Antonia Martínez

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Antonia Martínez Lagares was a 21-year-old student at the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras who was shot and killed by a policeman as she criticized the police violence while watching the 1970 anti-Vietnam War and Education Reform student protests at the University of Puerto Rico. She became a symbol of oppression and intolerance in post-Ponce Massacre Puerto Rico. Martínez Lagares was from Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

Background[edit]

Antonia's mural at the Humanities Building of the University of Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, as in much of the rest of the world, the late 1960s and early 1970s were characterized by profound social, economic, and political changes. A large portion of the student body at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, as well as much of its faculty, supported higher education reform that would produce changes to the administrative and educational formats in place. Of particular focus was the concept of "Casa de Estudios" (literally, "House of Studies") recently implemented by Chancellor Jaime Benitez, and which was founded on an Western and universalist educational and administrative vision of the University as opposed to one of reginal and national character.[1]

Unrest at University of Puerto Rico[edit]

The newly implemented administrative changes resulted in friction between the administration and much of the student body. Student strikes and protests followed. Various laws were passed by the Government of Puerto Rico that sought to address concerns and some changes in governance were implemented, but the unrest continued. Many students opposed the political structure of the University, including the fact that they were given a voice but not a vote in university matters that affected them; the on-campus presence of the ROTC, the mandatory military service conscription; and the war in Vietnam. These factors resulted in student marches and protests.[2]

On March 4, 1970, during of these protests, the Fuerza de Choque (Riot Police) was sent to the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras to intervene against students protesting the presence of the Reserve Officers Training Corps on the campus. As the event unfolded, Antonia observed from her second floor balcony student residence on Ponce de León Avenue. She watched as police officers began beating fellow students and she shouted at them "asesinos" (assassins). At that point, one of the police officers looked up to the balcony and spotting Martínez Lagares retrieved his service revolver and shot her. The bullet pierced her head and also injured another student that stood with her, striking the second student in her neck. Antonia died shortly after being shot Auxilio Mutuo hospital located nearby.[3]

Case and trial[edit]

Celestino Santiago, the other wounded student, recalled the events and identified some of the police officers involved. One officer was charged in the crime but was later acquitted. Police agents questioned by the Judiciary Committee of the Puerto Rico Senate concerning the investigation of the Cerro Maravilla murders case, revealed a cover-up by the Puerto Rico Police during the murder of Antonia Martínez Lagares, admitting that in order to cover up the case, a police officer who had nothing to do with the shooting was accused of it so he would be acquitted during the trial and put the matter to rest.[citation needed]

Memorials[edit]

In 2010 the mural that commemorated the 40th anniversary of the killing of Antonia Martínez Lagares was surreptitiously vandalized. Its restoration was led by former political prisoner Rafael Cancel Miranda and aided by activists from various organizations and supported by a group of urban artists.[4] Another mural memorializing Martínez Lagares was created at the Humanities Hall of the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras.

Martínez is one of two University of Puerto Rico students who died during rioting in the early 1970s. A year after her death, University of Puerto Rico Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadet Jacinto Gutierrez was killed while defending the Reserve Oifficers' Training Corps building at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras.[citation needed]

In pop culture[edit]

The death of Antonia Martínez Lagares has had a significant influence on pop culture in Puerto Rico and became a symbol of police abuse and oppression.[5] Puerto Rican singer Roy Brown, for example, wrote a song about the incident for his second album, Basta Ya... Revolución.[6]

Legacy[edit]

An elementary school in San Germán, Puerto Rico now bears the name of Antonia Martínez Lagares.[citation needed]

References[edit]

External links[edit]