19 November marks the birthday of Puerto Rican Nationalist Lolita Lebron. On a rainy March 1st in 1954, Ms. Lebron left New York City, where she had been working in a shoe factory, and arrived in Washington, DC, where she led three others to the visitors’ gallery in the US House of Representatives. She unfurled a Puerto Rican flag, and as she shouted, “Vive Puerto Rico Libre!” She and her compatriots fired 30 pistol shots into the ceiling and at the chamber floor below. All were apprehended by Capitol Police and upon arrest Ms. Lebron stated, “I didn’t come to kill anyone, I came to die for Puerto Rico.” Further evidence that she fully expected to die during the demonstration was shown when a note was found in her purse, reading in part, “Before God and the world, my blood claims for the independence of Puerto Rico. My life I give for the freedom of my country. This is a cry for victory in our struggle for independence . . . The United States of America are betraying the sacred principles of mankind in their continuous subjugation of my country . . . I take responsible for all.”
In 1979, after they had served 25 years in various Federal prisons, President Jimmy Carter pardoned Lolita Lebrón, Cancel Miranda, and Irving Flores Rodríguez. They received a hero’s welcome from independence groups upon their return to the island.