Wednesday, April 15, 2015

March 1, 1954 / Puerto Rican Terrorists Fire On Congress


  The Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish American War in 1898 ceded Puerto Rico as a territory to the United States. Spain had owned Puerto Rico for 400 years but just before the war Puerto Rico was granted autonomy. Many Puerto Ricans believed that Spain had no legal right to give away land that it did not own. Puerto Rico adopted its Constitution in 1952 and became an unincorporated, organized territory of the United States with commonwealth status, which angered hardcore nationalists. On March 1, 1954 three men and one woman opened fire on Congress while it was in session with machine pistols from the visitors gallery. They were four Puerto Rican nationalists named Lolita Lebron, Rafael Miranda, Andrés Figueroa Cordero, and Irving Flores Rodríguez.

  That morning they had taken a train into Washington. Miranda suggested that the group postpone the attack because it was late and the weather was rainy. Lolita said "I am alone" and walked toward the inside of the capital. The men looked at each other and decided to follow. When they reached the gallery representatives were on the floor conducting the business of Congress. Lolita gave the order and everyone recited the Lords Prayer. She then stood up and shouted "¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!" (Long live a Free Puerto Rico!). Lolita then stood up and unfurled the Puerto Rican flag. The group opened fire on the Congressmen below. The terrorists fired thirty rounds from their weapons wounding five representatives. They were Alvin M. Bentley, a Republican from Michigan who was shot in the chest. Clifford Davis of Tennessee who was shot in the leg. Republican Ben F. Jensen from Iowa was shot in the back along with Democrat George Fallon from Maryland and Kenneth Roberts from Alabama. House Pages helped drag Bentley off of the House floor. All of these men would eventually recover.

  The shooters were immediately arrested and Lolita screamed, "I did not come to kill anyone, I came to die for Puerto Rico!" The four were convicted on the charge of attempted murder and were sentenced to seventy years in prison. On appeal all except Miranda received six additional years. Miranda was given eighty-five years because he was considered the primary shooter.. During the trial Lolita's brother Gonzalo Lebrón Jr. testified for the prosecution against his sister. Figueroa Cordero was released from prison in 1978 and President Jimmy Carter pardoned the remaining terrorists the following year.. They would receive a hero's welcome in Puerto Rico by a crowd of five thousand Nationalists when they arrived at San Juan International airport. Since 1952 Puerto Rico has consistently voted to remain an American commonwealth while rejecting statehood.


No comments:

Post a Comment