Internationalizing The Nationalist Movement
Don Pedro accepted the mission of representing the Nationalist Party in a tour of Latin America on September 6, 1925, and did not depart from Puerto Rico until June 20, 1927. The significance of the undertaking was not lost on Don Pedro, and he was so committed to making the trip that, due to very little money being raised, he and his wife decided to sell the furniture and other items in their possession to help finance it. He once told her, “If we want our movement to be a liberating movement, we cannot stop ourselves before any obstacle.” The personal sacrifice Don Pedro had to make for the trip obviously also included being separated from his family. Doña Laura, who was pregnant, and their two children lived for the duration of his trip with her family in Peru.
In his June 11, 1927 interview in Los Quijotes, Don Pedro provided the following analysis of Puerto Rico’s colonial situation and the real significance of his upcoming trip:
“Our painful situation under the empire of the United States is the situation that North America intends to impose on all our brother peoples of the Continent. Our cause is the Continental cause… If the North American absorption in our land triumphs, the Yankee spirit of conquest will have no restraint.”
Don Pedro also saw his trip as a continuation of the revolutionary work of Puerto Rican patriots like Ramón Emeterio Betances and Eugenio María de Hostos. Such revolutionaries, through their work to free Puerto Rico from imperial control, connected Puerto Rico’s struggle with the larger goal of achieving regional unity and security. To achieve this, they sought the formation of a confederation of the various nations of the Antilles. Don Pedro saw the importance of this Antillean Confederation but also contemplated a larger continental cause. Interestingly, it is precisely in the Antilles—in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba—where Don Pedro had the most success during his trip.
|Departs from Puerto Rico||June 20, 1927|
|Dominican Republic||June 21 – September 10, 1927|
|Haiti||September 11-13, 1927|
|Cuba||September 16 – December 1927|
|Mexico||December 1927 – February 1928|
|Cuba (Second time)||February 25 – March 1928|
|Peru||March 1928 – December 1929|
|Returns to Puerto Rico||January 4, 1930|
The Dominican Republic: June 21 – September 10, 1927
When Don Pedro arrived, the Dominican Republic was two years removed from an eight-year military occupation by the United States. As director of a newspaper, Don Pedro had been exchanging correspondence with Dominican patriots on the situation in their respective countries. This relationship made it possible for Don Pedro to be immediately received upon his arrival on June 21 by the Dominican Nationalist Party, the Dominican press, and others. The first action of Don Pedro was to pay a visit to the Capilla de los Inmortales de la Catedral de Santo Domingo and pay tribute to the Dominican revolutionaries whose remains were placed there, some of whom had worked with Ramón Emeterio Betances.
In his first interview in the Dominican Republic, Don Pedro stated that his work “must be mostly organizational.” He clarified:
“It is not my purpose to make beautiful speeches to garner ephemeral applause… I want to leave here, when I go, a living and permanent body that is in charge of reproducing the palpitations of Puerto Rican nationalism outside the homeland.”
During his trip, his work influenced the forming of the Junta Dominicana Pro-Independencia de Puerto Rico in Santo Domingo led by Federico Henríquez y Carvajal and Américo Lugo, the Junta Nacionalista Puertorriqueña in La Romana organized by Puerto Ricans living in the Dominican Republic, and other organizations in support of Puerto Rico’s independence movement in Santiago de los Caballeros and in Puerto Plata.
While in the Dominican Republic, Don Pedro was able to engage directly with the nation’s clergy, lawyers, students, journalists, doctors, senators, and other leaders. On one occasion, according to an account by his wife, Don Pedro was received by President Horacio Vásquez. Interestingly, it was also reported in a newspaper article written by Américo Lugo, president of the Dominican Nationalist Party, that “a stenographer sent by the United States Consulate” had been present at meetings with the specific intent of reporting Don Pedro’s activities to U.S. intelligence.
Haiti: September 11 – 13, 1927
Departing to Cuba with letters of introduction written by prominent Dominicans to Cuban anti-imperialist activists, Don Pedro made an unscheduled stop in Haiti. The country still under military occupation by the U.S., the captain of his ship begged Don Pedro not to disembark in Puerto Príncipe. Stressing his need to be in solidarity with the Haitian people and defy U.S. authority, Don Pedro was able to get the captain to let him go in the early morning on the condition that he return by 11am.
