The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was first organized on September 17, 1922. Its main objective is to work for Puerto Rican Independence.
Dr. Pedro Albizu CamposIn 1919, Jose Coll y Cuchi, a member of the Union Party of Puerto Rico, felt that the Party wasn't doing enough for the cause of Puerto Rico and he and some followers departed from the party and formed the Nationalist Association of Puerto Rico in San Juan. During that time there were two other organizations that were pro-independence, they were the Nationalist Youth and the Independence Association.
On September 17, 1922, the three political oraganizations joined forces and formed the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and Coll y Cuchi was elected president. Under Coll y Cuchi's presidency, the party was able to convince the Puerto Rican Legislature Assembly to approve an act that would permit the transfer of the mortal remains of Puerto Rican patriot Ramon Emeterio Betances from Paris, France to Puerto Rico. Betance's remains arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico on August 5, 1920 and a funeral caravan organized by the Nationalist Party transferred the remains from the capital to the town of Cabo Rojo where he was laid to rest.
In 1924 Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos joined the party and was named vice-president. By 1930, disagreements between Coll y Cuchi and Albizu Campos as to how the party should be run, led the former and his followers to abandon the party and return to the Union Party. On May 11, 1930, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was elected president of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.
Under Albizu's leadership during the years of the Great Depression, the party became the largest independence movement in Puerto Rico. However after disappointing electoral outcomes and strong repression by the territorial police authorities, by mid 1930s Albizu opted against electoral participation and advocated violent revolution. This advocacy continued even after local democratic autonomy was established.
Nationalist Party during 1930-50
Nationalist Party partisans were involved in a variety of dramatic and violent confrontations during the 1930s:
On April 6, 1932, Nationalist partisans marched into the Capital building in San Juan to protest the legislative proposal to establish the present Puerto Rican flag, the official flag of the insular government. Nationalists preferred the emblem used during the Grito de Lares. During a melée in the building, one partisan fell to his death. The protest was condemned by the legislators, Rafael Martínez Nadal and Santiago Iglesias; while the spirit of local empowerment found some support in unlikely places such as the future leader of the Statehood party, Manuel García Méndez.
On October 24, 1935, a confrontation with police at University of Puerto Rico campus in Río Piedras, killed 4 Nationalist partisans and one policeman. This and other events led the party to announce in December 12, 1935, a boycott of all elections held while Puerto Rico remained part of the United States. The Nationalist described this as the Río Piedras massacre.
On February 23, 1936, the insular police chief, E. Francis Riggs, was murdered as he exited the Cathedral on Cristo Street, San Juan. The perpetrators, the Nationalists Hiram Rosado and Elías Beauchamp, were arrested, transported to police headquarters, and executed within hours without trial. No policeman was ever indicted for their deaths.
On March 21, 1937, the violent Ponce Massacre convulsed the southern city with the deaths of 17 citizens and 2 policemen. The event prompted the Tydings bill offering independence to the island to be proposed by the US congress. Soon thereafter, the leadership of the Nationalist party, including Pedro Albizu Campos, was arrested. After a second trial, they were incarcerated for conspiracy to overthrow the government.
On July 25, 1938, the municipality of Ponce organized celebrations to celebrate the American landing in 1898. This included a military parade and speeches by Governor Blanton Winship, Senate President Rafael Martínez Nadal, and others. When Winship rose to speak, shots were fired, slaying Police Colonel Luis Irizarry, who was seated beside the governor. Despite total repudiation of involvement or support of the incident by Nationalist interim president M. Medina Ramírez, numerous nationalists were arrested and convicted of participating in the shooting. Soon afterward, two Nationalist partisans attempted to assassinate Robert Cooper, judge of the Federal Court in Puerto Rico.
Blanca CanalesOn October 30, 1950, with Albizu now free, and the new autonomist Commonwealth status soon to be enacted, a Nationalist uprising occurred. It involved a dozen or so skirmishes throughout the island. In the Jayuya Uprising led by Nationalist leader, Blanca Canales, a police station and post-office were burned. Police forces subdued the nationalist forces within a day. There was an attempt by a handful of nationalists to enter the Governor's mansion La Fortaleza, intending to attack then-governor Luis Muñoz Marín. The 5 hour shootout led to three Nationalists dead: Domingo Geraldo, Gregorio Hernández, and Raimundo Díaz Pacheco. One of the guards of the building, Lorenzo Ramos, was seriously injured. Various shootouts ranged throughout island and metropolis, including Peñuelas and Arecibo. In Barrio Obrero, shots were fired, and there was an attempt to assassinate the attorney general, Vicente Geigel Polanco, in Santurce. The next day, there was an unsuccessful attempt by Griselio Torresola and Óscar Collazo to assassinate President Harry S. Truman, then residing at the Blair House across from the White House in Washington, D.C. Finally, a shootout in the Halls of Congress, involving Lolita Lebrón and others occurred in 1954.
The assessment of the dynamic Nationalist actions has changed over time. In the early 1930s, the Nationalist party confronted "American" governors who often were arrogant reactionary political or repressive military appointees, lacking fluency in Spanish or backgrounds in administration or Hispanic culture, and with no ties to the island. Illegal violence marred encounters between both police and partisans. This occurred in a decade marred by the economic Great Depression that worsened the island's poverty, and increased discontent. Not surprisingly, Nationalist candidates were able to poll over 10% of the vote in elections in 1930-1932.
By 1950, however, Puerto Rico had convened a local constitutional convention including politicians from all parties in the electoral system to establish Commonwealth of Puerto Rico status; popularly elected by a landslide Luis Muñoz Marín(who favored independence in his youth) as governor; and began an economic resurgence. Gilberto Concepción de Gracia's Puerto Rican Independence Party, now represented electoral interests of nationalism. While Concepción de Gracia voiced some affinity to the goals, and shared his distrust and criticism of repressive government tactics, he dismissed the violent methods of Albizu. The spasms of Nationalist violence by then were the coordinated, often sucidal or martyr actions of small cells, and not a popular revolution.
Luis Muñoz Marín, who had once been loosely supportive of Albizu's nationalist ideals, replied in 1951 to the Cuban prime minister (who had offered asylum to the again convicted Albizu): "Albizu does not represent the ideal of liberty, but instead the fascist and tyrannical proposals of small fanatical armed groups, who want their interpretation of liberty imposed with grotesque and tragic futility upon two million Puerto Ricans." In 1948 elections, his PPD party received 392 thousand votes versus 218 thousand votes for all other parties combined.
After Albizu's death in 1965, the party split, and some factions opted to join with socialist movements. The majority of the party remains without leadership. For the last 50 years, the party has been undergoing a process of reorganization. The New York Junta (board) is an autonomous organ of the party that recognizes and is recognized by the National Junta in Puerto Rico. The vast majority of followers of independence movements in Puerto Rico belong to either the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) or the Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP).