Today would have been Puerto Rican independence activist Lolita Lebrón’s 100th birthday. She died on August 1, 2010 at the age of 90. During her life, Lebrón became a figure of Puerto Rican independence movement.
Lebrón is widely known for leading a group of independence activists in a violent protest of the United States Congress on March 1, 1954 to denounce Puerto Rican’s colonial status. Lebrón spent 25 years in prison for the action, although she was cleared of assault with intent to kill charges because she only fired at the ceiling.
Upon being arrested Lebrón declared: “I did not come here to kill anybody. I came to die for Puerto Rico.” The police also found a note in her purse. “My life I give for the freedom of my country.”
Lolita was and will always be one of the most important women leaders of our country. She is an example of the leading role women have had in the history of this country, although our official history tends to highlight men. I will remember her for her courage and commitment to human rights of all men and women through her struggle for freedom and Puerto Rico’s self-determination. These are human rights of the highest order on the international level, which Lolita fought for until the end of her life.”– Eva Prados, Lawyer and Activist
In her 80s, Lebrón was arrested twice for non-violent civil disobedience as she protested the US Navy presence on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. In her later life, Lebrón stated that civil disobedience was more effective than violence.
“There is no need now to kill for freedom,” she said in 1998.
She is remembered as the “emblematic heroine of independentista Puerto Rican women” by feminist activist, journalist, and scholar Norma Valle Ferrer.
Learn more in this article by Firuzeh Shokooh Valle, Puerto Rico Remembers Independence Fighter Lolita Lebrón or the New York Times’ Lolita Lebróon, Puerto Rican Nationalist, Dies at 90 by Douglas Martin.
Image by Jesus Barraza.