Across the US and in Puerto Rico, over a dozen events attended by hundreds commemorated the 30th anniversary of the April 4th, 1980 arrests of the Puerto Rican political prisoners in Evanston, IL. In Chicago, the National Boricua Human Rights Network sponsored the Jornada 360 culminating event, which was preceeded by 15 days by the Cell Project, where 15 volunteers stayed for 24 hours in a 6 x 9 replica of an actual cell, installed at Cafe Batey Urbano. Begining the week before, volunteers and members of the Network began the laborous task of decorating the Batey Urbano with 30 years worth of campaign literature, posters, books and press clippings. Pictures of the Chicago prisoners and the event can be found at https://www.flickr.com/nbhrn.
The Saturday program began with a memorable series of reflections by former political prisoners Alicia Rodriguez, Luis Rosa and Ricardo Jiménez, all of whom spent 20 years in prison before being released by President Clinton in 1999 and the latter who had just been “freed” after spending 24 hours in the cell as the last of 15 volunteers. The entire audience joined in singing happy birthday to Ricardo, who received 3 birthday cakes! After a welcome and introduction by Network Co-cordinator Michelle Morales, the program proceeded with participants walking through the interactive exhibit, which included a historical montage of newsclippings and original pictures of the past 30 years including footage of the demonstration at Evanston police station on April 5, 1980 and a PSA produced last month calling on supporters to download and sign the letter to the parole commission on Carlos Alberto’s behalf. In addition, 20 people, including family and supporters of the campaign as well as some of the young people who were prisoners in the cell project, reflected on their experiences during the 30 years and re-voiced their commitment to free Carlos Alberto and Oscar. In a surprise presentation, compañera Irma Romero received a print of a Luis Rosa painting of Ramón Emeterio Betances, Michelle Morales received a framed silkscreen print of Lucecita Benitez painted by Oscar López as a fund-raiser of the 50th anniversary of Claridad and Jaime and Lucy Delgado and Alejandro Luis Molina received paintings of themselves by Oscar, all for their commitment to the campaign through the decades.