"Laong Laan" redirects here. For the railway station, see Laong Laan (PNR station).
This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Mercado and the second or maternal family name is Alonso Realonda.
|Born||José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda|
June 19, 1861
Calamba, Laguna, Spanish Philippines
|Died||December 30, 1896(1896-12-30) (aged 35)|
Bagumbayan, Manila, Spanish Philippines
|Cause of death||Execution by firing squad|
|Monuments||Luneta Park, Manila,|
Daet, Camarines Norte,
|Other names||Pepe, Jose (nicknames)|
|Alma mater||Ateneo Municipal de Manila, University of Santo Tomas, Universidad Central de Madrid|
|Organization||La Solidaridad, La Liga Filipina|
|Spouse(s)||Josephine Bracken (1896)|
|Parent(s)||Francisco Mercado Rizal (father)|
Teodora Alonso Realonda (mother)
José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda, widely known as José Rizal (Spanish pronunciation: [xoˈse riˈsal]; June 19, 1861 – December 30, 1896), was a Filipino nationalist and polymath during the tail end of the Spanish colonial period of the Philippines. An ophthalmologist by profession, Rizal became a writer and a key member of the Filipino Propaganda Movement which advocated political reforms for the colony under Spain.
He was executed by the Spanish colonial government for the crime of rebellion after the Philippine Revolution, inspired in part by his writings, broke out. Though he was not actively involved in its planning or conduct, he ultimately approved of its goals which eventually led to Philippine independence.
He is widely considered one of the greatest heroes of the Philippines and has been recommended to be so honored by an officially empaneled National Heroes Committee. However, no law, executive order or proclamation has been enacted or issued officially proclaiming any Filipino historical figure as a national hero. He was the author of the novels Noli Me Tángere and El filibusterismo, and a number of poems and essays.
José Rizal was born in 1861 to Francisco Mercado and Teodora Alonso in the town of Calamba in Laguna province. He had nine sisters and one brother. His parents were leaseholders of a hacienda and an accompanying rice farm by the Dominicans. Both their families had adopted the additional surnames of Rizal and Realonda in 1849, after Governor General Narciso Clavería y Zaldúa decreed the adoption of Spanish surnames among the Filipinos for census purposes (though they already had Spanish names).
Like many families in the Philippines, the Rizals were of mixed origin. José's patrilineal lineage could be traced back to Fujian in China through his father's ancestor Lam-Co, a Chinese merchant who immigrated to the Philippines in the late 17th century.[note 1] Lam-Co traveled to Manila from Amoy, China, possibly to avoid the famine or plague in his home district, and more probably to escape the Manchu invasion. He finally decided to stay in the islands as a farmer. In 1697, to escape the bitter anti-Chinese prejudice that existed in the Philippines, he converted to Catholicism, changed his name to Domingo Mercado and married the daughter of Chinese friend Augustin Chin-co. On his mother's side, Rizal's ancestry included Chinese, Japanese and Tagalog blood. His mother's lineage can be traced to the affluent Florentina family of Chinese mestizo families originating in Baliuag, Bulacan. José Rizal also had scant Spanish ancestry. His grandfather was a half Spaniard engineer named Lorenzo Alberto Alonzo. Rizal even had Negrito ancestors.
From an early age, José showed a precocious intellect. He learned the alphabet from his mother at 3, and could read and write at age 5. Upon enrolling at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, he dropped the last three names that made up his full name, on the advice of his brother, Paciano and the Mercado family, thus rendering his name as "José Protasio Rizal". Of this, he later wrote: "My family never paid much attention [to our second surname Rizal], but now I had to use it, thus giving me the appearance of an illegitimate child!" This was to enable him to travel freely and disassociate him from his brother, who had gained notoriety with his earlier links to Filipino priests Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora (popularly known as Gomburza) who had been accused and executed for treason.
Despite the name change, José, as "Rizal" soon distinguished himself in poetry writing contests, impressing his professors with his facility with Castilian and other foreign languages, and later, in writing essays that were critical of the Spanish historical accounts of the pre-colonial Philippine societies. Indeed, by 1891, the year he finished his El Filibusterismo, this second surname had become so well known that, as he writes to another friend, "All my family now carry the name Rizal instead of Mercado because the name Rizal means persecution! Good! I too want to join them and be worthy of this family name..."
Rizal first studied under Justiniano Aquino Cruz in Biñan, Laguna, before he was sent to Manila. As to his father's request, he took the entrance examination in Colegio de San Juan de Letran but he then enrolled at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila and graduated as one of the nine students in his class declared sobresaliente or outstanding. He continued his education at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila to obtain a land surveyor and assessor's degree, and at the same time at the University of Santo Tomas where he did take up a preparatory course in law. Upon learning that his mother was going blind, he decided to switch to medicine at the medical school of Santo Tomas specializing later in ophthalmology.
Without his parents' knowledge and consent, but secretly supported by his brother Paciano, he traveled alone to Madrid, Spain in May 1882 and studied medicine at the Universidad Central de Madrid where he earned the degree, Licentiate in Medicine. He also attended medical lectures at the University of Paris and the University of Heidelberg. In Berlin, he was inducted as a member of the Berlin Ethnological Society and the Berlin Anthropological Society under the patronage of the famous pathologistRudolf Virchow. Following custom, he delivered an address in German in April 1887 before the Anthropological Society on the orthography and structure of the Tagalog language. He left Heidelberg a poem, "A las flores del Heidelberg", which was both an evocation and a prayer for the welfare of his native land and the unification of common values between East and West.
At Heidelberg, the 25-year-old Rizal, completed in 1887 his eye specialization under the renowned professor, Otto Becker. There he used the newly invented ophthalmoscope (invented by Hermann von Helmholtz) to later operate on his own mother's eye. From Heidelberg, Rizal wrote his parents: "I spend half of the day in the study of German and the other half, in the diseases of the eye. Twice a week, I go to the bierbrauerie, or beerhall, to speak German with my student friends." He lived in a Karlstraße boarding house then moved to Ludwigsplatz. There, he met Reverend Karl Ullmer and stayed with them in Wilhelmsfeld, where he wrote the last few chapters of Noli Me Tángere.
Rizal was a polymath, skilled in both science and the arts. He painted, sketched, and made sculptures and woodcarving. He was a prolific poet, essayist, and novelist whose most famous works were his two novels, Noli Me Tángere and its sequel, El filibusterismo.[note 2] These social commentaries during the Spanish colonization of the country formed the nucleus of literature that inspired peaceful reformists and armed revolutionaries alike. Rizal was also a polyglot, conversant in twenty-two languages.[note 3][note 4]
Rizal's multifacetedness was described by his German friend, Dr. Adolf Bernhard Meyer, as "stupendous."[note 5] Documented studies show him to be a polymath with the ability to master various skills and subjects. He was an ophthalmologist, sculptor, painter, educator, farmer, historian, playwright and journalist. Besides poetry and creative writing, he dabbled, with varying degrees of expertise, in architecture, cartography, economics, ethnology, anthropology, sociology, dramatics, martial arts, fencing and pistol shooting. He was also a Freemason, joining Acacia Lodge No. 9 during his time in Spain and becoming a Master Mason in 1884.
