Support Of Indian And Irish Independence
While attending Harvard University, Don Pedro is known for engaging with events and issues relating to Latin America and countries throughout the world, and to have been greatly influenced by the revolutionary movements existing at the time in India and Ireland. Regarding the movement for Indian independence from British rule, as previously mentioned, Don Pedro was selected to represent Harvard in the welcome reception for the visiting Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. At this reception Don Pedro spoke following Tagore’s welcoming speech and commented on his definition of nationalism.
Don Pedro’s views on the forms of struggle being adopted in India, which included Mohandas Gandhi’s non-violence, are said to have been more aligned with those elements that favored armed struggle, with the Indian nationalist Bal Gangadhar Tilak being the most cited example.
While this may be true, it should also be made clear that he was also able to articulate a profound appreciation for aspects of the non-violent forms of struggle. This was made most explicit when, in a 1948 article just days after the passing of Gandhi, he wrote the following:
“The whole of India was made to embrace the recovery of its national will and accept non-cooperation with the foreign despotism that subjugated it, as the effective force to destroy it… Gandhi for the whole world represents the infinite power of the spirit. Already almost a skeleton… The Mahatma taught us that Power is within us. And that freedom must be first in the soul and it will be invincible; it will prevail over all despotisms.”
The revolutionary movement of the Irish people in their own struggle against British colonial rule would be an even greater influence. In this movement Don Pedro saw elements comparable to the situation of Puerto Rico that he emphasized in his leadership years later: a predominantly Catholic island nation with its own language, history, and culture facing a large, predominantly Protestant, English-speaking empire. As a student leader Don Pedro had the opportunity to personally meet Éamon De Valera, a prominent Irish revolutionary leader, during a 1919 visit to Harvard during a conference that Don Pedro also provided remarks in.
Following the bloody 1916 Easter Rebellion in Ireland, Don Pedro’s strong, unwavering support of full Irish independence was at odds with the predominantly conservative leanings of Harvard students and faculty. Undeterred by this climate, Don Pedro helped organize student councils in support of Irish independence at Harvard, Boston Technical College, and Boston College. He organized conferences, debates, and demonstrations in support of the Irish cause and collected donations outside factories and in Irish communities to give directly to it.
Don Pedro’s committed support of Irish independence was so genuine and clear that, on one occasion in front of an audience of 1,400 students, faculty, and foreign diplomats gathered to debate the topic, he delivered a speech resulting in a standing ovation. This ovation was interrupted by a member of the British Parliament on diplomatic leave compelled to say, “I am a British nobleman, so there is no need to inquire my opinion on the Irish question. But gentlemen I would not be a Britisher, I would not be a nobleman, if I failed to admit that Mr. Campos has just delivered the most complete, the most brilliant speech on this matter, that I have ever heard.”
Thanks to his reputation as an unyielding supporter of their cause, before the Constitution of the Irish Free State was adopted in 1922 Don Pedro was consulted while it was being drafted. The influence of the Irish revolutionary struggle on his political thinking cannot be overstated. In fact, in an interview regarding her book Ireland and Puerto Rico: The Untold Story, author Aoife Rivera Serrano stated that Don Pedro’s struggle was “entirely modeled on the Irish struggle against Britain.” The book Nosotros Solos: Pedro Albizu Campos y el Nacionalismo Irlandés by Juan Angel Silén is devoted entirely to examining this connection.
Committing To A Spiritual Path
In addition to an active identification with Ireland’s revolutionary struggle, another critical influence on Don Pedro’s political development was his personal commitment to Catholicism. Providing details about his decision to convert, the Puerto Rican poet and independence activist Juan Antonio Corretjer points to a priest named Father Ryan as guiding Don Pedro to make communion, and another priest named Father Luis Rodes, an astronomer of Catalonian descent, as impressing upon Don Pedro the unity of science with faith. The fact that there was a large Irish community in Boston observant of the religion also meant that Don Pedro would have come into contact with many devout Catholics during his work in support of Ireland’s independence.
Though an active member of St. Paul’s Catholic Club and a founder of Harvard’s Knights of Columbus, it is clear that Don Pedro adopted Catholicism for intellectual reasons rather than out of a purely religious experience. The reading of one specific text from 1842, El Protestantismo Comparado con el Catolicismo by the Spanish-born Jaime Balmes, is cited as a probable factor in the evolution of Don Pedro’s thinking. In this text Balmes argues, among other things, that Catholic and Spanish values are superior to Protestant and Northern European values in their respect of local cultures, customs, and languages. Additionally, Balmes quotes Irish patriots to emphasize his point regarding the failure of Protestants to secure Ireland’s freedom despite their claims of bringing Enlightenment and democracy.
In his essay on Don Pedro’s ‘Catholic worldview,’ scholar Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo points to three factors as serving to intensify his affinity with Balmes’ ideas. First, he highlights the influence on Don Pedro of the militant organizing and martyrdom of the Irish patriot James Connolly, a leader in the 1916 Easter Rebellion. Second, he highlights Don Pedro’s membership in the Knights of Columbus and that organization’s active use of Catholicism in support of patriotic ideals. Third, he highlights the prominent discussion of international law as it relates to independence for oppressed nationalities at the Versailles Peace Conference during the formation of the League of Nations after World War 1.
In another analysis on the approach to his faith, Don Pedro’s daughter Cristina Meneses Albizu-Campos suggested that his Christian spirituality was unifying and singularly oriented to the project of national liberation for Puerto Rico. Pointing out the various creeds of the people that took part in the nationalist movement under his leadership—“Catholics, Protestants, Espiritistas, Masons, Atheists, Agnostics”—she highlights the Catholic sense of service and sacrifice for others that defined Don Pedro’s political work. Without a doubt, it is this Catholic/religious sense of “duty to help others take the path of humanity,” as she described it, that profoundly influenced Don Pedro in Harvard.
- Albizu Campos and the Ponce Massacre, by Juan Antonio Corretjer (World View Forum, 1992).
- Algunas Ideas Tentativas del Pensamiento Social Cristiano en Pedro Albizu Campos, by Ernesto Sánchez Huertas in La Nación Puertorriqueña: Ensayos En Torno A Pedro Albizu Campos (Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1997).
- Ausubo Press will Publish Ireland and Puerto Rico: The Untold Story by Aoife Rivera Serrano, by PR Web (2009).
- The Catholic Worldview in the Political Philosophy of Pedro Albizu Campos: The Death Knoll of Puerto Rican Insularity, by Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo (U.S. Catholic Historian, Fall 2002).
- La Espiritualidad de Pedro Albizu Campos, by Cristina Meneses Albizu-Campos (Publicaciones Puertorriqueñas, 2008).
- Pedro Albizu Campos: Las Llamas de la Aurora- Acercamiento a su Biografía, by Marisa Rosado (Ediciones Puerto, 2008).
- War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror In America’s Colony, by Nelson A. Denis (Nation Books, 2015).