Posts Tagged ‘History Lesson (short story)’

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

 The Truman Assassination Attempt

On November 1, 1950, two men attempted to assassinate President Harry S. Truman. It was a desperate effort to turn the world’s attention to the U.S. colonial regime in Puerto Rico.

The attempt failed. Griselio Torresola was killed, Oscar Collazo was shot in the chest, and a policeman was killed.

For a one-sided newsreel about the assassination attempt, brought to you by the Liberty National Insurance Company, see here: 

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Rafael Hernández

Rafael Hernández was born into a poor family. As a child, he learned the craft of cigar making, from which he made a modest living. He also grew to love music and asked his parents to permit him to become a full-time music student. He learned to play the piano, clarinet, tuba, violin  and guitar.

At the age of 14, he played for the Cocolia Orquestra. However, it was when he learned how to write music that his life and the history of Puerto Rican music would change forever. 

His music portrayed the ocean, mountains, hurricanes and people that define Puerto Rico. His compositions of Preciosa and Lamento Borincano expressed the soul of an entire island, and its turbulent history. Here is a piano rendition of Preciosa, along with images of his many works:

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Operation Portrex

A few months before the Korean War, the U.S. staged the largest war games in American history.

Known as “Operation Portrex,” it sent 32,000 soldiers of the 82nd U.S. Airborne to invade the island of Vieques, which was defended by the 65th Infantry Division of Puerto Rico, also known as the “Borinqueneers,” who had only 4,000 soldiers. 

The 82nd invades Vieques

Despite these 8:1 odds, and despite a coordinated land-air-sea assault, the Borinqueneers held the island. 

You can view a newsreel about Operation Portrex here:

The newsreel has one fundamental inaccuracy. It claims that the 82nd succeeded in their assault. In fact, they failed. The historical record is clear and unambiguous about this.

But taxpayers need to be reassured.

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

The Ponce Massacre

In 1937, on Palm Sunday, the townspeople of Ponce held a peaceful march in favor of the independence of Puerto Rico. The marchers were unarmed men, women and children.

The U.S.-appointed governor of Puerto Rico, Blanton Winship, did not agree with this march. He ordered dozens of policemen and National Guard to stop it, even if it required shooting the unarmed marchers.

Ponce MassacreThe Ponce Massacre

19 men, women and children were brutally murdered in broad daylight that Palm Sunday. 200 others were wounded.

March 21, 1937 is a day that Puerto Ricans will never forget. It started out as Palm Sunday, and ended as the Ponce Massacre.

Here is a documentary about the event.

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Myrta Silva

Myrta Silva had a 40-year reign as “the Queen of the Guaracha.” She was the premier female singer in Puerto Rico and New York.

Myrta sang and composed dozens of chart-topping hits. She headlined with many bands in Puerto Rico, Cuba and the United States; and hosted musical variety TV shows in both Puerto Rico and New York.

They called her La Gorda de Oro (the Fat Lady Made of Gold). She was a talented musical comedienne… 

She was a great Latin singer…

Myrta Silva, a true Puerto Rican original.

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Piri Thomas

In 1967, a raw and disturbing autobiography was published by Knopf Doubleday. It was called Down these Mean Streets by Piri Thomas.

A Puerto Rican ex-felon, Piri wrote a scathing account of his East Harlem childhood, and the choices he made which landed him in prison. The language was sharp and unvarnished. The publisher saw great dramatic value in giving Piri free rein, to tell his story in his own vernacular.

The book caught on and has been in print ever since, for nearly fifty years. Martin Scorcese’s second feature film, Mean Streets, borrowed its title and ambience.

The New York Times celebrated its dysfunction, calling it “a report from the guts and heart.”

There is clearly more to the Puerto Rican (or any) experience than crime, drugs, prison and family dysfunction. But Piri was ghetto fabulous, Piri delivered the “real deal,” and Piri got published.

Here is a YouTube video about the life and work of Piri Thomas:

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Luis Muñoz Marín

Luis Muñoz Marín was the first democratically elected governor of Puerto Rico. His father was a distinguished journalist and island politician, and his grandfather was mayor of the town of Barranquitas.

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Some people claim he sold out the independence of Puerto Rico, in order to become governor.

Others say he was a great visionary, who helped pull Puerto Rico through the Great Depression through the “Operation Bootstrap” program, and other economic reforms.

In any event, the U.S. named a postage stamp after him. Here is a short newsreel of Luis Muñoz Marín, delivering a passionate speech:

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Lolita Lebron

On March 1, 1954, four members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party walked into the visitor’s gallery of U.S. Congress. They opened fire on the politicians below, shooting 30 times and injuring 5 congressmen.

A woman named Lolita Lebron was their leader. She was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. During her trial she stated

“I did not come to kill anybody. I came to die for my country.”

 

25 years later, in 1979, her sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter. Upon her release, she was received as a hero in Puerto Rico.

Here is a short documentary about Lolita Lebron. It is a bit one-sided, using the words “maniac” and “fanatic.” The same could be said about Patrick Henry and George Washington.

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

 Pablo Casals

Pablo Casals was the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest cellists of all time.

He made many recordings throughout his career, of solo, chamber, and orchestral music, also as conductor, but he is perhaps best remembered for the recordings of the Bach Cello Suites he made from 1936 to 1939.

Pablo Casals’ mother was from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. He married Marta Montañez y Martinez, a Puerto Rican woman, and lived in Puerto Rico the last 17 years of his life. He made an impact in the Puerto Rican music scene by founding the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra in 1958, and the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico in 1959.

In 1956 he founded the Casals Music Festival, which continues to be held yearly in San Juan. Here is film clip, of Casals playing the Bach Suite No. 1:

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Correa Cotto

Correa Cotto beheaded his girlfriend, stabbed his stepfather, and strangled some guy named Luis. He also killed several cops and escaped repeatedly from jail.

On October 30, 1950 he staged a mass riot in El Oso Blanco, the largest prison in

Puerto Rico. Correa escaped that night, with dozens of guards and policemen chasing after him. Since October 30, 1950 was also the date of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Revolts, some people say that Correa was a patriot.

They made three movies about him. Here is a trailer from one of them:

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