Juan Antonio Corretjer

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Juan Antonio Corretjer
Corretjer.jpg
Juan Antonio Corretjer,Poet and Secretary General of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party
Born (1908-03-03)March 3, 1908
Ciales, Puerto Rico
Died January 19, 1985(1985-01-19) (aged 76)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Political party
Puerto Rican Nationalist Party
Movement Puerto Rican Independence

Juan Antonio Corretjer (March 3, 1908 – January 19, 1985), was a poet, journalist and pro-independence political activist opposing United States rule in Puerto Rico.

Early years[edit]

Corretjer (birth name: Juan Antonio Corretjer Montes [note 1]) was born in Ciales, Puerto Rico, into a politically active pro-independence family. His parents were Diego Corretjer Hernández and María Brígida Montes González. His father and uncles were involved in the "Ciales Uprising" of August 13, 1898, against the United States occupation. As a lad, he would often accompany his father and uncles to political rallies. He received his primary and secondary education in his hometown. In 1920, when he was only 12 years old, Corretjer wrote his first poem "Canto a Ciales" (I sing to Ciales). In 1924, Corretjer published his first booklet of poems.[1][2]

Corretjer joined the "Literary Society of Jose Gautier Benitez", which later would be renamed the "Nationalist Youth", while he was still in elementary school. When he was in 8th grade, he organized a student protest against the United States in his town. He was expelled from his local high school for organizing a strike to have it renamed for José de Diego.[2] Corretjer was then sent to school in the town of Vega Baja.[1]

Nationalist youth[edit]

In 1927, he moved to San Juan and worked as a journalist for the newspaper "La Democracia". He later moved to the city of Ponce where he published his first two books of poetry: "Agüeybaná" (1932) and "Ulises" (1933). Throughout his life, he wrote for various newspapers and publications in Puerto Rico, Cuba and the United States.[3]

In 1935, Corretjer travelled to Cuba and joined an anti-Batista group whose aim was to overthrow the U.S.-backed Cuban dictator. He also traveled to Haiti and to the Dominican Republic looking for international support for Puerto Rico's independence movement.[1]

In 1935, four Nationalists were killed by the police under the command of Colonel E. Francis Riggs. The incident became known as the Rio Piedras massacre. The following year in 1936, two members of the Cadets of the Republic, the Nationalist youth organization, Hiram Rosado and Elias Beauchamp assassinated Colonel Riggs. They were arrested and executed, without a trial, at police headquarters in San Juan.

In 1936, Corretjer met and became friends with the nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos. He was named Secretary General of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party

On April 3, 1936, a Federal Grand Jury submitted accusations against Pedro Albizu Campos, Juan Antonio Corretjer, Luis F. Velázquez, Clemente Soto Vélez and the following members of the Cadets of the Republic: Erasmo Velázquez, Julio H. Velázquez, Rafael Ortiz Pacheco, Juan Gallardo Santiago, and Pablo Rosado Ortiz. They were charged with sedition and other violations of Title 18 of the United States Code.[4] Title 18 of the United States Code is the criminal and penal code of the federal government of the United States. It deals with federal crimes and criminal procedure.[5] As evidence, the prosecution referred to the creation, organization and the activities of the cadets, which the government made reference to as the "Liberting Army of Puerto Rico". The government prosecutors stated that the military tactics which the cadets were taught was for the sole purpose of overthrowing the Government of the U.S.[6][7] A jury composed of seven Puerto Ricans and five Americans ended with a hung jury. Judge Robert A. Cooper called for a new jury, this time composed of ten Americans and two Puerto Ricans, and a guilty verdict was reached.[8] Corretjer was sent to "La Princesa" prison for one year in 1937, because he refused to hand over to the American authorities the Book of Acts of the Nationalists Party, as result of his political beliefs.[9]

In 1937 a group of lawyers, including a young Gilberto Concepción de Gracia, tried in vain to defend the Nationalists, but the Boston Court of Appeals, which held appellate jurisdiction over federal matters in Puerto Rico, upheld the verdict. Albizu Campos and the other Nationalist leaders were sent to the Federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia.[9]

Puerto Rico's Gag Law[edit]

On May 21, 1948, a bill (Puerto Rico's Gag Law) 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 over by Luis Muñoz Marín, approved the Bill.[10] The Bill, also known as the "Ley de la Mordaza" (gag Law), made it illegal to display a Puerto Rican flag, to sing a patriotic tune, to talk of independence, and to fight for the liberation of the island. The Bill, which resembled the anti-communist Smith Law passed in the United States, was signed into law on June 10, 1948, by the U.S.-appointed governor of Puerto Rico, Jesús T. Piñero and became known as "Ley 53" (Law 53).[11] In accordance to the new law, it would be a crime to print, publish, sell, exhibit, organize, or to help anyone organize, any society, group or assembly of people whose intentions are to paralyze or destroy the insular government. Anyone accused and found guilty of disobeying the law could be sentenced to ten years of prison, be fined $10,000 dollars (US) or both. According to Leopoldo Figueroa, a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, the law was repressive and was in violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution which guarantees Freedom of Speech. He pointed out that the law as such was a violation of the civil rights of the people of Puerto Rico.[12]

Nationalist Party Revolts of the 1950s[edit]

On October 30, 1950, the Nationalists staged uprisings in the towns of Ponce, Mayagüez, Naranjito, Arecibo, Utuado (Utuado Uprising), San Juan (San Juan Nationalist revolt), and Jayuya (Jayuya Uprising).[13]

