The Utu­a­do Upris­ing, also known as the Utu­a­do Revolt or El Gri­to de Utu­a­do, refers to the revolt against the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment in Puer­to Rico which occurred on Octo­ber 30, 1950 in var­i­ous local­i­ties in Puer­to Rico and which in Utu­a­do cul­mi­nat­ed in the “Utu­a­do mas­sacre”.

Events leading to the revolt

On Sep­tem­ber 17, 1922, the Puer­to Rican Nation­al­ist Par­ty was formed. Jose Coll y Cuchi, a for­mer mem­ber of the Union Par­ty, was elect­ed its first pres­i­dent. He want­ed rad­i­cal changes with­in the econ­o­my and social wel­fare pro­grams of Puer­to Rico. In 1924, Pedro Albizu Cam­pos, a lawyer who once served in the U.S. Army dur­ing World War I as a Sec­ond Lieu­tenant, joined the par­ty and was named its vice pres­i­dent. He believed that Puer­to Rico should be an inde­pen­dent nation even if it meant an armed con­fronta­tion. By 1930, Coll and Cuchi depart­ed from the par­ty because of his dis­agree­ments with Albizu Cam­pos as to how the par­ty should be run. On May 11, 1930, Albizu Cam­pos was elect­ed pres­i­dent of the Nation­al­ist Par­ty.

Don Pedro Albizu Campos, leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party

Don Pedro Albizu Cam­pos, leader of the Puer­to Rican Nation­al­ist Par­ty

In the 1930’s, the Unit­ed States-appoint­ed gov­er­nor of Puer­to Rico, Blan­ton Win­ship, and police colonel Rig­gs applied harsh repres­sive mea­sures against the Nation­al­ist Par­ty. In 1936, Albizu Cam­pos and the lead­ers of the par­ty were arrest­ed and jailed at the Prince­sa Jail in San Juan and lat­er sent to the Fed­er­al Prison at Atlanta, Geor­gia. On March 21, 1937, the nation­al­ists held a parade in Ponce and the police opened fire on the crowd in what was to become known as the Ponce Mas­sacre. Albizu Cam­pos returned to Puer­to Rico on Decem­ber 15, 1947 after spend­ing 10 years in prison.

On June 11, 1948, the Unit­ed States appoint­ed Gov­er­nor of Puer­to Rico, Jesus T. Pinero, signed the infa­mous “Ley de la Mor­daza” (Gag Law) or Law 53 as it was offi­cial­ly known, passed by the Puer­to Rican leg­is­la­ture which made it ille­gal to dis­play the Puer­to Rican Flag, sing a patri­ot­ic song, talk of inde­pen­dence and to fight for the lib­er­a­tion of the island. It resem­bled the anti-com­mu­nist Smith Law passed in the Unit­ed States. On June 21, 1948, Albizu Cam­pos gave a speech in the town of Man­ati where nation­al­ists from all over the island, includ­ing Utu­a­do and Jayuya were gath­ered in case there was an attempt by the police to arrest him.

Jayuya1950From 1949 to 1950, the nation­al­ists in the island began to plan and pre­pare an armed rev­o­lu­tion hop­ing that the Unit­ed Nations would take notice and inter­vene on their behalf. The rev­o­lu­tion was to take place in 1952, on the date the Unit­ed States Con­gress was to approve the cre­ation of the polit­i­cal sta­tus Free Asso­ci­at­ed State (“Esta­do Libre Asso­ci­a­do”) for Puer­to Rico. The rea­son behind Albizu Cam­pos’ call for an armed rev­o­lu­tion was that he con­sid­ered the “new” sta­tus a colo­nial farce.

On Octo­ber 26, 1950, Albizu Cam­pos was hold­ing a meet­ing in Fajar­do when he received word that his house in San Juan was sur­round­ed by police wait­ing to arrest him. He was also told that the police had already arrest­ed oth­er nation­al­ist lead­ers. He escaped from Fajar­do and ordered the rev­o­lu­tion to start. On Octo­ber 27, the police in the town of Peñue­las, inter­cept­ed and fired upon a car­a­van of nation­al­ists, killing four. On Octo­ber 30, the nation­al­ists staged upris­ings in the towns of Ponce, Mayagüez, Naran­ji­to, Areci­bo, San Juan (The Nation­al­ist attack of San Juan), Jayuya (known as the Jayuya Upris­ing) and Utu­a­do. The first bat­tle of the nation­al­ist upris­ings occurred dur­ing the ear­ly hours of the day of Octo­ber 29th, in the bario Macana of town of Peñue­las. The police sur­round­ed the house of the moth­er of Meli­ton Muñiz the pres­i­dent of the Peñue­las Nation­al­ist Par­ty, under the pre­text that he was stor­ing weapons for the Nation­al­ist Revolt. With­out warn­ing, the police fired upon the nation­lists and a fire­fight between both fac­tions ensued, which result­ed with the death of two nation­al­ists and six police offi­cers wound­ed.