Personal life, relationships and ventures
José Rizal's life is one of the most documented of 19th century Filipinos due to the vast and extensive records written by and about him. Almost everything in his short life is recorded somewhere, being himself a regular diarist and prolific letter writer, much of the material having survived. His biographers, however, have faced difficulty in translating his writings because of Rizal's habit of switching from one language to another.
They drew largely from his travel diaries with their insights of a young Asian encountering the West for the first time. They included his later trips, home and back again to Europe through Japan and the United States, and, finally, through his self-imposed exile in Hong Kong.
Shortly after he graduated from the Ateneo Municipal de Manila (now Ateneo de Manila University), Rizal (who was then 16 years old) and a friend, Mariano Katigbak, came to visit Rizal's maternal grandmother in Tondo, Manila. Mariano brought along his sister, Segunda Katigbak, a 14-year-old Batangueña from Lipa, Batangas. It was the first time they met and Rizal described Segunda as "rather short, with eyes that were eloquent and ardent at times and languid at others, rosy–cheeked, with an enchanting and provocative smile that revealed very beautiful teeth, and the air of a sylph; her entire self diffused a mysterious charm." His grandmother's guests were mostly college students and they knew that Rizal had skills in painting. They suggested that Rizal should make a portrait of Segunda. He complied reluctantly and made a pencil sketch of her. Unfortunately for him, Katigbak was engaged to Manuel Luz.
From December 1891 to June 1892, Rizal lived with his family in Number 2 of Rednaxela Terrace, Mid-levels, Hong Kong Island. Rizal used 5 D'Aguilar Street, Central district, Hong Kong Island, as his ophthalmologist clinic from 2 pm to 6 pm. This period of his life included his recorded affections of which nine were identified. They were Gertrude Beckett of Chalcot Crescent, London, wealthy and high-minded Nelly Boustead of the English and Iberian merchant family, last descendant of a noble Japanese family Seiko Usui (affectionately called O-Sei-san), his earlier friendship with Segunda Katigbak, Leonor Valenzuela, and eight-year romantic relationship with a distant cousin, Leonor Rivera (popularly thought to be the inspiration for the character of María Clara in Noli me tangere).
In one recorded fall from grace he succumbed to the temptation of a 'lady of the camellias'. The writer, Maximo Viola, a friend of Rizal's, was alluding to Dumas's 1848 novel, La dame aux camelias, about a man who fell in love with a courtesan. While the affair was on record, there was no account in Viola's letter whether it was more than one-night and if it was more a business transaction than an amorous affair.[note 6]
Association with Leonor Rivera
See also: Leonor Rivera
Leonor Rivera is thought to be the inspiration for the character of Maria Clara in Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo. Rivera and Rizal first met in Manila when Rivera was only 14 years old. When Rizal left for Europe on May 3, 1882, Rivera was 16 years of age. Their correspondence began when Rizal left a poem for Rivera saying farewell.
The correspondence between Rivera and Rizal kept Rizal focused on his studies in Europe. They employed codes in their letters because Rivera's mother did not favor Rizal. A letter from Mariano Katigbak dated June 27, 1884, referred to Rivera as Rizal's "betrothed". Katigbak described Rivera as having been greatly affected by Rizal's departure, frequently sick because of insomnia.
When Rizal returned to the Philippines on August 5, 1887, Rivera and her family had moved back to Dagupan, Pangasinan. Rizal was forbidden by his father Francisco Mercado to see Rivera in order to avoid putting the Rivera family in danger because at the time Rizal was already labeled by the criollo elite as a filibustero or subversive because of his novel Noli Me Tángere. Rizal wanted to marry Rivera while he was still in the Philippines because of Rivera's uncomplaining fidelity. Rizal asked permission from his father one more time before his second departure from the Philippines. The meeting never happened. In 1888, Rizal stopped receiving letters from Rivera for a year, although Rizal kept sending letters to Rivera. The reason for Rivera's year of silence was the connivance between Rivera's mother and the Englishman named Henry Kipping, a railway engineer who fell in love with Rivera and was favored by Rivera's mother. The news of Leonor Rivera's marriage to Kipping devastated Rizal.
His European friends kept almost everything he gave them, including doodlings on pieces of paper. In the home of a Spanish liberal, Pedro Ortiga y Pérez, he left an impression that was to be remembered by his daughter, Consuelo. In her diary, she wrote of a day Rizal spent there and regaled them with his wit, social graces, and sleight-of-hand tricks. In London, during his research on Antonio de Morga's writings, he became a regular guest in the home of Reinhold Rost of the British Museum who referred to him as "a gem of a man."[note 7] The family of Karl Ullmer, pastor of Wilhelmsfeld, and the Blumentritts saved even buttonholes and napkins with sketches and notes. They were ultimately bequeathed to the Rizal family to form a treasure trove of memorabilia.
Relationship with Josephine Bracken
Further information: Josephine Bracken
In February 1895, Rizal, 33, met Josephine Bracken, an Irish woman from Hong Kong, when she accompanied her blind adoptive father, George Taufer, to have his eyes checked by Rizal. After frequent visits, Rizal and Bracken fell in love with each other. They applied to marry but, because of Rizal's reputation from his writings and political stance, the local priest Father Obach would only hold the ceremony if Rizal could get permission from the Bishop of Cebu. He was unable to obtain an ecclesiastical marriage because he would not return to Catholicism.
After accompanying her father to Manila on her return to Hong Kong, and before heading back to Dapitan to live with Rizal, Josephine introduced herself to members of Rizal's family in Manila. His mother suggested a civil marriage, which she believed to be a lesser sacrament but less sinful to Rizal's conscience than making any sort of political retraction in order to gain permission from the Bishop. Rizal and Josephine lived as husband and wife in a common-law marriage in Talisay in Dapitan. The couple had a son who lived only for a few hours after Josephine suffered a miscarriage; Rizal named him after his father Francisco.
In Brussels and Spain (1890–92)
In 1890, Rizal, 29, left Paris for Brussels as he was preparing for the publication of his annotations of Antonio de Morga's Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (1609). He lived in the boarding house of the two Jacoby sisters, Catherina and Suzanna, who had a niece Suzanna ("Thil"), age 16. Historian Gregorio F. Zaide states that Rizal had "his romance with Suzanne Jacoby, 45, the petite niece of his landladies." Belgian Pros Slachmuylders, however, believed that Rizal had a romance with the 17-year-old niece, Suzanna Thil, as his other liaisons were all with young women. He found records clarifying their names and ages.
Rizal's Brussels stay was short-lived; he moved to Madrid, giving the young Suzanna a box of chocolates. She wrote to him in French: "After your departure, I did not take the chocolate. The box is still intact as on the day of your parting. Don’t delay too long writing us because I wear out the soles of my shoes for running to the mailbox to see if there is a letter from you. There will never be any home in which you are so loved as in that in Brussels, so, you little bad boy, hurry up and come back…" In 2007, Slachmuylders' group arranged for an historical marker honoring Rizal to be placed at the house.
The content of Rizal's writings changed considerably in his two most famous novels, Noli Me Tángere, published in Berlin in 1887, and El Filibusterismo, published in Ghent in 1891. For the latter, he used funds borrowed from his friends. These writings angered both the Spanish colonial elite and many educated Filipinos due to their symbolism. They are critical of Spanish friars and the power of the Church. Rizal's friend Ferdinand Blumentritt, an Austria-Hungary-born professor and historian, wrote that the novel's characters were drawn from real life and that every episode can be repeated on any day in the Philippines.
