El Maestro In Latin America, Pt.2

Internationalizing The Nationalist Movement (Continued)

Cuba: September 16 – December 1927

Cuba, at this time, was under the repressive dictatorship of General Gerardo Machado. Undaunted, Don Pedro spoke out publicly against the dictatorship, as he did on October 10 in a speech delivered at the statue of the Cuban revolutionary José Martí in Havana’s Parque Central. He also developed close ties with the Cuban youth and student movements 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 Mausoleum of the Martyred Students 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 in tribute to Don Pedro was hosted by the Athens Club, an Afro-Cuban civic and cultural organization founded in 1917. At the event the Cuban historian Dr. Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring read a declaration made in support of Puerto Rico’s struggle against “the systematic plans employed by the Yankees to destroy the Puerto Rican nationality.” This declaration, addressed to the country of Cuba in general, was on behalf of the Junta Nacional Cubana Pro-Independencia de Puerto Rico that was 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 fulfilling his patriotic ideals: After attending a conference given by him, a group of communist students found it suspicious that Don Pedro would not allow them to accompany him to his hotel. Deciding to follow him and see where he was staying, they were surprised to find that Don Pedro had been sleeping on a bench in el Paseo del Prado. Starting a collection, the students were able to pay for a hotel room for part of his stay. Don Pedro was soon forced to leave Cuba for Mexico due to an increase in repression by the Machado regime in anticipation of a visit to Cuba by U.S. President Coolidge.

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, which had passed anti-clerical laws restricting the power of priests, and the Catholic Church, which responded with open opposition to the government. “The atmosphere,” Don Pedro said, “is the most hostile found so far.”

In this atmosphere, Don Pedro apparently was granted an interview with Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles. However, the interview was postponed twice, even after Don Pedro presented himself for both, and it never happened. According to Don Pedro’s wife, he was able to make some kind of contact with organizations in Mexico and build up a feeling of solidarity between nations, but in general it can be said that his time in Mexico did not achieve the results he had 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 the top Puerto Rican politicians to write to U.S. 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, the World Congress of the Latin Press.

Attending the Congress as a representative of El Nacionalista de Puerto Rico, Don Pedro immediately wrote a series of motions, four of which were: 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 not be allowed to take part 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 arguing that the Congress should be free of politics. The discussion became so intense, with Don Pedro insisting that he be afforded the right to have his motions heard, that the President of the Congress adjourned the session so that smaller committees, which would meet later that day, could be formed. Despite continued resistance to even reading them, Don Pedro’s motions were read and voted on, with none passing. With several delegates having withdrawn their original support in the last moment, they later admitted to having been pressured to do so.

Peru: March 1928 – December 1929

Much like his time in Mexico, Don Pedro’s time in Peru did not result in much practical support for the nationalist movement of Puerto Rico. Perhaps of greatest significance was that he was able to join his wife and children and meet his daughter Laura Esperanza for the first time. Coincidentally, Laura Meneses’ father was a Colonel in the Peruvian Army and had information regarding the military situation in Lima that Don Pedro was able to study. With Peru under the dictatorship of Augusto B. Leguía, Don Pedro is said to have given input into a possible uprising against him.

Taking time in Peru to write letters to the nationalist leaders of the Dominican Republic that he had connected with, Don Pedro also wrote home to Nationalist Party leadership in Puerto Rico expressing his desire to continue his travels to Argentina, requesting financial assistance to do this. Failing to obtain any additional money or receive a response, he began preparations for the return 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 made contact with people working in opposition to the dictatorship of Venezuelan 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. Being able to visit the birth and resting place of Simón 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 and had considerable success in the mission of internationalizing the patriotic movement of Puerto Rico. 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 resist imperialist influence. 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 can be argued to be an effort to prevent any narrative in opposition to U.S. interventionist 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 nearly three years of traveling.


References:

  • 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).

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