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Black Flag Boricuas

Black Flag Boricuas: Anarchism, Antiauthoritarianism, and the Left in Puerto Rico, 1897-1921

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Black Flag Boricuas
    Book Description:

    This pathbreaking study examines the radical Left in Puerto Rico from the final years of Spanish colonial rule into the 1920s. Positioning Puerto Rico within the context of a regional anarchist network that stretched from Puerto Rico and Cuba to Tampa, Florida, and New York City, Kirwin R. Shaffer illustrates how anarchists linked their struggle to the broader international anarchist struggles against religion, governments, and industrial capitalism. Their groups, speeches, and press accounts--as well as the newspapers that they published--were central in helping to develop an anarchist vision for Puerto Ricans at a time when the island was a political no-man's-land, neither an official U.S. colony or state nor an independent country.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09490-3
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Abbreviations and Style Notes
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. xv-xvii)

    For days, tensions had been building in the small, east-central Puerto Rican city of Caguas. Tobacco workers across the island were on strike, and anarchists in Caguas were spearheading the efforts there. Juan Vilar was a teacher and organizer in the Caguas Centro de Estudios Sociales (CES)—a center founded by anarchists and other leftists to raise consciousness among the city’s workers and offer alternative education to their children. CES membership had been growing, causing concern among local authorities. At a rally on Thursday evening, March 9, 1911, one speaker after another urged workers to hold on, condemning the U.S.-based...

  6. [Map]
    (pp. xviii-xviii)
  7. Introduction: Cultural Politics and Transnational Anarchism in Puerto Rico
    (pp. 1-22)

    Today, in the latest manifestation of capitalist globalization, the traveler to the Caribbean more likely visits the islands to vacation than to work, more likely luxuriates in the bounty acquired from global capitalism than organizes to fight against global capitalism, more likely tries to forget the mindless bickering of politicians and religious pundits on the television each night than seeks to resist or even topple these rambling rubes. Yet, over a century ago, international anarchists made their way to the Caribbean during an earlier wave of capitalist globalization that swept the Atlantic world from the 1890s to 1920s. There migrants...

  8. 1. The Roots of Anarchism and Radical Labor Politics in Puerto Rico, 1870s–1899
    (pp. 23-45)

    Since February 1895, Spanish soldiers had been chasing independence fighters around Cuba. For the third time in thirty years, men and women of all colors rose up against Spanish colonial rule. But it was not just the Cuban-born who sided with those seeking a violent repeal of European imperialism. Anarchists born in Spain but living and working in the tobacco industry in Havana, New York, Key West, and Tampa joined the struggle, putting aside their skepticism about a nationalist revolt and deciding that the fight for collective freedom was what mattered most. Among those European-born radicals in late 1896 was...

  9. 2. Radicals and Reformers: Anarchists, Electoral Politics, and the Unions, 1900–1910
    (pp. 46-75)

    The pool of political candidates kept growing as Puerto Rico entered a new election cycle in 1906. Mainstream candidates for the island legislature and municipalities campaigned around the island in late summer. These candidates were primarily retooled versions of the old autonomy parties from 1898. But other political players were emerging. The traditional parties now were increasingly joined by candidates representing new working-class political parties. Because Americanization was ushering in U.S. political reforms and electoral politics, some working-class activists saw an opportunity that had been denied them in the 1898 autonomy elections. In those elections, voters could only choose between...

  10. 3. Anarchist Alliances, Government Repression: Education, Freethinkers, and CESs, 1909–1912
    (pp. 76-91)

    It seemed that every week new faces were joining old radical stalwarts. Single men as well as couples were walking through the doors of the nondescript building that housed the Caguas Centro de Estudios Sociales near the center of town. They came for a number of reasons—some to hear a speaker or watch a play, a few to discuss labor issues and conditions in the tobacco factories, others to browse the library of radical literature or read the anarchist newspapers arriving from New York, Barcelona, and Havana. Workers also came in the evenings to attend night classes. By 1909,...

  11. 4. Anarchists, Freethinkers, and Spiritists: The Progressive Alliance against the Catholic Church, 1909–1912
    (pp. 92-105)

    For almost two years, Belén de Sárraga had been traveling the hemisphere, speaking on freedom, freedom of speech, the need for women’s freedom for society to progress, and, above all, on the antihuman horrors perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church. Cuba had been the latest stop on her triumphant anticlerical, free-thought speaking tour of the Americas. Now, in April 1912, she left Havana for Puerto Rico, where leftists were engaged in a continuous struggle against the church. Sárraga’s speeches were the talk of San Juan as word spread and interest grew. On Sunday, May 5, the crowds grew larger to...

  12. 5. Radicalism Imagined: Leftist Culture, Gender, and Revolutionary Violence, 1900–1920
    (pp. 106-122)

    By the 1910s, Santiago Iglesias and the FLT leadership had flirted off and on with formal electoral politics. At the 1910 FLT congress, delegates had voted to abandon this course of action after disastrous electoral results—and not a little internal criticism from anarchists within the FLT. As a result, the union recommitted itself to the economic struggle. From late 1913 through early 1915, large strikes rippled through the tobacco and sugar industries. Two thousand cigar makers in Caguas struck in October 1913. In February 1914, some 1,500 tobacco workers throughout the island went on strike. Agricultural workers, especially in...

  13. 6. Politics of the Bayamón Bloc and the Partido Socialista: Anarchism and Socialism in the 1910s
    (pp. 123-140)

    In early February 1916, workers belonging to the Bayamón FLT were celebrating at an assembly inside their hall. Strikes were disrupting the island, and the union saw this as a time to rejoice and strategize for the future. Speakers rose to offer congratulations to fellow radicals across the island and across the aisle in the hall. Shouts for victory pierced the air and one round of applause after another filled the union hall with camaraderie and cheer. At some point in the festivities, someone in the hall looked out a window and gave a shout. At that moment, twenty armed...

  14. 7. El Comunista: Radical Journalism and Transnational Anarchism, 1920–1921
    (pp. 141-166)

    The Bolshevik Revolution played havoc with the world’s leftist movements. Anarchists, socialists, and communists from various ideological tendencies looked with wonder at events unfolding in Russia in late 1917 and afterward. As Schmidt and van der Walt note, the Bolsheviks “seemed far to the left of the old Labour and Socialist International, raised slogans that seemed quite libertarian, and sought to draw the syndicalist unions into a special wing of the COMINTERN: the Red International of Labour Unions.” Inspired by the fact that the original soviets were decentralized, democratic, and self-managing, anarchists and syndicalists around the world helped to launch...

  15. Conclusion and Epilogue: Anarchist Antiauthoritarianism in a U.S. Colony, 1898–2011
    (pp. 167-180)

    Global anarchism was in the throes of demise in much of the world by 1921, falling under the onslaught of authoritarian repression across the globe. The Bolsheviks clamped down on anarchists throughout Russia and Ukraine, paralleling the Red Scare repression unleashed in the United States and Puerto Rico on anarchists at the same time. Leading global anarchist figures fell in the early 1920s. The elder statesman of anarchism, Peter Kropotkin, died in 1921 and within a year the best-known Puerto Rican anarchist, Luisa Capetillo, was also dead.

    The fall of anarchism in Puerto Rico brought to an end more than...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 181-198)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-212)
  18. Index
    (pp. 213-220)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-222)