Olga Viscal Garriga

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Olga Viscal Garriga
Olga Viscal Garriga.JPG
Viscal Garriga on trial for refusing to recognize U.S. authority over Puerto Rico
BornMay 5, 1929
DiedJune 1995 (aged 65)
Political partyPuerto Rican Nationalist Party
MovementPuerto Rican Independence
ChildrenPedro, Olga, and Maria Luz

Olga Isabel Viscal Garriga (May 5, 1929 – June 1995) was a public orator and political activist. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she moved to Puerto Rico, where she was a student leader and spokesperson of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party's branch in Rio Piedras. As an advocate for Puerto Rican independence, she was sentenced to eight years in a U.S. federal penitentiary, for refusing to recognize the sovereign authority of the United States over Puerto Rico.

Early years[edit]

Olga Isabel Viscal Garriga[note 1] was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1929. Her parents, Francisco Viscal Bravo and Laura Garriga Gonzalez, had moved there from Puerto Rico in the early 1920s. Olga was one of seven children born to the couple. The children were the fourth-great-grandchildren of Field Marshal Don Juan Andres Daban y Busterino, who served as the Spanish-appointed Governor and General Captain of Puerto Rico from 1783 to 1789.[1][2][3][4] Her parents returned with the family to Puerto Rico, settling in Rio Piedras. Viscal was raised and educated there, after having witnessed discrimination against Puerto Ricans in New York. As she grew up, she strongly disagreed with U.S. policies that limited human rights, freedom of speech, and self-determination in Puerto Rico.[1]

Student activist[edit]

Viscal enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico, where she earned her Doctoral Degree in Political Sciences. During the late 1940s, and while finishing her Ph.D., she became a student leader and spokesperson of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party's branch in Rio Piedras. The Party was headed by Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, and favored the forceful expulsion of the U.S. from Puerto Rico.[2]

The arrest of (L to R) Nationalists Carmen María Pérez Gonzalez, Olga Viscal Garriga and Ruth Mary Reynolds in November 2, 1950

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, controlled by the PPD and presided by Luis Muñoz Marín, approved the Bill.[5] 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 speak of independence, or to advocate for the liberation of the island - even if this speech or advocacy occurred in one's own living room.[1][2][4]

The bill resembled the anti-communist Smith Law passed in the United States. was signed and made 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).[2][4]

In accordance with the new law, it would be a crime to print, publish, sell or exhibit any material which advocated against the U.S. insular government, or to assist any organize any group or assembly of people who advocated or intended the same. Anyone accused and found guilty of disobeying the law could be sentenced to ten years of prison, fined $10,000 dollars (US), or both. According to Dr. Leopoldo Figueroa, a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, the law was in direct violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech. Given that all Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens as of 1917, this law violated the civil rights of every Puerto Rican.[1][4]

Viscal, who befriended Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, was a talented orator and political activist. Although she was not directly involved in any violent act in 1950, Viscal was arrested because she participated in a demonstration that turned deadly in Old San Juan, after the police and other authorities opened fire on the demonstrators, one of whom was killed. She was detained on November 2, along with Carmen María Pérez Roque and Ruth Mary Reynolds (The American/Puerto Rican Nationalist) and held in the La Princesa jail. During her trial in the federal court in Old San Juan, she was uncooperative with the U.S. government prosecution and refused to recognize the authority of the U.S. over Puerto Rico. She was sentenced to eight years in prison for contempt of court, and released after serving five.[1][2][3][4]

Later years[edit]

After her release from prison, Viscal went to Cuba, where she was the Puerto Rican representative to the Cuban Parliament. As such, she met with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. She was a devout Catholic, and thus became disillusioned with Castro's politics and selectively atheist policies. After publicly criticizing Castro, she escaped from Cuba with the help of her younger sister, Irma. Olga Viscal Garriga died in June 1995 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She was the mother of three children, Pedro, Olga and Maria Luz.[1][2][3]


Viscal Garriga was the inspiration for the main character Antígona, in the play La Pasión Según Antígona Pérez (The Passion According to Antígona Pérez), written by Puerto Rican playwright Luis Rafael Sánchez.[6]

There is a plaque, located at the monument to the Jayuya Uprising participants in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, honoring the women of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. Viscal Garriga's name is on the fifteenth line of the third plate.

Plaque honoring the women of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party


  1. ^ This article uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Viscal and the second or maternal family name is Garriga.

Further reading[edit]

  • "War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony"; Author: Nelson Antonio Denis; Publisher: Nation Books (April 7, 2015); ISBN 978-1568585017.

See also[edit]

19th Century female leaders of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement

Female members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party

Articles related to the Puerto Rican Independence Movement


  1. ^ a b c d e f Nationalist Heroines: Puerto Rican Women History Forgot, 1930s-1950s; Markus Wiener Publishers; Page: 166
  2. ^ a b c d e f War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony; Author: Nelson Antonio Denis; Publisher: Nation Books (April 7, 2015); ISBN 978-1568585017.
  3. ^ a b c Las Heroinas Olvidadas de Puerto Rico
  4. ^ a b c d e Las Mujeres Nacionalistas
  5. ^ Cintrón, Carmelo Delgado. "La obra jurídica del Profesor David M. Helfeld (1948-2008)". Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  6. ^ Sánchez, Luis Rafael

External links[edit]