Blumentritt was the grandson of the Imperial Treasurer at Vienna in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and a staunch defender of the Catholic faith. This did not dissuade him from writing the preface of El filibusterismo after he had translated Noli Me Tángere into German. As Blumentritt had warned, these books resulted in Rizal's being prosecuted as the inciter of revolution. He was eventually tried by the military, convicted and executed. Teaching the natives where they stood brought about an adverse reaction, as the Philippine Revolution of 1896 took off virulently thereafter.
As leader of the reform movement of Filipino students in Spain, Rizal contributed essays, allegories, poems, and editorials to the Spanish newspaper La Solidaridad in Barcelona (in this case Rizal used a pen name, "Dimasalang", "Laong Laan" and "May Pagasa"). The core of his writings centers on liberal and progressive ideas of individual rights and freedom; specifically, rights for the Filipino people. He shared the same sentiments with members of the movement: that the Philippines is battling, in Rizal's own words, "a double-faced Goliath"—corrupt friars and bad government. His commentaries reiterate the following agenda:[note 8]
- That the Philippines be made a province of Spain (The Philippines was a province of New Spain – now Mexico, administered from Mexico city from 1565 to 1821. From 1821 to 1898 it was administered directly from Spain.)
- Representation in the Cortes
- Filipino priests instead of Spanish friars – Augustinians, Dominicans, and Franciscans – in parishes and remote sitios
- Freedom of assembly and speech
- Equal rights before the law (for both Filipino and Spanish plaintiffs)
The colonial authorities in the Philippines did not favor these reforms. Such Spanish intellectuals as Morayta, Unamuno, Pi y Margall, and others did endorse them.
Wenceslao Retana, a political commentator in Spain, had slighted Rizal by writing an insulting article in La Epoca, a newspaper in Madrid. He implied that the family and friends of Rizal were evicted from their lands in Calamba for not having paid their due rents. The incident (when Rizal was ten) stemmed from an accusation that Rizal's mother, Teodora, tried to poison the wife of a cousin, but she said she was trying to help. With the approval of the Church prelates, and without a hearing, she was ordered to prison in Santa Cruz in 1871. She was made to walk the ten miles (16 km) from Calamba. She was released after two-and-a-half years of appeals to the highest court. In 1887, Rizal wrote a petition on behalf of the tenants of Calamba, and later that year led them to speak out against the friars' attempts to raise rent. They initiated a litigation which resulted in the Dominicans' evicting them from their homes, including the Rizal family. General Valeriano Weyler had the buildings on the farm torn down.
Upon reading the article, Rizal sent a representative to challenge Retana to a duel. Retana published a public apology and later became one of Rizal's biggest admirers, writing Rizal's most important biography, Vida y Escritos del José Rizal.[note 9]
Return to Philippines (1892–96)
Exile in Dapitan
Upon his return to Manila in 1892, he formed a civic movement called La Liga Filipina. The league advocated these moderate social reforms through legal means, but was disbanded by the governor. At that time, he had already been declared an enemy of the state by the Spanish authorities because of the publication of his novel.
Rizal was implicated in the activities of the nascent rebellion and in July 1892, was deported to Dapitan in the province of Zamboanga, a peninsula of Mindanao. There he built a school, a hospital and a water supply system, and taught and engaged in farming and horticulture.Abaca, then the vital raw material for cordage and which Rizal and his students planted in the thousands, was a memorial.
The boys' school, which taught in Spanish, and included English as a foreign language (considered a prescient if unusual option then) was conceived by Rizal and antedated Gordonstoun with its aims of inculcating resourcefulness and self-sufficiency in young men. They would later enjoy successful lives as farmers and honest government officials. One, a Muslim, became a datu, and another, José Aseniero, who was with Rizal throughout the life of the school, became Governor of Zamboanga.
In Dapitan, the Jesuits mounted a great effort to secure his return to the fold led by Fray Francisco de Paula Sánchez, his former professor, who failed in his mission. The task was resumed by Fray Pastells, a prominent member of the Order. In a letter to Pastells, Rizal sails close to the ecumenism familiar to us today.
We are entirely in accord in admitting the existence of God. How can I doubt His when I am convinced of mine. Who so recognizes the effect recognizes the cause. To doubt God is to doubt one's own conscience, and in consequence, it would be to doubt everything; and then what is life for? Now then, my faith in God, if the result of a ratiocination may be called faith, is blind, blind in the sense of knowing nothing. I neither believe nor disbelieve the qualities which many attribute to Him; before theologians' and philosophers' definitions and lucubrations of this ineffable and inscrutable being I find myself smiling. Faced with the conviction of seeing myself confronting the supreme Problem, which confused voices seek to explain to me, I cannot but reply: ‘It could be’; but the God that I foreknow is far more grand, far more good: Plus Supra!...I believe in (revelation); but not in revelation or revelations which each religion or religions claim to possess. Examining them impartially, comparing them and scrutinizing them, one cannot avoid discerning the human 'fingernail' and the stamp of the time in which they were written... No, let us not make God in our image, poor inhabitants that we are of a distant planet lost in infinite space. However, brilliant and sublime our intelligence may be, it is scarcely more than a small spark which shines and in an instant is extinguished, and it alone can give us no idea of that blaze, that conflagration, that ocean of light. I believe in revelation, but in that living revelation which surrounds us on every side, in that voice, mighty, eternal, unceasing, incorruptible, clear, distinct, universal as is the being from whom it proceeds, in that revelation which speaks to us and penetrates us from the moment we are born until we die. What books can better reveal to us the goodness of God, His love, His providence, His eternity, His glory, His wisdom? ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork.
His best friend, professor Ferdinand Blumentritt, kept him in touch with European friends and fellow-scientists who wrote a stream of letters which arrived in Dutch, French, German and English and which baffled the censors, delaying their transmittal. Those four years of his exile coincided with the development of the Philippine Revolution from inception and to its final breakout, which, from the viewpoint of the court which was to try him, suggested his complicity in it. He condemned the uprising, although all the members of the Katipunan had made him their honorary president and had used his name as a cry for war, unity, and liberty.
He is known to making the resolution of bearing personal sacrifice instead of the incoming revolution, believing that a peaceful stand is the best way to avoid further suffering in the country and loss of Filipino lives. In Rizal's own words, "I consider myself happy for being able to suffer a little for a cause which I believe to be sacred [...]. I believe further that in any undertaking, the more one suffers for it, the surer its success. If this be fanaticism may God pardon me, but my poor judgment does not see it as such."
In Dapitan, Rizal wrote "Haec Est Sibylla Cumana", a parlor-game for his students, with questions and answers for which a wooden top was used. In 2004, Jean Paul Verstraeten traced this book and the wooden top, as well as Rizal's personal watch, spoon and salter.
Arrest and trial
By 1896, the rebellion fomented by the Katipunan, a militant secret society, had become a full-blown revolution, proving to be a nationwide uprising. Rizal had earlier volunteered his services as a doctor in Cuba and was given leave by Governor-General Ramón Blanco to serve in Cuba to minister to victims of yellow fever. Rizal and Josephine left Dapitan on August 1, 1896, with letter of recommendation from Blanco.
