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“Nosotros No Tenemos Armas Para Echar A Pique Sus Fuerzas Navales,
Pero Tenemos el Arma de Echar a Pique Su Prestigio en El Mundo.” Albizu 1930



By Ana M. López

On March 11, 2015, a celebration of International Women’s History Month honored the life and legacy of Isabelita Rosado Morales at Hostos Community College sponsored by the Puerto Rican Student Organization. Over 400 students attended this amazing event. Most, if not all, were born decades later and had never heard of these amazing women like Isabelita Rosado Morales and Alicia Rodríguez. After the student leadership welcomed the students and faculty and staff, Professor Ana M. López presented the Keynote speaker, Alicia Rodríguez, that spoke about Doña Isabelita Rosado.

Who was Isabel Rosado Morales? Doña Isabelita, as she was commonly known as was born on November 5, 1907, was an educator, social worker, activist and member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. Influenced by the events of the Ponce Massacre, Rosado became a believer of the Puerto Rican independence movement and was imprisoned because of her commitment to the cause. She was born in the barrio Chupacallos in the town of Ceiba, Puerto Rico to Simon Rosado and Petra Morales. Her father was a leader in the barrio and was often sought by the people of the barrio for his opinion on local matters regarding the community. Rosado received her primary and secondary education in the public schools of the towns of Ceiba, Fajardo and Naguabo. Isabelita, as she was known, was only eighteen years old when she became a student at the University of Puerto Rico. There she earned her teachers certificate. For years, Rosado taught at the rural schools in the towns of Ceiba and Humacao.

In Alicia’s powerpoint presentation, a series of pictures unfolded Isabelita’s story as a trailblazer for freedom and justice. There were depictions of Isabelita being arrest by the US Navy military police on the island municipality of Vieques. This picture spoke a thousand words. Alicia explained how Isabelita played a vital role in the protests against Navy’s gross violations of human rights and devastating environmental abuses for 60 years, as they used Vieques for war games in total disregard to the population.

Other images depicted Isabelita visiting Alicia at the Dwight Prison in Illinois, Isabelita doing presentations and talks asking for the release of Puerto Rican political prisoners. Her advanced age was never an excuse not to continue the struggle.

The latter part of Alicia’s presentation revealed contemporary women that have continued Isabelitas legacy. As Alicia stated “Isabelita lives in all of those who struggle for freedom and justice”.

Oscar López Rivera did participate in this tribute to Isabelita, too. We read Oscar’s anecdotes of his experience with Isabelita to the audience. He said:

When i arrived in Leavenworth i received a letter from Doña Isabelita. It made my day. Every year i would get a letter. The most significant and moving letter she wrote me was when i was in Marion. It was full of love and good advice….When i painted her it was like if i were talking with her. It made me feel very close to her. She was a very unique inspiration. i could feel her strength and her love for our struggle. She was one of the most devout followers of Albizu. She was a true Albizuista. Her letters were brief, but so full of love and encouragement that they would serve me as an elixir – a sanalotodo- a cure all. Her prison experience was visible in her letters. Her endings would include hugs, kisses and letting me know she would wait until i come home to feel that her life was as complete as she would want it to be. 

We were privileged to hear poetry dedicated to Isabelita written by national hero Rafael Cancel Miranda that came straight from Puerto Rico and from other poet/artist like Prisionera. Five local women were honored with the Isabelita Rosado award.

This event has an overwhelming impact on our students. In student’s reflections of this incredible event honoring the 107 years of Isabelita, college student Karen Mardenborough from The Latin American & Caribbean class captured the ambiance and said:

“A hush fell over the room as Alicia Rodríguez, a former Puerto Rican Political Prisoner recapped on her life in prison and also as she honored the life and legacy of the late Isabelita Rosado Morales in her fight to free Puerto Rico from USA colonial rule”.

Another student from LAC class, Ryan Bannan, said

“Although women are seldom mentioned throughout history, especially influential or revolutionary women, it doesn’t mean that they do not make a huge impact in the world. This holds true for women such as Isabelita Rosado Morales, a political activist who spend a century fighting for what she believed in.”

A student from the philosophy class, Kevin Flores stated: “this presentation changed the way I think about how countries conquer other countries. Especially when talking prisoners. It was shocking for me to learn that Alicia was in prison for 20 years… Isabelita was a great inspiration for Alicia and she inspired her to fight”.

The impact that the story of Isabelita told by Alicia Rodriguez had on Hostos students was apparent. Suelee Padilla writes:

“As I am sitting in my seat with deep attention to what Alicia was talking about regarding Isabelita’s fight for the independence of Puerto Rico will be long lasting…… I felt an emotional hurt of pain to hear what Alicia went through and that Oscar is still in prison. I could not understand why their freedom was taken away for their political believes.”

Bryan said that “the presentation was very inspiring, and was a reminder of the battles that both women and oppressed peoples respectively, still fight today”.

Pili Conde said about this well deserved tribute to Isabelita:

“Just like many other famous women in history like for instance, Harriet Tubman or Anacaona, (Taina cacica from the Dominican Republic) women have played a very important role in social change. Alicia’s visit to Hostos Community College is a reminder of women’s pivotal role in activism. As a woman, I can’t help but to be touched by this experience”.

In the words of Don Rafael Cancel Miranda about Isabelita:  

Doña Isabel Rosado Morales,
un siglo de amor inagotable,
un siglo de vertical combate,
un siglo de huellas imborrables.

 Doña Isabel Rosado Morales,
sembradora de verdades patrias,
maestra en la acción y en la palabra,
y maestra hasta en la cárcel.

Doña Isabel Rosado Morales,
mujer que no sabe de derrotas,
mujer que ha vencido las mazmorras,
mujer que no ha vivido en balde.

Doña Isabel Rosado Morales,
ante usted se estrella el imperio,
pues lleva usted corazón adentro,
la fuerza de Jayuya y Lares.

Doña Isabel Rosado Morales,
ante usted inclino la cabeza,
pues lleva en su alma la grandeza,
que solo llevan los inmortales.

Doña Isabel Rosado Morales,
fuente de un valor inclaudicable,
indomable hija de Betances,
tu estrella será nuestro estandarte.

Purchase your Reyes Magos Plate by Oscar to benefit the children of Vieques

Read "Between Torture and Resistance"

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