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Luisa Capetillo: Art/Agitation/Anarchy! by (not4)Prophet, 2011

Luisa Capetillo: Art/Agitation/Anarchy! by (not4)Prophet, 2011

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Published by: Virtual Boricua on Jan 02, 2012
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Luisa Capetillo: Art/Agitation/Anarchy!
“When there is no longer the need to steal a roll of bread, for lack of food; when private property no longer exists and we all begin to view each other asbrothers and sisters, then and only then will the prisons and useless, destructivechurches disappear. Misery, hate and prostitution will cease to exist. Free tradewill exist because all frontiers and borders will be abolished and then trueliberty will reign on this planet” – Luisa Capetillo"I believe nothing to be impossible; nor do i absorb myself in any particular moment or new discovery. For that reason I find no idea to be utopian. Theessential thing is to put each idea into practice. To Begin!" - Luisa Capetillo"The institution of slavery no longer exists, but as long as there are masters,there will be slaves" - Luisa Capetillo
Luisa Capetillo was an anarchist, working-class laboractivist, and women’s rights advocate living andworking in the midst of the rapid industrialization of Puerto Rico during its transition from Spanish rule tou.s. control after the Spanish-American war.She was born out of wedlock in Arecibo, Puerto Rico onOctober 28, 1879 and was home schooled by herparents and dedicated one of the books that she wouldlater write, to her mother “who never imposed orforced me to think according to tradition.” She alsodeclared that 
The majority of my studies I have carried out in relation to myself 
Luisa herself would go on to have two children of herown outside of marriage as a matter of principle,believing that 
Marriage as currently practiced is an error. In our current society, women get married only to follow custom…. I think that a man should…choose the womanhe loves with all of his soul, and make her his wife, and create a family. And if they are not compatible and feel obligated to separate, then they can eachchoose again in the future
Luisa eventually, adopted an anarchist philosophy/politic and it was those ideas/idealsthat she would live by for the rest of her life.
 
Luisa was baptized as a Catholic, but rejected the concept of religion. But unlike otheranarchists, Luisa considered herself to be a “good Christian”, who simply rejected the rigiddogmas and rituals of religion and believed that the Catholic Church was allied with theruling class. She insisted instead that true Christianity was to be found in the eradication of oppression and exploitation.Early on, Luisa embroidered shirts and handkerchiefs in order to help support her family,but eventually secured a position as a lectora/reader in one of Arecibo’s tobacco factories.The reader would entertain/educate the workers by reading to them from local andinternational newspapers, books on socialist/anarchist philosophy, and also from novelschosen by the workers themselves, while the workers would select/cut/coil tobacco leavesto produce cigars.Often, certain passages of particular literary works or political essays would be repeatedseveral times so that workers could commit them to memory. It was also tradition in thetobacco factories to have open discussions/debate on particular lectures without interrupting the work. Workers also debated/voted on which works would be read eachday and it became common for the lectors to read anarchist literature aloud in the tobaccofactories, thereby greatly aiding in the dissemination of anarchist ideas amongst theworkers. It was in the tobacco factory that Capetillo had her first contact with the union -La Federación de Torcedores de Tabaco (The Federation of Tobacco Rollers) which wasaffiliated with La Federación Libre de Trabajadores (The Free Federation of Labor).The first union in PR, La Federación Regional de Trabajadores (The Regional Federation of Workers), was formed during the military occupation of Puerto Rico by the u.s. in 1898.The eight-hour workday was ordered by military decree in 1899, and the prohibitionagainst unions imposed under Spanish rule was abolished. However, because of ideologicaldifferences, a group of members broke away and formed the FLT - Federación Libre deTrabajadores (the Free Federation of Workers) that subsequently affiliated with theAmerican Federation of Labor. Like other leaders of the FLT, Luisa associated the PuertoRican independence movement of the time with Puerto Rico’s local elites.During the first half of the 20th century, u.s. sugar plantations swallowed up many acres of land formerly belonging to Puerto Rican small farmers. In addition to displacing the smallfarmers, the new u.s. corporate controllers of the farming industry in Puerto Rico built huge grinding mills where they used new, sophisticated machinery to cultivate, harvest,and process the sugar and began hiring fewer and fewer Puerto Rican workers to do thework in Puerto Rico. As Kelvin Santiago-Valles points out in his book, “Subject People” andColonial Discourse
Undernourishment and, to some degree, famine, were very much present inthe daily lives of most of the Island's population throughout the first half of this century
Between 1900 and 1901, u.s.-owned corporations recruited over 5,000 Puerto Rican men,women and children to work on sugar plantations in the then u.s. territory, Hawaii, andothers were shipped to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Mexico.
 
A
New York Times
article from 1901 mentioned
inspection of the Porto Rican immigrants brought here by the steamer Colonshows that they are in such state from the need of food that they must be heldat the quarantine station and fed until they regain strength sufficient to enablethem to bear the journey to the other island and to the plantations on whichthey work.
While characterized as the remedy for Puerto Rico’s economic woes, this low wage work was the equivalent of modern day slavery, so many Puerto Ricans would escape during thelong ship to train to ship trip to Hawaii, while others who were not so lucky ended upworking in the iron mines in Cuba. As one Puerto Rican mine worker declared
In Santiago, Cuba, Puerto Ricans cannot stand up under the duress workingthe iron mines, owned by an American company. The promises made have not been met and, as a result, many of our brothers have been forced to beg forcharity
Beginning in 1890s, and in the months precedingthe u.s. invasion of Puerto Rico, attacks carriedout by “extremely impoverished peasants” whocame to be known as Los Tiznados, for the soot that they would camouflage their faces with,broke out all over the island. Peasants,sometimes numbering up to 200 people, burnedhaciendas and warehouses and stole property.Large landowners and their families werevilified and killed, while the impoverishedPuerto Rican insurgents distributed theappropriated properties among themselves.One member of the propertied class, Dr ManuelF. Rossy who was a lawyer, local political leaderand editor of the local newspaper, wrote that there had been municipalities where
 As many as twenty-two estates had beendestroyed, and in many cases the coffee crophad been ruined
By the second half of 1900, urban insurgenciescarried out by Puerto Rican peasants hadbecome a daily occurrence. In the mountainoustown of Cayey, a mob of laborers storm the jailsto liberate other previously arrested members of their group, and in several towns theMayors were stoned and shot at.

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