Rizal was arrested en route to Cuba via Spain and was imprisoned in Barcelona on October 6, 1896. He was sent back the same day to Manila to stand trial as he was implicated in the revolution through his association with members of the Katipunan. During the entire passage, he was unchained, no Spaniard laid a hand on him, and had many opportunities to escape but refused to do so.
While imprisoned in Fort Santiago, he issued a manifesto disavowing the current revolution in its present state and declaring that the education of Filipinos and their achievement of a national identity were prerequisites to freedom.
Rizal was tried before a court-martial for rebellion, sedition, and conspiracy, was convicted on all three charges, and sentenced to death. Blanco, who was sympathetic to Rizal, had been forced out of office. The friars, led by then Archbishop of Manila Bernardino Nozaleda, had 'intercalated' Camilo de Polavieja in his stead, as the new Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines after pressuring Queen-Regent Maria Cristina of Spain, thus sealing Rizal's fate.
Moments before his execution on December 30, 1896, by a squad of Filipino soldiers of the Spanish Army, a backup force of regular Spanish Army troops stood ready to shoot the executioners should they fail to obey orders. The Spanish Army Surgeon General requested to take his pulse: it was normal. Aware of this the sergeant commanding the backup force hushed his men to silence when they began raising "vivas" with the highly partisan crowd of Peninsular and Mestizo Spaniards. His last words were those of Jesus Christ: "consummatum est", – it is finished.[note 10]
He was secretly buried in Pacò Cemetery in Manila with no identification on his grave. His sister Narcisa toured all possible gravesites and found freshly turned earth at the cemetery with guards posted at the gate. Assuming this could be the most likely spot, there never having any ground burials, she made a gift to the caretaker to mark the site "RPJ", Rizal's initials in reverse.
His undated poem Mi último adiós, believed to have been written a few days before his execution, was hidden in an alcohol stove, which was later handed to his family with his few remaining possessions, including the final letters and his last bequests.:91 During their visit, Rizal reminded his sisters in English, "There is something inside it", referring to the alcohol stove given by the Pardo de Taveras which was to be returned after his execution, thereby emphasizing the importance of the poem. This instruction was followed by another, "Look in my shoes", in which another item was secreted. Exhumation of his remains in August 1898, under American rule, revealed he had been uncoffined, his burial not on sanctified ground granted the 'confessed' faithful, and whatever was in his shoes had disintegrated. And now he is buried in Rizal Monument in Manila.
In his letter to his family he wrote: "Treat our aged parents as you would wish to be treated...Love them greatly in memory of me...December 30, 1896." He gave his family instructions for his burial: "Bury me in the ground. Place a stone and a cross over it. My name, the date of my birth and of my death. Nothing more. If later you wish to surround my grave with a fence, you can do it. No anniversaries."
In his final letter, to Blumentritt – Tomorrow at 7, I shall be shot; but I am innocent of the crime of rebellion. I am going to die with a tranquil conscience. Rizal is believed to be the first Filipino revolutionary whose death is attributed entirely to his work as a writer; and through dissent and civil disobedience enabled him to successfully destroy Spain's moral primacy to rule. He also bequeathed a book personally bound by him in Dapitan to his 'best and dearest friend.' When Blumentritt received it in his hometown Litoměřice (Leitmeritz) he broke down and wept.
Works and writings
Rizal wrote mostly in Spanish, the lingua franca of the Spanish Philippines, though some of his letters (for example Sa Mga Kababaihang Taga Malolos) were written in Tagalog. His works have since been translated into a number of languages including Tagalog and English.
Novels and essays
- Noli Me Tángere, novel, 1887 (literally Latin for 'touch me not', from John 20:17)
- El Filibusterismo, (novel, 1891), sequel to Noli Me Tángere
- Alin Mang Lahi("Whate'er the Race"), a Kundiman attributed to Dr. José Rizal
- The Friars and the Filipinos (Unfinished)
- Toast to Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo (Speech, 1884), given at Restaurante Ingles, Madrid
- The Diaries of José Rizal
- Rizal's Letters is a compendium of Dr. Jose Rizal's letters to his family members, Blumentritt, Fr. Pablo Pastells and other reformers
- "Come se gobiernan las Filipinas" (Governing the Philippine islands)
- Filipinas dentro de cien añosessay, 1889–90 (The Philippines a Century Hence)
- La Indolencia de los Filipinos, essay, 1890 (The indolence of Filipinos)
- Makamisaunfinished novel
- Sa Mga Kababaihang Taga Malolos, essay, 1889, To the Young Women of Malolos
- Annotations to Antonio de Moragas, Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (essay, 1889, Events in the Philippine Islands)
- A La Juventud Filipina (To The Philippine Youth)
- El Canto Del Viajero
- Briayle Crismarl
- Canto de María Clara
- Dalit sa Paggawa (Himno Al Trabajo)
- Kundiman (Tagalog)
- Me Piden Versos
- Mi primera inspiracion
- Mi Retiro
- Mi Ultimo Adiós
- Por La Educación (Recibe Lustre La Patria)
- Sa Sanggol na si Jesus
- To My Muse (A Mi Musa)
- Un Recuerdo A Mi Pueblo
- A Man in Dapitan
Rizal also tried his hand at painting and sculpture. His most famous sculptural work was "The Triumph of Science over Death", a clay sculpture of a naked young woman with overflowing hair, standing on a skull while bearing a torch held high. The woman symbolized the ignorance of humankind during the Dark Ages, while the torch she bore symbolized the enlightenment science brings over the whole world. He sent the sculpture as a gift to his dear friend Ferdinand Blumentritt, together with another one named "The Triumph of Death over Life".
The woman is shown trampling the skull, a symbol of death, to signify the victory the humankind achieved by conquering the bane of death through their scientific advancements. The original sculpture is now displayed at the Rizal Shrine Museum at Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila. A large replica, made of concrete, stands in front of Fernando Calderón Hall, the building which houses the College of Medicine of the University of the Philippines Manila along Pedro Gil Street in Ermita, Manila.
Reactions after death
Several historians report that Rizal retracted his anti-Catholic ideas through a document which stated: "I retract with all my heart whatever in my words, writings, publications and conduct have been contrary to my character as a son of the Catholic Church."[note 11] However, there are doubts of its authenticity given that there is no certificate of Rizal's Catholic marriage to Josephine Bracken. Also there is an allegation that the retraction document was a forgery.
After analyzing six major documents of Rizal, Ricardo Pascual concluded that the retraction document, said to have been discovered in 1935, was not in Rizal's handwriting. Senator Rafael Palma, a former President of the University of the Philippines and a prominent Mason, argued that a retraction is not in keeping with Rizal's character and mature beliefs. He called the retraction story a "pious fraud." Others who deny the retraction are Frank Laubach, a Protestant minister; Austin Coates, a British writer; and Ricardo Manapat, director of the National Archives.
