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Fearless Inspiration – by Myriam Ortiz

February 10, 2008

A few days after my 9th birthday, Filiberto Ojeda Ríos was arrested from his house in Luquillo, Puerto Rico by an army of FBI agents. I had no idea who he was then, but in my conservative household he was known as a terrorist, a criminal; someone I should fear. I was 13 years old when a jury of his peers (and by this I mean a jury composed of Puerto Ricans in a federal court in San Juan) declared him innocent of all the charges the federal government had against him. Still then, I didn’t have a clear picture of his persona. It wasn’t until years later that I learned the reality of who this man was.

My country’s history is full of people who have sacrificed their lives for the independence of Puerto Rico. For generations, we have fought the imperial power of the “United States” both inside and outside the island.

Filiberto was one of those heroes of my country. He was a musician who played the trumpet. Even during his years in clandestinity, he would show up at concerts to perform with some of the best Puerto Rican bands. When you heard his voice, you could tell he was a simple man. His speeches were filled with humility and power. It is my opinion that a good revolutionary should carry this terrific combination in her/his character.

The “United States” in its racist and continuous pursuit of control over the world has demonstrated that massive incarceration, torture and murder are ok if it helps their endeavors. Anyone who dares to take a position against this regime is taking a risk of going to jail or simply disappearing. The case of the San Francisco 8 proves this. Certainly, the louder you are, the bigger of a target you become. Given those circumstances, I can understand that people begin to develop fear. But then I wonder, how did Filiberto do it? Wasn’t he scared? Wasn’t he afraid they would disappear him too? He probably was, because they tried many times to stop him, to disappear him. But he also understood that he had a responsibility to denounce what was wrong and to expose the oppressive and dirty nature of the “U.S.’s” policies against his people and other people of color throughout the world. He understood that life could not be the same once you learn that over 100,000 women were sterilized without their consent and used as guinea pigs to test contraceptives destined for North American women; or that our people die of cancer thanks to the explosives and other poisons dumped on our land by the “U.S.” military during their war exercises. He understood clearly that oppression against one of us, was oppression against all of us. I believe that his love for our people made him fearless. In his own words:

“The more advanced sectors of our people can not afford the luxury of fear. We can not allow ourselves to fear repression, jail, torture, or even death.

No one wants to die, but if we’re to be revolutionaries, we can not allow our actions to be halted by the prospect of such dangers. It’s not that we should take up martyrdom for its own sake, leave everything to improvisation, or allow male supremacy to rule our actions. We must put a great deal of thought and care into what we do on behalf of our people.”

So we need to get organized! Not just for our immediate need to fight this monster, but also for the future. I was 29 years old when Filiberto was assassinated in his home by an army of 300+ police and FBI agents, but not without a fight. He inspires me now not only to keep up the fight, but to begin thinking of my future and the future of my family. My two little revolutionaries are soon to be born and I can’t wait to start teaching them about Filiberto. I wish he was alive so that my babies could feel the excitement of learning about a real hero. But he is still our hero. Just like Malcolm X is, and just like Don Pedro Albizu. I have a lot of fears, but when I think of Filiberto and his sacrifices, I see my responsibility of becoming a true revolutionary for my future and the future of my people. Because I am alive now, I will keep up the fight until my last day. Like Filiberto did!

Myriam Ortiz is a member of the Boston Chapter of the Jericho Movement.

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