May 26

Pedro Albizu Campos: Las llamas de la Aurora

A brother named Rick Kearns recently emailed me a wonderful poem that he wrote that I’d like to share with you. It was inspired by facts from Marisa Rosado’s Pedro Albizu Campos: Las llamas de la Aurora. This book has been my bible throughout the research phase of the project.

La Llorona’s Long Lost Son
Pedro Albizu Campos

I.

I need to know
more about you
Don Pedro
Yes, some of us
Know about
Incarcerations by
J. Edgar Hoover & Co.
And how they
started noticing

From the early 30’s

Puerto Rican nationalists
Who were not
Rolling over,
Not allowing
A military dictatorship in
Puerto Rico with
Military men as
Governors
G-men in
Flim noir fedoras
Swarmed the island
No
Freedom of the press
When it came to people

Talking about
The independence
That had been promised
In the heady days
After you chased out
The Spaniards

Don Pedro
And many others

Observed this and
As he was not fully trained at Harvard
He didn’t play ball.

These facts
Are recorded, Don Pedro,
But over and over again
I think of your marriage certificate
You said “de sangre India”
Indian blood as your ethnicity
But what of your mother,
Mother of a founding father,
Juliana Campo

Juliana
Born to slave mother
Of African and Taino lines
Near Ponce, Puerto Rico Juliana
Found her way to
freed slave settlement near the city
Gave birth to
Three children from
Different men, one
Named Albizu, a merchant
Basque and white Spanish
A Confederate Sympathizer
for a time then
Seeker of independence for the island

But for Julianna
sad dark-skinned girl
Housework, laundry by
The river
And traumas untold
were
Too much
For poor Juliana
The story goes

Juliana
Set fire
To their little hut
Of palm leaves
And despair
tried to
Drown herself and
Her three children
Including young Pedro
In a puddle near the
River but a neighbor
Grabbed the kids
Saved their lives.
Juliana
Was seen
Walking the streets
Talking to herself
And
Crying.

Later she perished
Trying to cross the Portugese River
On two wooden planks
Lost forever
In the fast water
Of the changing times.

You
At the time
Pedro Campo
-your father
gifted you with his name
after Juliana died-
became a protector
it was you
estimado Don Pedro
who would fetch
the doctor when
someone from the
neighborhood
fell ill
it was you
who would read things
write things
for the community
as you had been
teaching yourself
by lantern light
at night
before entering school
at age 12…

“Desde nino…”
From childhood you
Often said
From childhood you
Knew the obligation
Of all men and women
“born into an enslaved country”
was to sacrifice whatever
was needed
for liberation.

Excellent student
Impressing the
Many teachers
Caught off guard by
A brilliant young black kid
From a hungry thatch hut barrio
By the sea

They didn’t know what to
Make of you, Don Pedro,

They still don’t.

Written by Rick Kearns

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One Response to “Un Poema”

  1. Yari says:

    This is a very interesting poem. I was not expecting it to touch on the issue of race/color at all…. I recently read an analysis of the literature of the 30′s and how the Puerto Rican intellectual elite was in a way racist or bias, because their literature focused on the “white/spanish” legacy, and although it would recognize the Taino roots, African roots were ignored or limited to Bomba dance. The author of the article goes on to argue that even the nationalist movement was color blind. I think we can still see that in our contemporary society, our struggle continues to be not a racial one, but a class struggle, or at least that’s the dominant idea. If anyone has any books, articles, links to websites or any materials relevant to this topic, even Albizu’s take on racial issues in Puerto Rico, please share.

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