Those who affirm the authenticity of Rizal's retraction are prominent Philippine historians such as Nick Joaquin,[note 12]Nicolas Zafra of UPLeón María Guerrero III,[note 13]Gregorio Zaide,Guillermo Gómez Rivera, Ambeth Ocampo, John Schumacher, Antonio Molina,Paul Dumol and Austin Craig. They take the retraction document as authentic, having been judged as such by a foremost expert on the writings of Rizal, Teodoro Kalaw (a 33rd degree Mason) and "handwriting experts...known and recognized in our courts of justice", H. Otley Beyer and Dr. José I. Del Rosario, both of UP.
Historians also refer to 11 eyewitnesses when Rizal wrote his retraction, signed a Catholic prayer book, and recited Catholic prayers, and the multitude who saw him kiss the crucifix before his execution. A great grand nephew of Rizal, Fr. Marciano Guzman, cites that Rizal's 4 confessions were certified by 5 eyewitnesses, 10 qualified witnesses, 7 newspapers, and 12 historians and writers including Aglipayan bishops, Masons and anti-clericals. One witness was the head of the Spanish Supreme Court at the time of his notarized declaration and was highly esteemed by Rizal for his integrity.
Because of what he sees as the strength these direct evidence have in the light of the historical method, in contrast with merely circumstantial evidence, UP professor emeritus of history Nicolas Zafra called the retraction "a plain unadorned fact of history." Guzmán attributes the denial of retraction to "the blatant disbelief and stubbornness" of some Masons.
Supporters see in the retraction Rizal's "moral courage...to recognize his mistakes,"[note 14] his reversion to the "true faith", and thus his "unfading glory," and a return to the "ideals of his fathers" which "did not diminish his stature as a great patriot; on the contrary, it increased that stature to greatness." On the other hand, senator Jose Diokno stated, "Surely whether Rizal died as a Catholic or an apostate adds or detracts nothing from his greatness as a Filipino... Catholic or Mason, Rizal is still Rizal – the hero who courted death 'to prove to those who deny our patriotism that we know how to die for our duty and our beliefs'."
"Mi último adiós"
Main article: Mi último adiós
The poem is more aptly titled, "Adiós, Patria Adorada" (literally "Farewell, Beloved Fatherland"), by virtue of logic and literary tradition, the words coming from the first line of the poem itself. It first appeared in print not in Manila but in Hong Kong in 1897, when a copy of the poem and an accompanying photograph came to J. P. Braga who decided to publish it in a monthly journal he edited. There was a delay when Braga, who greatly admired Rizal, wanted a good job of the photograph and sent it to be engraved in London, a process taking well over two months. It finally appeared under 'Mi último pensamiento,' a title he supplied and by which it was known for a few years. Thus, when the Jesuit Balaguer's anonymous account of the retraction and the marriage to Josephine was appearing in Barcelona, no word of the poem's existence reached him in time to revise what he had written. His account was too elaborate that Rizal would have had no time to write "Adiós."
Six years after his death, when the Philippine Organic Act of 1902 was being debated in the United States Congress, Representative Henry Cooper of Wisconsin rendered an English translation of Rizal's valedictory poem capped by the peroration, "Under what clime or what skies has tyranny claimed a nobler victim?" Subsequently, the US Congress passed the bill into law which is now known as the Philippine Organic Act of 1902.
This was a major breakthrough for a US Congress that had yet to grant equal rights to African Americans guaranteed to them in the US Constitution and the Chinese Exclusion Act was still in effect. It created the Philippine legislature, appointed two Filipino delegates to the US Congress, extended the US Bill of Rights to Filipinos, and laid the foundation for an autonomous government. The colony was on its way to independence. The Americans, however, would not sign the bill into law until 1916 and did not recognize Philippine Independence until the Treaty of Manila in 1946—fifty years after Rizal's death.This same poem which has inspired independence activists across the region and beyond was recited (in its Indonesian translation by Rosihan Anwar) by Indonesian soldiers of independence before going into battle.
Later life of Bracken
Josephine Bracken, whom Rizal addressed as his wife on his last day, promptly joined the revolutionary forces in Cavite province, making her way through thicket and mud across enemy lines, and helped reloading spent cartridges at the arsenal in Imus under the revolutionary General Pantaleón García. Imus came under threat of recapture that the operation was moved, with Bracken, to Maragondon, the mountain redoubt in Cavite.
She witnessed the Tejeros Convention prior to returning to Manila and was summoned by the Governor-General, but owing to her stepfather's American citizenship she could not be forcibly deported. She left voluntarily returning to Hong Kong. She later married another Filipino, Vicente Abad, a mestizo acting as agent for the Tabacalera firm in the Philippines. She died of tuberculosis in Hong Kong in March 15, 1902, and was buried at the Happy Valley Cemetery. She was immortalized by Rizal in the last stanza of Mi Ultimo Adios: "Farewell, sweet stranger, my friend, my joy...".
Polavieja and Blanco
Polavieja faced condemnation by his countrymen after his return to Spain. While visiting Girona, in Catalonia, circulars were distributed among the crowd bearing Rizal's last verses, his portrait, and the charge that Polavieja was responsible for the loss of the Philippines to Spain. Ramon Blanco later presented his sash and sword to the Rizal family as an apology.
Criticism and controversies
Attempts to debunk legends surrounding Rizal, and the tug of war between free thinker and Catholic, have kept his legacy controversial.
National hero status
The confusion over Rizal's real stance on the Philippine Revolution leads to the sometimes bitter question of his ranking as the nation's premier hero. But then again, according to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Section Chief Teodoro Atienza, and Filipino historian Ambeth Ocampo, there is no Filipino historical figure, including Rizal, that was officially declared as national hero through law or executive order. Although, there were laws and proclamations honoring Filipino heroes.
Made national hero by colonial Americans
Some[who?] suggest that Jose Rizal was made a legislated national hero by the American forces occupying Philippines. In 1901, the American Governor General William Howard Taft suggested that the U.S. sponsored Philippine Commission name Rizal a national hero for Filipinos. Jose Rizal was an ideal candidate, favourable to the American occupiers since he was dead, and non-violent, a favourable quality which, if emulated by Filipinos, would not threaten the American rule or change the status quo of the occupiers of Philippine islands. Rizal did not advocate independence for Philippines either. Subsequently, the US-sponsored commission passed Act No. 346 which set the anniversary of Rizal’s death as a “day of observance.”
Renato Constantino writes Rizal is a "United States-sponsored hero" who was promoted as the greatest Filipino hero during the American colonial period of the Philippines – after Aguinaldo lost the Philippine–American War. The United States promoted Rizal, who represented peaceful political advocacy (in fact, repudiation of violent means in general) instead of more radical figures whose ideas could inspire resistance against American rule. Rizal was selected over Andrés Bonifacio who was viewed "too radical" and Apolinario Mabini who was considered "unregenerate."
Made national hero by Emilio Aguinaldo
On the other hand, numerous sources
Gabriel ConcepciÃ³n, a.k.a. Jose Cruz and best known as Blaze, was a founding member of the Allied Resistance Network and has written a number of essays on prison issues and his political ideologies. He works for a delivery company and lives in the Bronx, where he grew up.
Blaze, 39, was convicted in 1993 of drug dealing after being picked up on a neighborhood sweep. He was convicted three years later, while in prison, of assault and conspiracy to murder in a mass indictment of Latin Kings leaders following the prison murder of the head of the New York chapter of the gang. He was released one year ago on parole after serving 13 1/2 years.
