Rafael Cancel Miranda passed away yesterday at 9:10 pm, in his home in Rio Piedras, surrounded by his family. He would have been 90 years old in July.
When he was six years old, his parents took him to a special event in Ponce.
It was Palm Sunday in 1937. Families and children, many of them the same age as Rafael, arrived from all over the island.
It was a beautiful afternoon until they started singing La Borinqueña.
At that moment the police started shooting…and kept on shooting…until 17 unarmed men, women and children had been slaughtered in the street. 200 more were wounded and sent to the hospital. It was the Ponce Massacre, and little Rafael was right in the middle of it.
As one of the Nurses of the Republic, Rafael’s mother was wearing a white nurse’s uniform. It was soaked with blood as she crawled over bodies in search of her husband.
Miraculously Rafael and his parents were not shot, but hundreds of others were…and shortly afterward, Rafael committed his first political act. He refused to salute the American flag in his first grade classroom.
Eleven years later, in 1948, Rafael marched for Puerto Rico’s independence, and refused to be drafted into the US military.
Rafael Cancel Miranda marches in early 1948
In 1954, he joined the attack on the US Congress, and was imprisoned for 25 years as a result. He was jailed in Alcatraz, Leavenworth, and Marian federal prisons.
Pres. Jimmy Carter finally pardoned him in 1979. Since that time, and up until today, Don Rafael has been a constant and passionate advocate for the independence of Puerto Rico.
Don Rafael wrote nine books about his life and his principles.
He was deeply committed to those principles, and he shared them for over five decades.
Puerto Ricans treasure their heroes. There are very few of them in the world of politics…and Don Rafael Cancel Miranda was one of the greatest. He is very much alive, in our hearts and memories. We salute, treasure, and give great honor to this special man.
His entire life was one of courage and sacrifice and patriotism. Que viva siempre, Don Rafael Cancel Miranda.
For a history of the War Against All Puerto Ricans, read the book…
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