Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Spirit of “El Grito de Lares” Still Lives in Puerto Rico

First Published: The Call, Vol. 2, No. 12, September 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The first Republic of Puerto Rico was declared amid the flames of insurrection on September 23, 1868. On this day, Puerto Rican independence fighters staged an armed uprising against the Spanish colonialists. Their historic revolt, known as “El Grito de Lares” (The Cry of Lares), lives today as an inspiration to all patriotic Puerto Ricans. Though this Republic lasted only a short time, the struggle of the Puerto Rican people for independence and sovereignty continues to this day against their new masters–the U.S. imperialists.

The late 19th century saw anti-colonial revolutionary wars sweeping across Latin America. The Antillian islands (including the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and Puerto Rico) were part of this revolutionary tide. Many secret societies were formed, aimed at the overthrow of Spanish domination.

Dr. Ramon Emeterio Betances was one of the leaders of this movement. Betances was convinced that nothing could be won from Spain through appeals for reform. As a revolutionary, he saw that the prevailing legal system in subjugated countries was nothing more than legalized injustice. His activities forced him into exile but in no way turned him away from his goal to aid in the struggle for Puerto Rican independence.

The insurrection was meant to explode in the town of Lares on September 29, 1868–the day on which slaves celebrated the festival of Saint Michael. The secret societies agreed to work together to strike the blow at an agreed-upon time. But the plans of the independentistas (independence fighters) were discovered, and they were thus obliged to move the date of the insurrection up to September 23. Betances, who had organized an expeditionary force while in exile, was prevented by this discovery from arriving at San Juan with his additional force of arms.

On September 23, the Puerto Rican people, led by the members of the secret societies organized in this period, started the first armed uprising in the country for national independence. The Puerto Rican patriots routed the Spanish army from the mountain town of Lares, and proclaimed the Republic of Puerto Rico. Immediately after this, they were to take the town of San Sebastian and the rest of the island with the aim of liberating the country from the yoke of Spanish colonial rule. But after a bloody struggle, the Spanish army defeated the armed insurrection.

Now every year on September 23, the Puerto Rican independence fighters march to the town of Lares to pay respect to the heroes of this rebellion, and to reaffirm their dedication to finish the struggle begun in 1868. One full century later in 1968, over 30,000 people from many patriotic organizations gathered in Lares to commemorate this day. To do this, they had to overcome many difficulties, for Lares is a mountain town accessible only through small rural roads.

Puerto Rico is no longer a colony of Spain. However, it is still not an independent country. In the late 1890’s, the rising strength of the independence movement had forced Spain to grant autonomy to Puerto Rico. But in 1898, following the Spanish-American war, the U.S. government laid claims to Puerto Rico as one of the “spoils” of its imperialist aggression.

Since that time, the movement for independence has grown in breadth and depth, including more and more sectors of Puerto Rican society. Many Puerto Ricans have been forced through the colonial schemes of the U.S. to migrate to the U.S. mainland. This in no way changed the demand of the Puerto Rican people for independence, but instead has brought the Puerto Rican struggle within the U.S. borders. The struggle has expanded to include the demands of the Puerto Rican national minority here for democratic rights and equality within the U.S.

As the Puerto Rican people again reaffirm their commitment to the struggle for independence this September 23, we in the U.S. must recognize our duty to the continuing struggle.

Puerto Rico is now a colony of the U.S. imperialists. All freedom-loving people within the U.S. must also take up this struggle as their own–for in fact it is! The enemy of the Puerto Rican people is the same enemy working and other oppressed people in the U.S. face every day–monopoly capitalism and imperialism. It is our internationalist duty to take up the struggle against our common enemy.

The Puerto Rican people and the people of the United States must reaffirm their commitment to achieve the independence of Puerto Rico. Learning from the spirit of “El Grito de Lares,” we should use our efforts to build for the huge rally scheduled for October 27 in Madison Square Garden that will call for the independence and freedom of Puerto Rico.

ĦQue Viva Puerto Rico Libre!
Independence for Puerto Rico!