Jayuya Uprising

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Jayuya Uprising
Puerto Rican flag removed by a member of the National Guard after the 1950 Jayuya Uprising
Date 1950
Location Puerto Rico
Result Restoration of US government

Puerto Rican Nationalist Party
 United States
Puerto Rico National Guard
Commanders and leaders
Blanca Canales Luis R. Esteves
Casualties and losses
2 Nationalists dead 6 police officers injured

The Jayuya Uprising, also known as the Jayuya Revolt or El Grito de Jayuya, was a Nationalist revolt that took place on October 30, 1950, in the town of Jayuya, Puerto Rico. The revolt, led by Blanca Canales, was one of the multiple revolts that occurred throughout Puerto Rico on that day against the United States government.

Events leading to the revolt[edit]

On September 17, 1922, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was formed to work for Puerto Rican Independence. José Coll y Cuchí, a former member of the Union Party, was elected its first president. He wanted radical changes within the economy and social welfare programs of Puerto Rico. In 1924, Pedro Albizu Campos, a lawyer, joined the party and was named its vice president.

Don Pedro Albizu Campos, leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party

Albizu Campos was the first Puerto Rican graduate of Harvard Law School. He had served as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War I, and believed that Puerto Rico should be an independent nation - even if that required an armed confrontation. By 1930, Coll y Cuchi departed from the party because of his disagreements with Albizu Campos as to how the party should be run and on May 11, 1930, Albizu Campos was elected president of the Nationalist Party.

In the 1930s, the United States-appointed governor of Puerto Rico, Blanton Winship, and his police colonel Riggs applied harsh repressive measures against the Nationalist Party.[1] In 1936, Albizu Campos and the leaders of the party were arrested and jailed at the La Princesa prison in San Juan, and later sent to the Federal prison in Atlanta. On March 21, 1937, the Nationalists held a parade in Ponce and the police opened fire on the crowd killing 19 people in what came to be known as the Ponce Massacre. Albizu Campos returned to Puerto Rico on December 15, 1947, after spending ten years in prison.

On May 21, 1948, a bill was introduced before the Puerto Rican Senate which would restrain the rights of the independence and Nationalist movements in the island. The Senate, which at the time was controlled by the PPD and presided by Luis Muñoz Marín, approved the bill.[2] This bill, also known as Ley de la Mordaza (Gag Law) and Law 53, received the approval of the legislature on May 21, 1948. The bill, which resembled the anti-communist Smith Law passed by the United States Congress in 1940, was signed into law by the U.S.-appointed governor of Puerto Rico Jesús T. Piñero on June 10, 1948, and became known as Ley 53 (Law 53).[3]

Under this new law it would be a crime to print, publish, sell, or exhibit any material intended to paralyze or destroy the insular government; or to organize any society, group or assembly of people with a similar destructive intent. Anyone accused and found guilty of disobeying the law could be sentenced to ten years imprisonment, a fine of $10,000 dollars (U.S.), or both.

According to Dr. Leopoldo Figueroa, a member of the Partido Estadista Puertorriqueño (Puerto Rican Statehood Party) and the only member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives who was not a member of the PPD,[4] the law was repressive and in violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution which guarantees Freedom of Speech. As such, the Law was seen as an assault on the civil rights of every Puerto Rican.[5]

On June 21, 1948, Albizu Campos gave a speech in the town of Manatí that explained how this Gag Law violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Nationalists from all over the island had gathered to hear Albizu Campos's speech and to prevent the police from arresting him.


From 1949 to 1950, the Nationalists in the island planned and prepared an armed revolution. The revolution was to take place in 1952, on the date the United States Congress was to approve the creation of the Estado Libre Associado ("Free Associated State") political status for Puerto Rico.

Albizu Campos called for an armed revolution because he considered the "new political status" to be a colonial farce. Campos picked the town of Jayuya as the headquarters of the revolution because of its location and because weapons were stored in the home of Blanca Canales.

On October 26, 1950, Albizu Campos was holding a meeting in Fajardo, when he received word that his house in San Juan was surrounded by police waiting to arrest him. He was also told that the police had already arrested other Nationalist leaders. He escaped from Fajardo and ordered the revolution to start. On October 27, the police in the town of Peñuelas, intercepted and fired upon a caravan of Nationalists, killing four. On October 30, the Nationalists staged uprisings in the towns of Ponce, Mayagüez, Naranjito, Arecibo, Utuado (Utuado Uprising), San Juan (San Juan Nationalist revolt), and Jayuya.