He denies committing the crimes and considers himself a political prisoner. He is active in radical leftist politics and is still a member of the Latin Kings. He says he works to steer the gang away from crime and toward its revolutionary political roots.
How did the Allied Resistance Network get started?
I was in Leavenworth doing federal time. My case was a Latin Kings case, the Almighty Latin Kings and Queens Nation. I've always been a little bit political. I've always studied hard in all the different styles of revolution, all the different lines of thought. The communist line of thought, the anarchist line of thought, socialism and nationalism. I read a bunch of everything just to see where everyone's take is, and even though there are a bunch of different lines of thought, one thing is obvious, that there is something wrong and something needs to be done. I join with all kinds of forces. It doesn't matter if their line of thought is a little bit different than mine. It's really important nowadays, because the revolutionary vanguards are divided amongst themselves because of their differences in ideas and approach. They allow that to become an obstacle, and that weakens the revolution.
What happened is that I ended up finding myself in communication with David Strano, who's out of the anarchist camp. I was writing a brother by the name of White Bear, Oso Blanco. He's out of New Mexico. He was over there in Leavenworth with me. He's a Native American. The brother introduced me to Dave Strano through the mail. He gave me his address and said, "Yo, why don't you write these people? They're down to earth." So I wrote Dave, and I started sending him some of my political essays. From there, we grew attached. He liked a lot of the stuff that I was writing, and I was feeling his energy as well. I thought he was sincere in working with the prisoners. That was the strongest bond, right there, and that was what made everything happen.
I had a lot of connections on the inside, prisoners that I would write to, from all over the country. We started to do the Allied Resistance Network. From there it was all uphill. It's never easy to have a newsletter, because one of the things that the capitalists have over us is that they have the money. We don't. They can put thousands of dollars, millions of dollars, in their works, and we're scraping pennies to make something happen. At first, the newsletter was supposed to come out every month, but then we ended up going back to every other month or every three months because the funds weren't there. And the operation was getting only bigger.
Q & A with Blaze
What have you done in the year since you were released from prison?
As soon as I got out, I went to Chicago, where they had the Latin American Solidarity Conference. That's where I met up for the first time with Dave and them of Kansas. It was beautiful, because we'd always talked on the phone or by letter, and even saw pictures of each other, but we'd never met in person.
From there, I went to the National Conference on Organized Resistance in Washington, D.C. I also went to the anti-war march in Manhattan and Free the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners in the Bronx. I started going to events almost every week. I went to the courts to support these old Black Panthers that got locked up for crimes that were allegedly committed by them some 30 years ago. It's something that I think is important that people start to get involved with the struggle, with all kinds of causes.
How did the Allied Resistance Network spread within prison?
The work that Dave and them do is probably the most important. They get the most props, because they do all the footwork. They put it together. They raise the money by selling vegetables-they have this big vegetable garden that they would sell vegetables out of. They would scrape up money. Their money that they worked for all week, they would put it into that. Of course, as prisoners, most of us couldn't come up with no money.
What I did was, I created the base. I had hundreds of prisoners that I already was in contact with, so I started telling them all, "Listen, let's work with this newsletter. Let's all start submitting essays and poetry and our thoughts, our complaints about the prison-industrial complex and the brutality of the guards and whatnot." And it just flew.
Brothers started writing to Dave from all over the country, and since they knew I was a stand-up guy, they started to take part in it. It became something that they even considered their own. A lot of these brothers inside, they feel more energetic when they see that it's actually something of their own.
What is the point of the network?
It has a dual purpose. One thing I noticed from the newsletter is that when prisoners see their stuff in writing, it motivates them to continue writing. It's not like the regular media. What do they call it, the fourth branch of government? It's not like that. I've done interviews with mainstream media, and they'll just change my words around, make me look like a criminal.
With Allied Resistance, you have these brothers giving poetry, and their essays and their thoughts, and it stays just the same way they sent it in. They feel encouraged, they feel motivated, and thus the struggle has gained another comrade.
Also, it educates people all around about what's going on in the prisons. What are the thoughts and the views of the prisoner? Right now, a lot of people think that prisoners are the worst of the worst. But it's like someone else said, we've all committed crimes, it's just that these are the ones that got caught. The ones who in society are most oppressed. The ones that have nothing to lose but their chains, and they're realizing that.
A lot of people are reading now of the Allied Resistance. I've gotten letters from people saying, "Man, this is a great newsletter. I want to take part in it." I remember some of the prisoners that I would pass the newsletter to, they would be like, "I'm going to send in $5, or $3, to Kansas." Just the fact that they would send in $3 is a big thing, because it's hard to send $3 from prison.
How easy was it for the newsletter to spread?
There's no problem with it being accepted. Most prisoners love it. They'll read it, they'll devour it, they'll use it as a study material for when they hold little classes. I used to hold revolutionary classes with those newsletters. I would pass them around to people and tell them, "Let's talk about this article right here." Everybody would read the article, and then we would have this big discussion about the article, the pros and the cons and the possibilities of that working, whatever it was that the person was writing about. It's a good thing. Plus, it also opened the eyes of a lot of prisoners about things that are happening in other joints.
The only thing that becomes an obstacle, as always, is the administration. The police. They take the newsletter, and they'll say things like, "These people are trying to communicate with other prisoners in other joints, and that's a security threat, and they're passing code words." That's not true, but that's how they do it. That's how the administration always works. In a lot of joints right now, a lot of prisoners are not receiving the newsletter because the administration is labeling it a threat.
You look at the newspapers like the (New York) Daily News, you'll see more acts of crime and more anti-government stuff than anything else. You'll see the cops beating down people and shooting innocent people in the streets, and Al-Qaeda doing this, that and the third, an attack on another country by this military machine. And they don't say nothing. But when they get our newsletter, and our newsletter's talking about unfair treatment in prisons, now all of a sudden it becomes a threat, and they say that that newsletter cannot get in because it's encouraging violence. It's just a contradiction.
I think this whole country is one of contradictions. I'm very fond of wearing glasses. I have this set of glasses I always wear. I wear it everywhere. The only thing is that they don't have the lenses. People always say, "Man, why are you always wearing these glasses without the lenses?" That's just my way of saying that everything that you see in me ain't what it appears to be. That's what this government is, a lot of lies. They'll say this land is the land of the free, but we have more prisoners than any other country in the world. They'll say this land has freedom of speech, but as soon as you say something they don't like, they attack you.
Look at what they did to Ward Churchill. Ward Churchill was a tenured professor at the University of Colorado. He wrote this essay called "Some People Push Back." What he was referring to was the World Trade Center, and how it happened was because a lot of Americans are allowing this government to do things to other people, so when these other people push back, whose fault it is. It's the people's fault in this country, because they're not stopping their own country from doing stuff that annoys people. He ended up getting attacked for this, for using his right to free speech.
The Allied Resistance newsletter, you've got all these prisoners writing about things, and it's real. It's real stuff, it's raw material, what you're getting there. They really don't edit a lot of the material. They'll take out stuff that probably will stop it from getting into the prisons, stuff that the prisoner doesn't realize will cause a security breech, but for the most part, the stuff is raw. The prisoner says what he says, and it gets printed. And most people that read those newsletters, they love it.