Known as the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party Revolts of the 1950s, the revolts were a widespread call for independence by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, against United States Government rule over Puerto Rico. It specifically repudiated the so-called "Free Associated State" (Estado Libre Asociado) designation of Puerto Rico - a designation widely recognized as a colonial farce.[14]

The revolts failed because of the overwhelming force used by the U.S. military, the U.S. National Guard, the FBI, the CIA, and the Puerto Rican Insular Police - all of whom were aligned against the Nationalists. This force included the machine-gunning of Nationalists all over the island, and the aerial bombing of the town of Jayuya. Hundreds of cadets and Nationalists, among them Corretjer,[3] were arrested by mid-November 1950, and the party was never the same.[14]

Poetry and essays[edit]

Literary style and themes[edit]

The themes and inspiration for his poems and essays were devoted to his defense of his native land.[15] Corretjer's epic poem "Alabanza en la Torre de Ciales" (Praise in the tower of Ciales) (1953), is considered one of the representative works of the "neocriollismo" movement and has had a strong influence on many later poets.[2][16] In Corretjer's poetry the Taino is no longer an idealized figure but allegory of revolutionary legacy.[2] In the prologue of "Yerba bruja", Corretjer states it was not his intent to "dig up a mummy" but to bring to light "the splendor of the indigenous imagination that lives on in our own."[17]

His poetry spans several decades and transcended any particular literary movement. The Puerto Rican Athenaeum awarded him the honorary title of Puerto Rico National Poet.[2]

Selected list of works[edit]

External audio
You may listen to Juan Antonio Corretjer and Roy Brown's interpretation on YouTube of "Boricua en la Luna"

Poetry

  • "Agueybana" (1932),
  • "Amor a Puerto Rico" (1937) (Love of Puerto Rico),
  • "Cantico de Guerra" (1937) (Song of War),
  • "El Leñero" (1944) (Timberman),
  • "Tierra Nativa" (1951) (Native Land),
  • "Yerba Bruja" (1957) (Bewitched Grass)[3]

Puerto Rican musician Roy Brown Ramírez set many of Corretjer's poems to music, particularly "Boricua en la luna", "En la vida todo es ir" (later versioned by artists such as Joan Manuel Serrat, Mercedes Sosa, Antonio Cabán Vale, Haciendo Punto en Otro Son, Fiel A La Vega, Lucecita Benítez and others), "Sal a caminar", "Diana de Guilarte" and "Oubao-Moín".[1][not in citation given]

Essays

  • "Llorens"
  • "Juicio Historico" (Historic Trial)
  • "La Revolucion de Lares" (The Revolution of Lares)
  • "Nuestra Bandera" (Our Flag)

Published books

  • "Albizu Campos and the Ponce massacre" (1965)

This book, sometimes called a pamphlet, was written in English as it was intended for the U.S. American public audience. Its purpose was to raise conscience among the American people about the event of the Ponce Massacre as most Americans had never heard of the involvmenet of the US government and the US media in that massacre. The pamphlet, currently (January 2014) out of print, was reprinetd in its entirely as Chapter 19 in Francisco Hernandez Vazquez's book Latino/a Thought (pp 377–404). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2009.

  • "Imagen De Borinquen, IV Yerba Bruja", (1970)
  • "Aguinaldo escarlata", (1974)
  • "Aguinaldo escarlata", (1974)
  • "Prisionero 70495", 1976
  • "Pausa Para El Amor", (1976)
  • "La lucha por la independencia de Puerto Rico", (1977)
  • "Obra Poetica"
  • "Paso a Venezuela", (1977)
  • "El Cumplido", (1979)
  • "Los dias de conta dos", (1984)

Published Posthumously

  • "Alabanzas: Antologia", (2000)
  • "Yerba bruja", (1992)

Legacy[edit]

The "Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña" (The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture) published a collection of his poems in 1976. Corretjer died in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on January 19, 1985.[3] The government named a high school in Ciales after Corretjer thereby honoring him.[18]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^
    This name uses Spanish naming customs; the first or paternal family name is Corretjer and the second or maternal family name is Montes.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d PRCC
  2. ^ a b c d e Márquez, Robert. Puerto Rican poetry: a selection from aboriginal to contemporary times. p. 204. 
  3. ^ a b c d Interview with Juan Antonio Corretjer - 1982
  4. ^ FBI Files on Puerto Ricans
  5. ^ [*text of Title 18 Chapter 601 Immunity for witnesses, via findlaw.com]
  6. ^ "FBI Files"; "Puerto Rico Nationalist Party"; SJ 100-3; Vol. 23; pages 104-134.
  7. ^ Nationalist Insurrection
  8. ^ The Imprisonment of Men and Women Fighting Colonialism, 1930 - 1940 Retrieved December 9, 2009.
  9. ^ a b Biografia
  10. ^ "La obra jurídica del Profesor David M. Helfeld (1948-2008)'; by: Dr. Carmelo Delgado Cintrón
  11. ^ "Puerto Rican History". Topuertorico.org. January 13, 1941. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  12. ^ La Gobernación de Jesús T. Piñero y la Guerra Fría
  13. ^ Puerto Rico history
  14. ^ a b "Discrimination for Political Beliefs and Associations"; Helfeld, D. M.; Revista del Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico; volumen = 25
  15. ^ Smith, Verity. Concise encyclopedia of Latin American literature. p. 511. 
  16. ^ Brief History of Puerto Rican Literature
  17. ^ Fragment to the prologue of Yerba bruja (in Spanish). 
  18. ^ Juan Antonio Corretjer High Scholl

External links[edit]