Troops_in_Jayuya.     The National Guard, commanded by the Puerto Rico Adjutant General Major General Luis R. Esteves and under the orders of Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín, occupy Jayuya

Troops_in_Jayuya. The Nation­al Guard, com­mand­ed by the Puer­to Rico Adju­tant Gen­er­al Major Gen­er­al Luis R. Esteves and under the orders of Gov. Luis Muñoz Marín, occu­py Jayuya

The Unit­ed States declared mar­tial law in Puer­to Rico and sent the Puer­to Rico Nation­al Guard to attack the var­i­ous towns involved in the nation­al­ist upris­ings. In the case of Jayuya, the town was attacked by air by U.S. bomber planes and on land by artillery.

P-47 Thunderbolt - Type of military aircraft which bombed Jayuya and Utuado

P-47 Thun­der­bolt — Type of mil­i­tary air­craft which bombed Jayuya and Utu­a­do

The nation­al­ist lead­ers in Utu­a­do were Herib­er­to Cas­tro and Dami­an Tor­res. Accord­ing to the plans of Albizu Cam­pos, the nation­al­ists were to put up an armed resis­tance in their respec­tive towns and then retreat to Utu­a­do. Once in Utu­a­do, the nation­al­ists were to con­tin­ue fight­ing against the Armed Forces of the Unit­ed States, until the Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil took notice and inter­vened in their favor.  This how­ev­er, did not hap­pen because the upris­ings were soon crushed.

In Utau­do a group of 32 nation­al­ists fought against the local police. The group which was reduced to 12 men, retreat­ed to the house of Dami­an Tor­res. Tor­res’ res­i­dence was attacked by 50 cal­iber machine gun fire from four Amer­i­can P-47 Thun­der­bolt planes. The Nation­al Guard arrived lat­er that day and ordered the nine men who sur­vived the attack to sur­ren­der. Once the nation­al­ists sur­ren­dered they were forced to march down Dr. Cue­to Street to the local town plaza where their shoes, belts and per­son­al belong­ings were removed. The group was then tak­en behind the police sta­tion and where, with­out a tri­al, they were machined gunned. Four of the nation­al­ists died, they were nation­al­ist leader Herib­er­to Cas­tro, Julio Colon Feli­ciano, Agusti ­n Quiñones Mer­ca­do, Anto­nio Ramos and Anto­nio Gon­za­lez.  Gon­za­lez, who was 17 years old, plead­ed for water and instead was bay­o­net­ed to death. The five sur­vivors were seri­ous­ly wound­ed in what became known as “La Mas­sacre de Utu­a­do” (The Utu­a­do Mas­sacre).

This is a picture of a copy of the November 1, 1950 edition of the newspaper "El Imparcial" of Puerto Rico whose headline states that the Puerto Rican City of Utuado was bombed by the US Air Forces during the historic Nationalists revolts of Oct. 30, 1950.

This is a pic­ture of a copy of the Novem­ber 1, 1950 edi­tion of the news­pa­per “El Impar­cial” of Puer­to Rico whose head­line states that the Puer­to Rican City of Utu­a­do was bombed by the US Air Forces dur­ing the his­toric Nation­al­ists revolts of Oct. 30, 1950.

Unit­ed States law man­dat­ed that U.S. Pres­i­dent Har­ry Tru­man take direct charge in all mat­ters con­cern­ing Puer­to Rico. In addi­tion, the Gov­er­nor of Puer­to Rico, Luis Muñoz Mari­n was required to con­sult direct­ly with the White House.  News of this mil­i­tary action how­ev­er, was pre­vent­ed from spread­ing out­side of Puer­to Rico. It was called an inci­dent between Puer­to Ricans.

The top lead­ers of the nation­al­ist par­ty were arrest­ed, includ­ing Albizu Cam­pos and the leader of the Jayuya Upris­ing Blan­ca Canales, and sent to jail to serve long prison terms. On Novem­ber 1, 1950, nation­al­ists Grise­lio Tor­reso­la and Oscar Col­la­zo attacked the Blair House with the inten­tion of assas­si­nat­ing U.S. Pres­i­dent Tru­man. Tor­reso­la and White House police offi­cer Leslie Cof­felt lost their lives in the failed attempt.  Col­la­zo was arrest­ed and sen­tenced to death. His sen­tence was lat­er com­mut­ed to life impris­on­ment by Pres­i­dent Tru­man, and he even­tu­al­ly received a pres­i­den­tial par­don.

The last major attempt by the Puer­to Rican Nation­list Par­ty to draw world atten­tion to Puer­to Rico’s colo­nial sit­u­a­tion occurred on March 1, 1954, when nation­al­ist leader Loli­ta Lebron togeth­er with fel­low nation­al­ists Rafael Can­cel Miran­da, Irv­ing Flo­res and Andres Figueroa Cordero attacked the Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Lebron and her com­rades were charged with attempt­ed mur­der and oth­er crimes. Gilber­to Marti­nez, one of the last sur­vivors of the Utu­a­do mas­sacre, died on Jan­u­ary 1, 2009.

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