The Republic of Puerto Rico

In America Latina, Personal, Politics, Puerto Rico, Social Justice on September 23, 2006 by Eliacín

El Grito de Lares

Commemorating the Grito de Lares as a holiday was outlawed by both
Spanish and American authorities in Puerto Rico, during different time
periods. The Spanish prohibition lasted until its colonial rule over
Puerto Rico formally ended in 1899. Consequently, besides minor yearly
events by the people of Lares celebrated afterwards, the Grito was
almost forgotten by most people. However, pro-independence supporters
such as José de Diego and Luis Lloréns Torres
intended to popularize the idea of commemorating the event as a
holiday. De Diego, for instance, requested the foundation of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (which he proposed to the Puerto Rican Legislative Assembly) to occur on 23 September 1911, as to coincide with the Grito.

In the late 1920s members of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico staged minor celebrations in the town of Lares as both historical and fund-raising efforts. When Pedro Albizu Campos
gained control over the party "frivolous" activities related to the
Grito (such as the yearly fundraising dance) were terminated, and a
series of rituals developed to commemorate the event in a dignified
manner. One of Albizu’s better known quotes is: "Lares es Tierra Santa, y como tal, debe entrarse a ella de rodillas" ("Lares is Holy Land, and as such, it must be visited kneeling down").

Key to the rituals associated with the Grito is the gift, given by Chilean writer Gabriela Mistral to Albizu’s family, of a tamarind tree obtained from Simón Bolivar‘s estate in Venezuela. The tree was planted at the Plaza de la Revolución with soil taken from the eighteen other Spanish-speaking Latin American
countries. Albizu meant to give the Plaza a living symbol of solidarity
with the struggle for freedom and independence initiated by Bolivar
(who, while visiting Vieques,
promised to assist the Puerto Rico independence movement, but whose
promise never materialized due to the power struggles surrounding him),
as well as a symbol of the bittersweet (as the trees’ fruit) hardships
needed to reach Puerto Rico’s independence. As such, the Tamarindo de Don Pedro was meant to resemble the Gernikako Arbola in the Basque Country between Spain and France.



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