Don Pedro, who also spoke French, immediately directed a taxi driver to take him to the monument of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a leader in the Haitian Revolution that became the country’s first president in 1804. After paying his respects, Don Pedro asked a cab driver to take him to the home of Pierre Paul, the president of the Haitian Nationalist Party.
Received warmly by Pierre Paul, Don Pedro spoke to him very briefly about the political trip he was on and then returned to his ship. Within the hour, Paul was accompanied by fellow Haitian activist Jolibois Fils to invite Don Pedro to a champagne reception they had hastily organized for him. At this impromptu reception, more than one hundred Haitian nationalists were in attendance, as well as members of the Haitian press, all to give support and attention to the movement for Puerto Rico’s independence that Don Pedro represented. Years later, Don Pedro said this was “one of the most emotional moments of my life.”
In his brief stop in Haiti, Don Pedro made a memorable impact by defying the U.S. military occupation and setting foot on Haitian soil to engage with the local nationalist movement. Having just come from the Dominican Republic, he not only made a point to speak on the need for Spanish-speaking countries to support Haiti, but he also made a specific call for the patriotic union of Dominicans and Haitians. Of course, long before setting foot in Haiti he had voiced his opposition to the U.S. invasion there. For Don Pedro, Haiti’s national independence was an equally important part of the struggle against imperialism in the Caribbean and larger region.
Cuba: September 16 – December 1927
Cuba at this time was under the repressive dictatorship of General Gerardo Machado. Undaunted, Don Pedro arrived and spoke out publicly against the dictatorship. On October 10 he delivered a memorable speech at the statue of Cuban revolutionary José Martí in Havana’s Parque Central. During his time in Cuba, he developed close ties with Cuban youth and students fighting against the Machado regime. On November 27, the 56th anniversary of the execution by Spanish authorities of eight University of Havana medical students, Don Pedro spoke at the Mausoleo a los Estudiantes de Medicina in Havana Cemetery on the significance to Cuba, the Antilles, and the world to have such a university “inspired by the principle of the sacrifice of the innocent.”
In the beginning of November, an event was hosted in tribute to Don Pedro by the Athens Club, an Afro-Cuban civic and cultural organization founded in 1917. At the event, Cuban historian Dr. Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring read a declaration drafted in opposition to “the systematic plans employed by the Yankees to destroy the Puerto Rican nationality.” This declaration, addressed to the nation of Cuba, was on behalf of the Junta Nacional Cubana Pro-Independencia de Puerto Rico, formed following Don Pedro’s arrival and presided over by Cuban author Enrique José Varona.
In her biography on Don Pedro, Marisa Rosado uses one story from his trip to Cuba to exemplify his humility and willingness to sacrifice his own comfort in carrying out his patriotic duties. After attending one of his conferences, a group of communist students found it suspicious that Don Pedro did not allow them to accompany him to his hotel. Deciding to follow him and see where he was staying, they found that Don Pedro had been sleeping on a bench in el Paseo del Prado. Quickly raising funds, the students were able to pay for a hotel room for part of his stay. Not long after, Don Pedro left Cuba for Mexico due to an increase in repression by the Machado regime ahead of a visit to Cuba by the U.S. President.
Mexico: December 1927 – February 1928
Don Pedro described his time in Mexico as very disappointing. Optimistic and full of hope while he was in Cuba due to leads he had received there, he later wrote to his wife, “it seems that Mexicans abroad did not expect what has happened.” Don Pedro’s reference was to the violent conflict, known as the Cristeros War, between the Mexican government and the Catholic Church. In response to anti-clerical laws passed by the government that restricted the power of priests, the Cristeros, as they were known, openly opposed the government in violent confrontations. “The atmosphere,” Don Pedro said, “is the most hostile found so far.”
Despite this atmosphere, Don Pedro was granted an interview with President Plutarco Elías Calles. The interview, however, was postponed twice and, although Don Pedro presented himself for both scheduled meetings, they never happened. According to Don Pedro’s wife, he was able to make contact with organizations in Mexico and build a feeling of solidarity between nations, but in general it can be said that his time in Mexico did not achieve the results he hoped for at all.