Prison seems to have a way of radicalizing people, and some of the radical forces, like the Aryan Brotherhood, are malicious.
You ended up touching on a couple of different things. As far as radicalizing a person, yes, prison does that. But it depends on that person's state of mind, because some people don't want to be radicalized. They don't want to change. They actually feel good being the way they are. I always say it's a shameful type of person that goes into prison, does 10, 20, 30 years, and comes out as the same individual he was when he entered. He did not grow, he did not learn, he did not change some of his bad habits, he didn't do no self-criticism. When that person comes back out, it's just pitiful. Some people even come out in a worse condition. They weren't taking drugs when they were out in the free world, and they go to prison-they start taking drugs. They start drinking. All that stuff is present there.
It does help radicalize a lot of individuals who are willing to open up. Malcolm X is one of them. Malcolm X went inside prison and he became a genius in the revolutionary struggle. Same thing with George Jackson. These brothers, they might have been a little bit radical on the street. Like me, I was a little bit radical on the street. But prison is where I actually had time to sit and read and study and think and contemplate, and put a lot of my ideas into practice. It has that effect.
Then there's another class of individuals. They're like the lumpenproleteriat. They want to stay as criminals. They want to continue selling drugs. They're just thinking of ways of, when they come home, how they're going to become the next Tony Montana. That's another dangerous force that, in prisons, the revolutionary has to deal with, because they become part of the problem. They're agents of confusion. They're used to oppress or even hurt the revolutionary.
Here's an example. One time I went on a hunger strike. I was with a lot of my Latin King brothers in the hole, and I was going on a hunger strike because the police were being very abusive. They were denying us our property, and it was freezing in those cells. We didn't have none of our personal property, none of our papers and pens and addresses, sneakers and socks and shirts. None of the stuff that we had to stay warm and to live with for a little foodstuffs. They wouldn't give it to us. And by law, within three days of being in solitary confinement they're supposed to bring you your property, at least that stuff you can have-legal work and other paperwork-but they weren't doing it. So I went on a hunger strike. None of the other brothers went on a hunger strike. They were afraid, because if they go on a hunger strike, then the police will retaliate and they'll get in more trouble.
You're stuck between a rock and a hard place. But me, I'm always going hard. If I'm going to go hard, I go hard all the way. I don't give up. So I went on a hunger strike and eventually, after three days, the police separated me from my Latin King brothers, and they sent me to a different tier. And they went back to my brothers and told my brothers that I requested to be separated from them, which made my brothers think, "Wow, Blaze separated himself from us. Something must be wrong. He must be snitching or something." It created a lot of confusion, and it turned them against me momentarily.
Those are the tricks that the government plays. They turn your peers against you, especially with those brothers in prison who do not understand the revolutionary struggle. It happens out here too, in the free world. It happened during the Black Panther era and during the Young Lords era. The government actually had a program that was just for infiltrating groups and creating confusion and mistrust amongst each other. The program was called COINTELPRO, which is an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program. They end up infiltrating groups or using other individuals to create all kinds of confusion. That's one of our biggest worries.
Then you've got, let's say, the Aryan Brotherhood, a piece of what you just asked. You've got all kinds of different ideologies. You've got even religious prisoners. They're another one that's hopeless because they're so religious, they feel like, "Well, I'm going to leave it all in God's hands." We can't leave it all in God's hands. If you believe in God, that's why God created us. To do what we've got to do to survive. The slave didn't become free by leaving it in God's hands. The slave, he actually had to fight for his freedom. If we would've decided as slaves to leave it in God's hands, we would still be slaves today.
There comes a time when you have to fight. You actually have to bleed and shed blood. Nothing is won easily. If you're going to grow crops, you have to actually plow the ground. You have a lot of individuals in prison that don't understand the struggle, and when you try to tell them about it, they think it's a joke and won't hear it.
What are you fighting for?
It's a truth that revolution is not a single act. It's a process. As a revolutionary, I know that right now I can't do nothing that's going to change the way things are immediately. What I can do is educate and agitate. By that, I mean that I'm reaching out to a bunch of other individuals who are from the street, and I try to educate them in what it means to be free, in what it means to fight for true freedom. I educate them in all the different styles of revolution that occur and, hopefully, they end up teaching someone else. "Each one teach one." What happens is that I bear good fruit, I plant the seeds.
I've actually created a lot of brothers whose minds are radical. I feel very good about that. I can safely say that I have at least 20 brothers that are very radical, and before I started talking to them, they weren't. They were into the streets, they were drug dealers and whatnot. But I reached out to them and I made a difference. I reach out to a lot of youngsters too. I try to keep hem out of prison. I try to keep them out of antisocial behavior, like selling drugs, gang-banging, beating up people. My aim is to reach out to a lot of the youth, especially those involved with the Latin Kings, and try to get them back into the struggle.
The Latin Kings was created for a revolutionary purpose. They were created for the people in the '60s when that was the freedom era, the fight the power era. In the '70s, they ended up losing focus of their true reason and purpose and they ended up going into this street mentality, click mentality. I'm taking it back to the beginning. I end up teaching a lot of brothers about the struggle and holding classes. I even go sometimes to meet their parents and to tell their parents what I can do to help their kids. I do the big brother thing a lot.
What I mean by agitate is going to a lot of protests and functions. Last week, I went to a school protest, where we're trying to get more funds for intermediate school, junior high school, because that's where the biggest dropout rate is coming from. Instead of focusing on that, they're taking funds from the intermediate schools, and you've got maybe three kids reading from the same history book. They're sharing books instead of all of them getting them books. In the city, it's really bad in these schools. So we're protesting that.
Do you consider yourself a Maoist revolutionary?
A lot of people have different opinions about Mao. A lot of people feel that Mao was a brutal dictator, killed so-called millions of people. I think that the word that killed the most people was capitalism. And religion. If you look all the way back, you're going to see that a lot of the wars-World War I and II-they're all capitalist wars. Yes, I'm a Maoist. I believe that Mao took the revolution a step further. He went into China and trained the peasants and the people how to fight the government and take power, because at that time there was a Chinese government that was running with the imperialist powers. He didn't really last long, but he made great leaps in China. After 1976, China turned into a capitalist state. They call themselves communists, but they live under capitalist ideologies.
I want to clarify that I follow a lot of revolutionaries, regardless of what thought they follow. The anarchists, like Kropotkin-that's another thinker that I think is a genius. Then you've got socialists and whatnot. I think that they all have an idea, and they've just got to learn how to work together. That's where the problem is. A lot of these revolutionaries refuse to work together because they feel like the other one is up to no good.
What are your thoughts on gangs and what's your involvement with the Latin Kings?
I'm still involved with the Latin Kings real big. I try hard to take them toward the direction that they're supposed to go, which is the revolutionary struggle. A lot of these organizations, a.k.a. gangs, they get together for a purpose, and a lot of that is energy. Unused energy. Untapped resources that the people got to learn how to use. When they killed Rodney King, the ones who set it off in the country in 1992, the Watts riots and all that, were the people in the street.
When a revolutionary situation occurs, the ones who are going to set it off and are going to be the standing army are the people in the street. In the Revolutionary War for this country, when they pushed the yoke of England off their backs, who was it that fought? It was the common people. When Mao set it off against his country, who'd he use to take over the country? The common people. These kids in the street are an army. They're a standing army.
