Lolita Lebron, Lifelong Freedom Fighter for Puerto Rican Liberation

Lolita Lebron (1919-2010)

Lolita Lebron, an enduring inspiration for the struggle against colonialism and imperialism, passed away August 1, 2010, at the age of 90.  Lolita Lebron was a Puerto Rican nationalist who led an attack on the U.S. house of representatives on March 1, 1954 with three men: Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andres Figueroa Cordero, and Irving Flores Rodriguez. More than 240 House members were debating an immigration bill when bullets started whizzing overhead, slamming into marble columns, splintering wood. Everywhere, House members were sliding under desks and running for exits.

Witnesses said they could hear Lolita’s voice above the commotion, and it was a shrill, chilling sound. “Viva Puerto Rico Libre!” Long live free Puerto Rico, she yelled as she and her compatriots unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and blasted away with Lugers and an automatic pistol.

Police found a handwritten note in her purse, alongside some lipstick and Bromo-Seltzer tablets: “Before God and the world, my blood claims for the independence of Puerto Rico. My life I give for the freedom of my country. This is a cry for victory in our struggle for independence . . . The United States of America are betraying the sacred principles of mankind in their continuous subjugation of my country . . . I take responsible for all.”

All the attackers were given minimum sentences of 70 years in prison and after spending 25 years in prison, they were pardoned by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.

Lolita was born in Lares in 1920, a town best known for a revolt, Grito de Lares, waged by Puerto Ricans against Spanish occupation in 1868.

by Abraham Garrido

Dolores “Lolita” Lebrón Sotomayor (born November 19, 1919, passed on August 1, 2010)–an active advocate for Puerto Rican independence. She was born and raised in Lares, Puerto Rico, where she joined the Liberal Party. In her youth she met Francisco Matos Paoli, a renowned Puerto Rican poet, with whom she had a relationship. In 1941, Lolita migrated to New York City, where she joined the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, gaining influence within the party’s leadership. Within the organization she promoted ideals based on socialist and feminist principles.

In 1952, after Puerto Rico’s official status was changed to “Commonwealth”, the Nationalist Party began a series of revolutionary actions, including the Jayuya Uprising. As part of this initiative, she became the leader of a group of nationalists, who proceeded to attack the United States House of Representatives in 1954. Lolita remained imprisoned 25 years, when Jimmy Carter issued pardons to the group involved. After their release, the nationalists returned to Puerto Rico, where they were received with a celebration. During the following years Lolita continued her involvement in pro-independence activities, including the Navy-Vieques protests. Her life would be subsequently detailed in books and a documentary.

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