Memorial altar that I created for the Filiberto
tribute event held in New York City on November 18, 2005.
Mixed Media on Canvas
40" x 30"
Filiberto Ojeda Rios, featured in this portrait with the Machetero logo,
was the commander of El Ejército Popular Boricua-Los Macheteros,
an armed clandestine organization fighting for the liberation of Puerto
Rico. Having been arrested and awaiting trial, on September 23rd, 1990,
(the anniversary of the 1868 revolution for Puerto Rican independence,
El Grito de Lares) Filiberto somehow removed an electronic monitoring
device, that had been placed on him by the feds, and went underground.
Living in clandestinity he became a mysterious legend in Puerto Rico where
many folks talked about their Filiberto sightings, who had to give up
his beloved trumpet-playing to protect his identity. Though many saw him
in public areas, the feds seemed to not be able to catch him. From time
to time Filiberto would send communiques that would air on the radio or
be printed in the papers. Filiberto even managed to record and air a television
interview with journalist Daisly Sanchez. Daisy Sanchez had to endure
a trial for her unwillingness to give up details regarding his whereabouts,
but more importantly they were details she did not have. She also went
on to fight for the rights of journalists in the face of repressive law.
Perhaps his most important communique was scheduled to be aired in Lares
for the anniversary of El Grito de Lares, September 23rd 2005. But as
the crowd gathered to hear his words, the FBI surrounded his home in the
quiet western Puerto Rico town of Hormigueros where he was known to his
vecinos as a gardener. Having spent his life as a soldier in the war which
the US declared on Puerto Rico in July 25th, 1898, Filiberto put on his
fatigues, combat boots and bullet proof vest to confront the enemy. A
shoot-out ensured. His wife, Elma Beatriz Rosado Barbosa was able to escape
but Filiberto, took a sniper bullet to the clavicle. Knowing he was down,
the FBI denied him medical attention and left Filiberto alone bleeding
inside his home. Found laying on the ground in his combat boots and fatigues,
with one hand over his chest attempting to contain the blood flow, Filiberto
had bled to death.
The feds chose to assassinate him on the 137th anniversary of El Grito
de Lares, a day that is sacred to the entire independence movement and
all of Puerto Rico. It was also the 15th anniversary since Filiberto had
gone into clandestinity. Lastly, it was exactly one month after a Filiberto
interview published in Claridad newspaper in Puerto Rico resulted in a
wave of renewed support for him and his movement.
More importantly, on that same day Filiberto warned us about falling
prey to divisiveness. His message was that we all unite, no matter our
tactics, no matter our interests, to collectively achieve the ultimate
goal for the independence of Puerto Rico.
© Copyright 2005-2015
Yasmin Hernandez. Under no circumstances should any of the images or content
of this site be downloaded, printed or reproduced without direct permission
from the artist.