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Grito de Lares (The Cry of Lares)

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El Grito de Lares (or The Cry of Lares in English) —also referred as the Lares uprising, the Lares revolt, or the Lares rebellion— refers to the revolt against Spanish rule in Puerto Rico which occurred on September 23, 1868, in the town of Lares, Puerto Rico.

Lares Revolutionary Flag

Seeds for revolt

In the mid 19th century in Puerto Rico, many supporters of independence from Spain and others who simply called for liberal reforms were jailed or exiled during this period. Puerto Rico also suffered at the time a severe economic crisis due to increasing tariffs and taxes imposed by a mercantilist Spain on most import and export goods--the Spanish Crown badly needed these funds to subsidize its troops in an effort to regain control of the Dominican Republic. Frustrated by the lack of political and economic freedom, and enraged by the continuing repression on the island, an armed rebellion was staged by the pro-independence movement in 1868.

Rebellion occurs

The Lares uprising, commonly known as the "Grito de Lares" occurred on September 23, 1868, but was planned well before that date by a group led by Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances and Segundo Ruiz Belvis, who on January 6, 1868 founded the "Comité Revolucionario de Puerto Rico" (Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico) from their exile in the Dominican Republic. Betances authored several "Proclamas" or statements attacking the exploitation of the Puerto Ricans by the Spanish colonial system and called for immediate insurrection. These statements soon circulated throughout the island as local dissident groups began to organize. Secret cells of the Revolutionary Committee were established in Puerto Rico by Mathias Bruckman, Mariana Bracetti and Manuel Rojas bringing together members from all sectors of society, to include landowners, merchants, professionals, peasants, and slaves. Most were "criollos" (born on the island). The critical state of the economy, along with the increasing repression imposed by the Spanish, served as catalysts for the rebellion. The stronghold of the movement was found in towns located on the mountains of the western part of the island.

Although original plans called for the insurrection to begin on September 29, Spanish authorities on the island discovered the plan forcing the rebels to move up the date. It was then agreed to first strike at the town of Lares on September 23. Some 400–600 rebels gathered on that day in the hacienda of Manuel Rojas, located in the vicinity of Pezuela, on the outskirts of Lares. Poorly trained and armed, the rebels reached the town by horse and foot around midnight. They looted local stores and offices owned by "peninsulares" (Spanish-born men) and took over the city hall, proclaiming the new Republic of Puerto Rico. Spanish merchants and local government authorities, considered by the rebels to be enemies of the fatherland, were taken as prisoners. The following day, September 24, the Republic of Puerto Rico was proclaimed under the presidency of Francisco Ramirez Medina. All slaves that had joined the movement were declared free citizens. The rebel forces then departed to take over the next town, San Sebastián del Pepino. The Spanish militia, however, surprised the group with strong resistance, causing great confusion among the armed rebels who, led by Manuel Rojas, retreated back to Lares. Upon an order from the governor, Julián Pavía, the Spanish militia soon rounded up the rebels and quickly brought the insurrection to an end. Some 475 rebels were imprisoned, among them, Manuel Rojas. On November 17, a military court imposed the death penalty, for treason and sedition, on all prisoners. Nevertheless, in an effort to appease the already tense atmosphere on the island, the incoming governor, José Laureano Sanz, dictated a general amnesty early in 1869 and all prisoners were released.

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