S. sugar and utilities monopolies.

In 1935, four Nationalists were killed by the police under the command of Colonel E. Francis Riggs, the incident became known as the Rio Piedras Massacre. The following year in 1936, nationalists Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp assassinated Colonel Riggs. They were arrested, and summarily executed without a trial at the police headquarters in San Juan. Pedro Albizu Campos proclaimed them heroes.

San Juan Federal Court ordered 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 Americans voted 7 to 5 not guilty. Judge Cooper called for a new jury, this time with ten Americans and two Puerto Ricans and a guilty verdict was achieved. In 1937, a group of lawyers, including a young Gilberto Concepcion de Gracia tried in vain to defend the Nationalists but, the Boston court of appeals, which strangely holds jurisdiction over federal matters in Puerto Rico, upheld the verdict. Pedro Albizu Campos along with other Nationalist leaders were sent to the Federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. On March 21, a protest march was held in Ponce in which police opened fire on the crowd. Twenty-one unarmed marchers, bystanders were killed, and 200 others wounded in what has become known as the Ponce Massacre. In 1947 Albizu returned to Puerto Rico and it was believed that he began preparing, along with other members of the Nationalist Party, an armed struggle against the proposed plans to change Puerto Rico's political status into a commonwealth of the United States.

Pedro Albizu Campos would be jailed again after the revolt of 1950 when a group of Puerto Rican nationalists staged a revolt in the island, known as The Jayuya Uprising (El Grito de Jayuya) and which included an attack on La Fortaleza (the Puerto Rican governor's mansion) and Blair House, by nationalist Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, where president Harry S. Truman was staying while the White House was being renovated. During the attack on the president, Torresola and policeman, Private Leslie Coffelt, were killed. Pedro Albizu Campos was arrested at his home after a brief shoot out with the police. Subsequently 3,000 independence supporters were arrested. In 1951 Pedro Albizu Campos was jailed and sentenced to eighty years in prison.

Albizu was pardoned in 1953 by then governor Luis Muñoz Marín but the pardon was revoked the following year after the 1954 nationalist attack of the United States House of Representatives, when four Puerto Rican Nationalist, led by Lolita Lebron opened fire from the gallery of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.. Some members of Congress were wounded, one seriously; but no one was killed. The shooters did not resist arrest, claiming the action was to attract the world's attention to the US military occupation of Puerto Rico. Albizu refused to allow the police to enter his home in San Juan. A shootout occurred but he was later placed into custody in an unconscious state and jailed again at La Princesa in San Juan.

While in prison, Pedro Albizu Campos' health deteriorated. In 1956, he suffers a stroke in prison and was transferred to San Juan's Presbyterian Hospital under police guard. He alleged that he was the subject of human radiation experiments in prison. Officials suggested that Albizu was insane although others who attended him believe that burns on his skin where consistent with radiation exposure. On November, 1964 Pedro Albizu Campos was again pardoned by outgoing governor Luis Muñoz Marín. Pedro Albizu Campos died on April 21, 1965.

In 1994, under the administration of President Bill Clinton the United States Department of Energy disclosed that human radiation experimentation was conducted without consent on prisoners during the 1950's-1970's. It is still unclear if Pedro Albizu Campos was among the subjects of such experimentation.

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