From her front door on Calle Brumbaugh, near the University of Puerto Rico, Isolina Rondón watched in horror as police shot into a car carrying four Nationalists. "Don't leave them alive!" she heard the police shout.
It was the year 1935, in which Nationalists were being rounded up in an attempt to destroy the pro-independence fervor stirred up by the oratory of Pedro Albizu Campos. His support of the sugar strike had raised fears of an alliance between the working class and the revolutionary Nationalist Party.
Killed in the fray, now referred to as the "Río Piedra Massacre," were Ramón Pagán, secretary of the Nationalist Party, Eduardo Rodríguez, and Pedro Quiñones. Dionislo Pearson was wounded, and later died.
Isolina testified in court, but no action was taken against the police. That same year, Albizu was arrested and sent to Atlanta Penitentiary.
It was a little short of a miracle that Isolina escaped arrest, though her home was searched three times. In her childhood, she had been influenced by a pro-independence cousin who was a member of the Unionist Party, a predecessor of the Nationalist Party. Her father had died when Isolina was a child. With her mother receiving scant pay as a housekeeper, it was necessary for Isolina to help out. So upon graduating from the eighth grade she entered a secretarial school.
It was then that she fell under the magnetic influence of Don Pedro. Along with other devotees, she began paying daily visits to his home in Río Piedras, absorbing all she could from his vast store of wisdom and knowledge.
Then came the day when Don Pedro asked her to take notes at a Nationalist meeting. In time she became his personal secretary. I met her on one of her visits to Don Pedro at Columbus Hospital. For a time she wrote to me, keeping me posted on events. She remained faithful to the Nationalist Party throughout the turbulent years of harassment, imprisonments and assassinations, and now serves as secretary of the Party.
Isolina sees no other way than revolution for the release of Puerto Rico from the domination and exploitation of the United States. But she recognizes the difficulty of getting enough general support of the population because of the fear of hunger, of communism, of the military strength of the United States and repressive measures taken against supporters of independence. The revolution of October, 1950 had failed because of hasty, insufficient preparation due to external events, and no such revolt has been attempted since.
Isolina believes that seven-eights of the Puerto Ricans are for independence, but are afraid to express themselves openly. She has no such fear. Her tiny apartment, cluttered with newspapers she has been monitoring, is adorned with two large portraits and a bust of Don Pedro. Now reunited in friendship, Isolina and I both find our lives directed by the spirit of the great master.