Don Pedro’s parents are Juliana Campos Campos and Alejandro Albizu y Romero. They have significantly different origins that converged in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Juliana was born in 1857 in Ponce’s neighboring town of Juana Díaz, presumably into an enslaved status. Her mother, Ana María, was an enslaved woman of African descent that worked on a hacienda in that town owned by a man named Adolfo Campos.
After Adolfo died, Juliana left the hacienda with her older sister Rosa and settled in a neighborhood of Ponce that is said to have been established by formerly enslaved people after the abolition of slavery in 1873. Juliana’s father was a man named Tomás that, according to accounts, arrived in Puerto Rico from the U.S. South as an enslaved person.
Alejandro was born in 1844 Ponce where both his parents met after separately moving there in 1821 from Venezuela. Alejandro’s father, Antonio Albizu Ordoñez, was of Basque origin and owned Hacienda Rita in Barrio Tercero where Alejandro served as mayordomo. According to the 1872 Registro Central de Esclavos, twenty-two people were enslaved in Don Antonio’s name, three of which were listed as being of direct African origin.
Alejandro’s mother, Rita Romero Molina, was the daughter of Francisco Romero, a two-time interim mayor of Ponce. Alejandro, who studied business administration in Baltimore, Maryland, is said to have considered joining the U.S. South during the Civil War but was dissuaded by his father. He eventually worked as an accountant and then as an administrator for the customs office in Ponce.
Whatever the circumstances that brought about the meeting of Don Pedro’s parents and his birth, it was not a simple matter. His father Alejandro was not only part of a landowning family that benefited from the work of enslaved people, but he was also married. His wife, with whom he had three children, was Cristina Antonsanti Romero. Consequently, when Juliana Campos gave birth to their child it was registered as ‘illegitimate’ with the name Pedro Campos and no mention of a father or second surname. It was not until the year 1914 that Don Pedro, in a short trip to Puerto Rico in the middle of his studies at Harvard University, went with his father to a Ponce law office and was legally recognized as his son, allowing him to take on the surname Albizu.
According to the racial categories common in Puerto Rico and much of the Caribbean, Don Pedro was born a mulatto. Through his parents he inherited an ancestry composed of European and African elements, with his European ancestry coming from a unique cultural region known as the Basque Country that lies along the border between Spain and France. While his paternal side was European, landowning, and a benefactor of the institution of slavery, Don Pedro nevertheless spoke positively of his paternal family both in private and in public.
There are two dates given as the birthdate of Pedro Albizu Campos—September 12, 1891 and June 29, 1893. The confusion around which date to use is frustrated further by the fact that, throughout his life, Don Pedro himself used both dates at different moments. Even worse, there were moments when Don Pedro used one date when discussing his birth date but gave an age that corresponded to being born on the other. Letters and statements by family and close associates don’t provide any clarity either as they also wavered between the two dates.
The key to making sense of this double birthdate confusion lies in the belief of Don Pedro’s mother that a person’s spirit can be incorporated into the body of another person. Having given birth to a child on the 12th of September 1891, Juliana Campos registered this child as Pedro Campos. Not long after, this child passed away. Juliana then gave birth to another child on the 29th of June 1893, the Catholic feast day of San Pedro and San Pablo throughout Latin America.
Due to her spiritual beliefs, coupled with the religious significance of the date, Juliana considered this child to have the spirit of her earlier-born son and maintained its name as Pedro. No birth records corresponding with the date of June 29, 1893 exist for this second child because Juliana did not go about the registration process. It was her belief that the child was a reincarnation of her earlier born—it was the same child.
As was said, Don Pedro used both dates at different times. For example, when he was admitted to Harvard University in 1913, the birthdate he wrote on his admissions papers was June 29, 1893. When he went with his father just a year later to be legally recognized by him, the date of birth he gave was September 12, 1891. What can be said from what is known is, in essence, the ‘spiritual’ birthdate of Pedro Albizu Campos is September 12, 1891, and his ‘biological’ birthdate is June 29, 1893.
- Pedro Albizu Campos: Las Llamas de la Aurora- Acercamiento a su Biografía, by Marisa Rosado (Ediciones Puerto, 2008).
- Episode 1: Albizu’s Birthday, by whoisalbizu (2011).
- The Ruth M. Reynolds Papers, Center for Puerto Rican Studies Library and Archives (Hunter College, CUNY).