unOccupy Puerto Rico: a talk with former political prisoner Alicia Rodriguez
Since 1898, Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States. And since that time the Puerto Rican people have resisted US imperialism and struggled for a free Puerto Rico. One of the women who has been on the front lines of that struggle is Alicia Rodriguez, who served 19 years in prison for her participation in the Puerto Rican independence movement. Join us at Occupy Philly for a discussion with Alicia about the history of Puerto Rican resistance, the struggle to free the remaining political prisoners, and political movements on the island today.
Wednesday, October 26th at 5pm
@ Occupy Philly, Southwest side of City Hall (by the empty fountain)
if necessary, RAIN LOCATION will be at the Friends Center, 1501 Cherry Street)
Alicia Rodriguez was born on October 21, 1953, in Chicago, Illinois. She is one of eleven former Puerto Rican political prisoners granted clemency by President Clinton in September 1999. She grew up during the turbulent decades of the 1960s and 1970s, witnessing first hand the atrocities committed against the civil rights and the anti-Vietnam war movements. These and other experiences developed her affinity with national liberation movements and moved her to resist and participate in Puerto Rico’s anti-colonial struggle, which has been waged for more than 500 years. This struggle continues to affirm the voice of freedom and the will of the Puerto Rican to resist impearalist occupation.
On April 4, 1980 Alicia (along with her sister Lucy and other comrades) was captured and charged with seditious conspiracy. During the first sixteen and a half years in prison, she was housed in maximum security and never allowed outside of her living unit without being escorted by a prison guard. Her mail was censored and she was never allowed to phone anyone on the island of Puerto Rico.
After the first seven years when she was finally allowed access to educational and vocational program she assisted in teaching a commercial arts and photography class, participated in an Adult Literacy program, and was recruited by the medical staff to be part of an AIDS educational mentor.
Her release from prison (and that of ten Puerto Rican political prisoners) was made possible by a victorious campaign which united the Puerto Rican people and mobilized international solidarity. The campaign to release the Puerto Rican political prisoners was so powerful that it served as a model and as a source of inspiration for the successful struggle to force the US Navy out of Vieques in 2003. It served as undeniable proof that when human beings exercise the right to struggle for the freedom of mind and spirit victory is achieved.
Since her release Alicia has been an active participant in the campaign to release the remaining Puerto Rican political prisoners, Oscar López Rivera and Avelino Claudio González. She currently lives in Puerto Rico and focuses on her pottery.