Cuba: February 25 – March 1928
When Don Pedro was forced to leave Cuba for Mexico due to the repression of the Machado regime, it meant that he was unable to be present for the Sixth Pan-American Conference held in Havana from January 16-20. This conference, at which Puerto Rico was the only Latin American country to not have representation, motivated top Puerto Rican politicians to write President Coolidge, who was in attendance, to express their feeling of humiliation. Now back in Cuba, Don Pedro’s sole priority was to take part in another major event being held, the World Congress of the Latin Press.
Attending as a representative of El Nacionalista de Puerto Rico, Don Pedro immediately wrote a series of motions, four of which were asking: 1) the Congress issue a statement of protest against U.S. intervention in Latin America; 2) the Congress call on the world press to maintain a campaign against the U.S. military occupations of Haiti and Nicaragua; 3) the Latin press be in solidarity with the struggle to establish the Philippines and Puerto Rico as independent republics; 4) non-Latin newspapers with a presence in Latin America be denied participation in the Congress, as was the case with the United Press International and the Associated Press.
Though receiving support from various delegates—Cubans, South Americans, Belgians, Italians, and others—delegates from France spearheaded an opposition to Don Pedro’s motions by arguing that the Congress should be free of politics. The discussion became so intense, with Don Pedro insisting that he be granted the right to have his motions heard, that the president of the Congress adjourned the session and formed smaller committees that met separately in different locations later that day. Despite continued resistance to even reading them, Don Pedro’s motions were eventually read and voted on, with none of them passing. Several delegates withdrew their original support at the last moment, later admitting to having been pressured to do so.
Peru: March 1928 – December 1929
Like Mexico, time in Peru did not result in much practical support for Don Pedro and the nationalist movement. The greatest opportunity afforded by his trip to Peru was being able to join his wife and children and meet his daughter Laura Esperanza for the first time. Nevertheless, due to his father-in-law being a Colonel in the Peruvian Army, Don Pedro was at least able to discuss the military situation in Lima at some length. Peru being under the dictatorship of Augusto B. Leguía, Don Pedro is said to have given input into a possible uprising against him.
Taking time to write letters to the nationalist leaders of the Dominican Republic he had connected with, Don Pedro also wrote home to Nationalist Party leadership in Puerto Rico. In these letters he expressed his desire to continue his travels to Argentina and requested the financial assistance to do so. Failing to obtain any additional money or even receive a response, he began preparations for returning to Puerto Rico.
Venezuela: December 1929
On their way to Puerto Rico, Don Pedro and his family stopped in the Venezuelan coastal town of La Guaira for a few weeks. While there, he is said to have visited the capital of Caracas often and to have contacted people working in opposition to the dictatorship of President Juan Vicente Gómez. On one occasion, Don Pedro had the opportunity to deliver a speech against the dictatorial regime in front of the mausoleum of Simón Bolívar. Visiting the birth and resting place of Bolívar was no doubt of great significance to Don Pedro, Bolívar being the initiator of the great historical project of liberating the entirety of Latin America that Don Pedro saw his patriotic work as being a direct continuation of.
Return To Puerto Rico
Don Pedro sacrificed much in order to achieve such considerable success in his solidarity mission to Latin America. Establishing significant contacts in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba, he added new life to the historic goal of forming an Antillean Confederation able to block imperialist influence in the region. The organizations in support of Puerto Rico’s independence he left in the Dominican Republic and Cuba were a resolute victory. His work in the World Congress of the Latin Press, though neutralized, was important in exposing what were becoming coordinated efforts to prevent any narrative in opposition to U.S. international policies from gaining momentum in the world press. Don Pedro finally made his return to Puerto Rico, with his family, on January 4, 1930, after two and a half years of traveling.
- Albizu Campos y la Independencia de Puerto Rico, by Laura de Albizu Campos (Publicaciones Puertorriqueñas, 2007).
- Pedro Albizu Campos: Las Llamas de la Aurora- Acercamiento a su Biografía, by Marisa Rosado (Ediciones Puerto, 2008).
- Pedro Albizu Campos: Obras Escogidas, 1923-1936, Tomo I, edited by J. Benjamín Torres (Editorial Jelofe, 1975).