The "Grito de Lares" is Puerto Rico's first and only cry for
Independence. On September 23, 1868 between 600 to 1000 men, mostly Puerto
Rican born and from the west of the Island, revolted for Independence from
Spain. Of the arrested most were innocent jíbaros their only guilt was
being passive victims of the political regime. The citizens of the Capital
as well as the wealthy were indifferent to the independence movement. The
men were poorly armed without aid, protection or training. The revolt
which was planned for September 29th began instead on the 23rd as a result
On the evening of the 23rd the most daring met at the farm of Manuel
Rojas in Pezuelas, Lares. Led by Manuel Rojas this group of men marched
towards Lares. Second in command was Matías Brugman, other leaders were
Joaquín Parrilla, Eusebio Ibarra, Manuel Cebollero, Juan Terreforte, Andrés
Pol y Gambino Plumey. This group was able to "take" Lares
without any resistance before the Spaniards became aware if the revolt.
The group proceeded to form a provisional government declaring an
independent Puerto Rico Republic. The new President was Francisco Ramírez,
Aurelio Méndez was the Government Minister, Clemente Millán was the
Justice Minister, Federico Valencia was the Minister of the Treasury,
Manuel Ramírez was the Secretary of State, Bernabé Pol was the
Secretary. The following day they marched to San Sebastián where the
Spanish militia awaited them and the rest is history.
Within 24 hours the revolt, which was twelve years in the planning, was
defeated by the Spanish government. Of the participants 20 escaped, 8 died
in action, 7 were tried by the War Council. Four months later Spain
declared a general amnesty. No one was executed or kept in jail over 4
months. However 80 died in jail from yellow fever. The majority of the
insurgents were Puerto Ricans and represented diverse socio-economic and
racial levels. Of the 551 that were ultimately charged, 93% were born in
west Puerto Rico and only 17 in the northeast. Mayagüez and Pepino
produced one third of the suspects. 27 towns contributed men with only 10
town supplying 85% of the insurgents. Only 7% were foreign born. Dr.
Betances was allowed to go to France in exile.
The reasons for the defeat were: the betrayal of the plan; Betances'
inability to arrive with the weapons or ammunitions; and the fact that the
general citizenry was lukewarm to the movement.
The insurrection had several leaders the most prominent being; Ramón
Emeterio Betances (1827-1898), leading the movement from exile in Santo
Domingo and Segundo Ruiz Belvis (1829-1867) co-leader with Betances. Ana
María (Mariana) Bracetti Cuevas (1825-1903), wife of one of the members
of the insurrection, sewed the revolutionary flag designed by Betances.
The reason for the insurrection were: POVERTY, SLAVERY, taxation, lack of
opportunity, and military rule.
The revolt was not a total loss. Shortly after the revolt Spain gave the
Island many liberal reforms. It extended to Puerto Rico some of the
liberal constitution that it had allowed during the war in Spanish
America. Puerto Rico received provincial status and Spanish Citizenship
was granted to the criollos. Some political reforms granted were allowing
Boricuas to participate in special elections and to organize themselves
into officially recognized political parties. Abolition of slavery began
slowly in 1869 and was completed in 1873 giving freedom to some thirty two
thousand slaves. (In 1827 there were approximately four times the number
of free Africans in Puerto Rico than slaves. Partly due to the creole's
distaste for slavery, often freeing their own slaves.) The libreta system
was also canceled during the same year. Some of these concessions were
canceled or changed later on but nevertheless the insurrection was
fruitful and resulted in an improved lifestyle for the Puerto Ricans.
El Grito de Lares is now immortalized. In 1969 Governor Luis A. Ferré, a
statehood supporter, declared September 23rd a National Holiday. Lares was
declared a Historic Site by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. Lares
is known as the birthplace of Puerto Rican Nationalism.