Lolita Lebrón ¡Presente!
I did not come to kill, I came to die
I contemplate these words and cannot help but cry
To think I never really knew her, and some may question why?
I was born in America, and lost my sense of pride
To be a Puerto Rican was to go against the tide
So many teachers here, so many lies
I thought that Puerto Ricans were something to despise
But now I can look up, her words are written in the Sky
Despierta Boricua, "I did not come to kill, I came to die."

"How those words reverberate in my mind. These words should be carved into her tombstone. Can there be a greater testament to her commitment and unwavering purpose? These words fill me with inspiration, these words reawaken and fortify my sense of what it is to be Puerto Rican and the responsibility we all must share in the struggle... " Joe Felix

On Sunday, August 1, 2010 Puerto Rican independence activist and leader Dolores "Lolita" Lebrón Sotomayor died in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Lolita Lebrón led the group of Nationalist Party members (Andrés Figueroa Cordero, Irving Flores and Rafael Cancel Miranda) that attacked the United States House of Representatives in 1954. They remained imprisoned for 25 years until President Jimmy Carter freed them in 1981 in response to an international campaign for their release.

Lolita Lebrón was born in Lares, Puerto Rico on November 19, 1919. In 1941 she migrated to New York City where after experiencing exploitation and racism on the job and the poverty in which Puerto Ricans lived. She joined the Nationalist Party in 1946. She embraced the ideals of Party president Pedro Albizu Campos, while promoting socialist and feminist principles in the organization.

The attack on Congress was a response to the US government's changing the status of Puerto Rico to a so-called "Commonwealth" in 1952 while the colonial relationship remained intact.

When Lebrón's group reached the visitor's gallery above the chamber in the House, they sat while the representatives discussed Mexico's economy. Shortly therefter, Lebrón gave the order to the other members, the group quickly recited the Lord's Prayer; then Lebrón stood up and shouted "¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!" ("Long live a Free Puerto Rico!") and unfurled the flag of Puerto Rico. The group opened fire.. Some 30 shots were fired (mostly by Cancel, according to his account), wounding five lawmakers; one representative, Alvin Bentley from Michigan, was seriously wounded in the chest.. Upon being arrested, Lebrón yelled "I did not come to kill anyone, I came to die for Puerto Rico!"

Lebrón returned to Puerto Rico after the pardon and continued to be active in the independence movement including the Navy-Vieques protests. In 2001 she served 60 days in jail charged with trespassing on a Navy property in Vieques. Known as the Mother of the Puerto Rican Motherland she was present at all the major activities of the Puerto Rican independence movement.

In a recent interview with a journalist, Lebrón emphasized that the struggle for independence could be done in a peaceful manner today but also made it clear that the Puerto Rican people could use whatever means necessary to gain their independence.

August 5, 2010

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