What's missing is the leaders. Right now, they're doing all kinds of crazy stuff because wherever the head goes, the body follows. A lot of these organizations, or gangs, or whatever you want to call them, have heads that aren't going in the right direction. They're taking these kids in a deformed path that is self-destructive. They end up hurting themselves more than anything else.
Imagine if all these gangs had revolutionary leaders. This country wouldn't allow it. They would actually set up every revolutionary leader. I feel that maybe one day I'm going to get set up by this government, or killed, because I'm doing what I wish most street leaders would do: reach out to these youths and teach them how to become a standing army.
What's your side of the story of why you went to prison? And tell us about the organizing you did at Rikers Island jail in New York, and the additional charges you faced.
I was actually going to buy a gallon of milk for my mother and I had just finished working, delivering bread. It was like 10 in the morning, and the police ran up on my neighborhood. I was standing in front of the building, talking to some of the kids from the neighborhood. We were all congregated, and they did a drug sweep. They took everybody that was out in front of the building, and they ended up giving me a sales that I didn't do.
It was in Rikers Island that I started protesting the inhumane conditions, the lack of medical care and the police abuse. Since I was a Latin King leader in the prisons, I used my strength to make people rebel against unjust treatment. When the Latin Kings in the street ended up getting under federal indictment, because they were being investigated for some crimes that individuals were committing, they ended up doing a sweep and taking hundreds of us and charging us all as part of this racketeering enterprise.
I ended up catching 15 more years while I was in prison. I went in for the drug sale that I didn't do, that was a two-and-a-half-to-five-year bid, and then in prison I ended up catching that other 15 years. The reason why they did it was because I was a ringleader. They ended up saying, "OK, if this guy wants to be a troublemaker, let's throw him in that federal indictment that we've got on the Kings." And it was easy for them because I was already a leader of the Kings. So I ended up catching that 15 years, and I took it. If I would've fought it, I would've been found guilty, because they had snitches lying and all kinds of stuff, and I was going to get life in prison. So I ended up copping out to a 15-year bid.
What were you convicted of in the Latin Kings sweep?
Conspiracy to murder and assault. At first they indicted me for a murder and an assault, but the murder I never committed. They were just using that as the fishing hook to bring me into the indictment. Once they dropped the murder, they only charged me with two assaults and a conspiracy to commit murder. All three charges were actually jailhouse beefs, like fighting against other prisoners.
At the same time, when I was in Rikers Island, we had drama with the police. Serious drama with the police. But we also had serious drama with other groups that were oppressive in their own nature. That's the reality of prison. You're not just fighting the police. You're fighting groups that are trying to crush you. If it's the Aryan Brotherhood, if it's the other groups that want to control the phones or the food, you've got to fight for that stuff in prison. Just to get on the phone, you've got to fight for that. People die for that phone.
And you still associate with the Latin Kings, after that?
I was real honest with my parole officer. I told him, "I'm a Latin King. If you don't like that I'm a Latin King, you can lock me back up. I'm going to continue talking to other people who are ex-prisoners." I'm not afraid to go back to prison. I got used to it. It's like a vacation. I go into prison and what am I going to do? I'm going to read and write more. And I need to read and write more. Right now I'm so busy living life, working and running around, that I don't have time have time to read and write no more. Maybe I could use another couple of months vacation.
But I told the parole officer, "Listen, one thing that I am not going to do is commit crimes. I'm not going to be walking with weapons. I'm not going to be beating up people. I'm not going to be selling drugs. So you don't have to worry." Their concern is, "But you're still going to be breaking your conditions of parole because you're still going to be communicating with prisoners and ex-prisoners and you're not supposed to."
But my thing is, I want to help people. That's why we have the Allied Resistance Network. If a kid comes to me and says, "Hey Blaze, I want to stay around you because I know you're going to keep me out of prison, you're going to keep me out of trouble," what am I going to tell him? I can't hang out with you because my parole will be violated? No. I'm going to say, "That's cool. Stay around with me. Let's go to this political rally. Let's go to that study group."
What has the last year been like adjusting to the outside?
One of the things that I've really noticed is that this country is even more of a police state than it was before. You've got signs all over the walls in the train stations, recordings over the speakers saying, "If you see something strange, go to the authorities," and you can get rewards for telling on somebody who's carrying a gun. Everywhere you turn, cameras and groups of police by the fives and the sixes.
I got nervous, I'll tell you. When I first got out, I walked into a train station and there's four police at a table going through people's backpacks. And this is regular. It reminds me of Nazi Germany, passing through checkpoints. I panicked when I saw that. I tried to stay away from it. I was worried that they were going to stop me and grab my bag, and then look at my wallet and see my prison ID. You see my prison ID, now I've got drama.
You missed the post-9/11 changes.
I went to my old neighborhood and I saw all these cameras on the buildings facing the street. It's like Big Brother. That's what we're living right now. 1984. The 9/11 situation is something we need to think about, because it gave feed to what these people always wanted to do anyway. This government has always wanted to clamp down on its citizens, but they needed a reason. 9/11 was that reason. And it's only getting worse. It's not getting better.
Why should people listen to a convict?
I think that people should read a lot of the stuff that prisoners write, because you get to see what it's really like. It's not "Oz." I run into a lot of people going in for bogus stuff. Sure, in prison there are a lot of criminals too, but it's like 5 percent. A lot of the crimes being committed today are economic crimes. It's not murder and violence. It's just economic crimes, selling drugs and whatnot, because that's the black market people have to work one way or another.
The human species is a creature of survival. They're going to survive one way or another. We were hunter-gatherers back in the day. We used to have the environment that allowed us to hunt and gather to survive. Now you can't hunt and gather. That doesn't exist no more. So if you don't got a job, what are you supposed to do? Just lay down and die? Starve to death? And you're never going to have enough jobs in the capitalist system, because it's all about capitalizing on the wealth. They're not distributing the wealth equally.
We need help to get this Allied Resistance newsletter even bigger and sent to more places. I'm working right now on trying to get a branch for New York to do something and help them, which is not easy. A lot of people on the street don't know too much about about the prison-industrial complex, and they really don't care. A lot of people are just stuck in their own lives.
Is there anything else you'd like to say?
Remember I told you that I got arrested when I was going to go buy some milk for my mom? When I came home, the first thing I did was go to the grocery store and got that gallon of milk for my mother, that gallon of milk that it took me so long to come back with. I went upstairs to my mother's house and I knocked on her door. As soon as she opened the door I was like, "Here, Mom. I'm sorry I took so long, but it's a jungle out there, right?" She didn't find that funny. She was crying tears and she hugged me, and she was like, "You'd better stay out of trouble. You're not going to hang out with them Kings no more. You're not going to do nothing no more, right? You're going to stay home and work."
I told her, "Ma, you see why I brought this milk? Because I don't like to leave any job unfinished. I like to finish what I start. This is why I'm bringing you that milk, because I started to get you that milk and I didn't bring it. To answer your question, right now I'm going to finish what I started." She asked if I was going to stop hanging out with certain individuals. You know, I've got a job to do, and my job is to reach out to the masses. Those that want to learn about the struggle, I'm there for them. I think that everyone has to do their part.