Monday, September 24, 2007

Revisiting September 23, 1868: Crushing or Sowing-the-Seeds of a Liberation Quest?

By Hiram José Irizarry Osorio, Research Associate at the Kirwan Institute

In my college student days in the early 1990s I did not miss a Grito de Lares celebration. I understood it as part of my political awakening and education, trying to reconnect with the events that took place on September 23, 1868. While most of my colleagues enjoyed a day without classes, going to beach and mingling (perfectly understandable), I joined one or two friends and drove inland to Lares, to the Revolutionary Square. The day was packed with political discourses and musical events (morning until night). The day was divided into two distinct celebrations: morning and early afternoon vis-à-vis late afternoon and early evening. This partitioning is due to frictions within the Puerto Rican movement for independence. It has been a while since I have been to Lares or Grito de Lares celebration, but what does it mean? What does it represent?

I view it as an important historical event. It was the first time that, as a collective, a section of the inhabitants of the Puerto Rican archipelago mobilized against the imperial power of the time: Spain. The movement was crushed, but it sowed the seeds for future generations to oppose colonialism (Spain and the U.S.). As I underscored, fragmentation and frictions exist within the movement toward independence and among other different political groups in Puerto Rican society. But one thing could be stated definitively; although differences exist of how to best relate with the U.S. and how to best preserve, fulfill, and project Puerto Rican culture and identity into the future, nobody today questions the existence of a people labeled as Puerto Ricans. And that fact is owed to the men and women that courageously took the leap of faith to rebel and shout against an imperial power for its liberation. Furthermore, and constitutive of the movement crushed on September 23, 1868, was a joint effort for independence and slavery’s abolition. Thus, five years later (1873) slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico, partly due to the efforts of these revolutionaries.

Nevertheless, the struggle is not over. The liberation quest is on the march and it should mean something deeper than mere nationalism or independence for independence sake. Therefore, I close this entry with a quote from Franz Fanon:

“A bourgeoisie that has only nationalism to feed the people fails in its mission and inevitably gets tangled up in a series of trials and tribulations. If nationalism is not explained, enriched, and deepened, if it does not very quickly turn into a social and political consciousness, into humanism, then it leads to a dead end. A bourgeois leadership of the underdeveloped countries confines the national consciousness to a sterile formalism. Only the massive commitment by men and women to judicious and productive tasks gives form and substance to this consciousness. It is then that flags and government buildings cease to be the symbols of the nation. The nation deserts the false glitter of the capital and takes refuge in the interior where it receives life and energy. The living expression of the nation is the collective consciousness in motion of the entire people. It is the enlightened and coherent praxis of the men and women. The collective forging of a destiny implies undertaking responsibility on a truly historical scale. Otherwise there is anarchy, repression, the emergence of tribalized parties and federalism, etc. if the national government wants to be national it must govern by the people and for the people, for the disinherited and by the disinherited. No leader, whatever his worth, can replace the will of the people, and the national government, before concerning itself with international prestige, must first restore dignity to all citizens, furnish their minds, fill their eyes with human things and develop a human landscape for the sake of its enlightened and sovereign inhabitants.”

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Hardworking in any field may get strong person in the field that he works for the future.Teachers play an important role in that field.
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    Federal Urdu University