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El Grito De Lares
By Dr. José Solís Jordán-González
Today, as I sit in a prison cell, I hear in the background news about the release of some of our compañeras and compañeros from U.S. prisons. The only aspect that draws the attention of most people is the use of a language of fear. It has historically been the case that a people raised on a militaristic and hateful foundation is hard-pressed to seek a more just and human co-existence, and so the media pre-empts news of their release by presenting news of political violence elsewhere in the world. God bless all people who struggle that social justice may nourish the future of the human spirit and that love as a motivation and not hate or destruction be the guiding force. And it is of that which I wish to share with you today as we commemorate El Grito de Lares of September 23, 1868. The release of our political prisoners - and we must demand the immediate release of all Puerto Rican political prisoners - is painful for the colonizer, not because of what they allegedly did, but because it represents the reaffirmation of the Puerto Rican nation: a people, a culture, a nation of our own without the need to be hyphenated and thus legitimized by the colonizer. What makes it so difficult for the colonizer, who hides behind a language of terror, is his inability and resistance to love as a human, to understand as a free person, to appreciate as a citizen. As long as the colonizer believes his freedom is guaranteed at the expense of others, he will never be free, and so the persistence of the militarization of our country, of our land.
And yet, on this Grito de Lares we can reflect upon and celebrate our nationhood, maybe like never before. Why? Because the people of Puerto Rico - humiliated by the destructiveness, lies, deceit, and violation of law committed by the U.S. Navy in Vieques - have demanded the demilitarization of Vieques. No! to the destruction of the fishing industry in Vieques. No, to the destruction of the ocean and shores of Vieques. No, to the destruction of the emotional, psychological, and physical health of our people in Vieques. No, to the continued destruction of the economy of Vieques. No, to the displacement of the people of Vieques from their land, from our land. No, to the forces of destruction that hide behind a facade of a language of deceit, manipulating the pockets, sentiments and lives of our people. The U.S. Navy has made it clear that its primary interest is national security. Whose nation? Who protects our national interests if not us? How dare they speak of protecting democracy while violating our human rights? To this the people of Puerto Rico have cried out, "¡Basta Ya!" The nation has reaffirmed its nationhood; El Grito de Lares lives.
So too have the people spoken through the most recent plebiscite of December 13, 1998. How interesting to study the U.S. media coverage and reactions from the colonizer! And yet to us, the people of Puerto Rico, the dearest statement made as a result of that vote was the rejection of statehood and the reaffirmation of our nationality. We know and express our nationality in all that we do. For over 100 years the U.S. has attempted to destroy and confuse us regarding our identity, and yet to no avail. We have never denied ourselves our nationality; this too is a reaffirmation of our Grito de Lares. Maybe one day the colonizer will be able to understand the meaning of those beautiful words spoken by one of his own founding fathers when Thomas Paine declared, "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it." Freedom is not the fruit of domination, conquest and colonialism. It is a social and political affirmation of love and respect for human integrity, dignity, and rights. Freedom, not colonialism, makes democracy possible.
The demands for the release of Puerto Rican political prisoners, reaffirmed on August 29, 1999, during one of Puerto Rico's largest mass demonstrations; the persistence and commitment of the entire nation to the demilitarization of Puerto Rican territory together with the cry for the release of the political prisoners; the rejection of statehood during the December 13, 1998 plebiscite vote; and the nationwide demonstrations and general strike against privatization - all testify and bear evidence of an undeniable truth, a truth born on September 23, 1868. We have been and are a nation. One hundred years of U.S. colonial and military rule have been unable to destroy this. U.S. colonial rule needs not fear the political prisoners, or the people of Vieques, or Puerto Rico, What the colonizer fears is that which it discovers about itself, that which is revealed when contradiction is made more evident than the power to conceal the lie.
I don't hate, I teach. I don't destroy. I build. I do not need to bring the colonizer down to raise the glory of my people. What the colonizer fears is himself, not us.
And so today, here locked up in my cell, I extend a warm embrace to all of you - and a smile, because each time we express our nation, I am reminded of just how free I really am. We, the people of Puerto Rico, invite you to celebrate with us El Grito de Lares and anxiously await your solidarity and support with our human right to be free of colonial rule.
God bless all of us. Thank you.
José Solís Jordán-González
September 23, 1999
Write to Dr. Solís at the following address:
Dr. José Solís Jordán-González
F.C.I. Coleman Low
PO Box 879
Coleman, FL 33521-0879