The 296th Regiment of the U.S. National Guard occupy Jayuya

The first incident of the Nationalist uprisings occurred in the pre-dawn hours of October 29. The Insular Police of that town surrounded the house of the mother of Melitón Muñiz Santos, president of the Peñuelas Nationalist Party, in Barrio Macaná, under the pretext that he was storing weapons for the Nationalist Revolt. Without warning, the police fired on the house and a gunfight ensued. Two Nationalists were killed and six police officers were wounded.[6] Nationalists Meliton Muñoz Santos, Roberto Jaume Rodriguez, Estanislao Lugo Santiago, Marcelino Turell, William Gutirrez and Marcelino Berrios were arrested and accused of participating in an ambush against the local Insular Police.[7][8]

Prior to the call for revolution, members of the Nationalist Party had stored weapons in Canales' house in Jayuya. Canales and the other leaders of the Nationalist Party in Jayuya, which included Canales' cousin and Elio Torresola (Griselio Torresola's brother) as well as Carlos Irizarry, led the armed Nationalists into the town and invaded the police station. Shots were fired, one officer was killed, three were wounded, and the other officers surrendered. The Nationalists cut the telephone lines and burned the U.S. post office. Canales then led the group into the town square where, in defiance of the Puerto Rico Gag Law, they raised the Puerto Rican Flag.[9] In the town square, Canales gave a speech and declared Puerto Rico a free Republic.

P-47 Thunderbolt - Type of military aircraft which bombed Jayuya and Utuado

As a result, U.S. President Harry S. Truman declared martial law and ordered the U.S. Army and Air Force to attack the town of Jayuya. American infantry troops and the Puerto Rico National Guard, under the command of the Puerto Rico Adjutant General, Major General Luis R. Esteves,[10] used P-47 Thunderbolt bomber planes, land-based artillery, mortar fire, and grenades in the attack. The planes machine-gunned nearly every rooftop in the town and, while the Nationalists managed to hold the town for three days, mass arrests followed.

Although an extensive part of Jayuya was destroyed, news of the American military action were prevented from spreading outside of Puerto Rico. Instead, the American media and even Pres. Harry Truman declared it "an incident between Puerto Ricans."[11]

In response to the American attack, Nationalists Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola planned to assassinate the U.S. President, Harry S. Truman. On November 1, 1950, they attacked the Blair House, where Truman was staying in Washington, D.C. The attempt failed, and Torresola and White House police officer Leslie Coffelt were killed in the attempt.


External audio
Newsreel scenes in Spanish of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party Revolts of the 1950s here

The top leaders of the Nationalist party were arrested, including Albizu Campos and Blanca Canales, and sent to jail to serve long prison terms. Oscar Collazo was arrested and sentenced to death. Collazo's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by U.S. President Truman, and in 1979 his sentence was commuted to time served by President Carter and he was released from prison. The city of Jayuya converted the Blanca Canales home into a historical museum.

The last major attempt by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party to draw world attention to Puerto Rico's colonial situation occurred on March 1, 1954, when nationlist leader Lolita Lebrón together with fellow nationalists Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andrés Figueroa Cordero attacked the United States House of Representatives. Lebrón and her comrades were charged with attempted murder and other crimes.[12]

Incarcerated Nationalists[edit]

The following is an FBI list of the Jayuya Nationalists who were incarcerated in 1950 and who were still in prison as of 1954:[13]


Jayuya Uprising Monuments
The House of Nemesio and Blanca Canales 
Monument to the Jayuya Uprising participants in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico 
Plaque honoring the combatants of the 1950 Jayuya Uprising 
Plaque honoring the female participants of the 1950 Jayuya Uprising 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Puerto Rico" By Kurt Pitzer, Tara Stevens, page 224, Published by Hunter Publishing, Inc, 2001, ISBN 1-58843-116-9, ISBN 978-1-58843-116-5
  2. ^ "La obra jurídica del Profesor David M. Helfeld (1948-2008)'; by: Dr. Carmelo Delgado Cintrón
  3. ^ "Puerto Rican History". Topuertorico.org. January 13, 1941. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  4. ^ Ley Núm. 282 del año 2006
  5. ^ La Gobernación de Jesús T. Piñero y la Guerra Fría
  6. ^ El ataque Nacionalista a La Fortaleza. by Pedro Aponte Vázquez. Page 7. Publicaciones RENÉ. ISBN 978-1-931702-01-0
  7. ^ Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico-FBI files
  8. ^ El ataque Nacionalista a La Fortaleza; by Pedro Aponte Vázquez; Page 7; Publisher: Publicaciones RENÉ; ISBN 978-1-931702-01-0
  9. ^ New York Latino Journal
  10. ^ Puerto Rico National Guard
  11. ^ NY Latino Journal
  12. ^ Ribes Tovar et al., p.132
  13. ^ "Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico"; FBI Files; (NPPR); SJ 100-3; Vol. 26; Pages 44-63

External links[edit]