CHICAGO — Throughout many of the 35 times that Puerto Rican nationalist icon Oscar Lopez Rivera was behind saloons, tenants of one Chicago neighborhood envisioned him every day.
Murals and sun-bleached images of Lopez Rivera plastered windows along the “Paseo Boricua” in Chicago’s Puerto Rican enclave of Humboldt Park with messages that called for his freedom and hailed him as a hero for his controversial persona in fighting for Puerto Rican independence. Lopez Rivera expended part of his boyhood in the neighborhood.
On Thursday, Rivera, 74, was given a hero’s welcome in Chicago, just one day after he was released from house arrest in San Juan, where he provided out the remainder of his time after former President Barack Obama commuted his 55 -year sentence in January.
Thursday’s occurrences included a marching down the Paseo Boricua accompanied by Rep. Luis Gutierrez( D-Ill .) and other Latino politicians in Chicago, bands, a flotilla and a reception in the park.
Some of Lopez Rivera’s older supporters considered neither they nor Rivera would live to envision him tread free. Others, like Moses Cintron, 68, simply experienced succor after substantiating Lopez Rivera for at the least 20 years.
Cintron and his wife, Lourdes, drove in from Cleveland to envision Lopez Rivera, whom he had inspected several times while Lopez Rivera was in federal prison in Indiana. He carried with him a picture of an old-time pickup truck that he had decorated with messages of support for Lopez Rivera. His current truck simply supposes “Free Oscar” on the sides.
” Those notes have been on my pickup the last five years ,” Cintron told.
Rivera was convicted in 1981 for his involvement with pro-Puerto Rican independence activist group Armed Forces-out of National Liberation, or FALN( and was later sentenced to an additional 15 times for allegedly plotting an escape ).
The group was linked to more than 100 bombings that injured dozens and killed five in metropolis like Chicago and New York. Though Lopez Rivera was never immediately linked to specific bombings, he was convicted on multiple accusations that included seditious plot, or plotting to overthrow the U.S. government.
President Bill Clinton offered Lopez Rivera and other FALN members mildnes in 1999, but Lopez Rivera rejected it because it has not been able to include all of the jailed associates. Even with the Obama commutation, Lopez Rivera was one of the longest-serving political prisoner in the world.
He received support for his forgivenes from high-profile figures like Pope Francis, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sen. Bernie Sanders( I-Vt .) and “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Some, like Cappy Kidd of Chicago, considered Lopez Rivera’s sentence was unfairly harsh.
” They kept him in prison all these times because he wouldn’t give up his support ,” Kidd told.
But others , notably family members of the victims who were injured or killed in the FALN bombings, have been outraged not only by Obama’s clemency move, but likewise by the intense supporting of Lopez Rivera, who they regard as a terrorist.
” I’m hearing he’s a freedom fighter. He’s done all these things. He’s not violent. But what did he do if not being a terrorist ?” Connor told.” There’s no answer to it because he was a terrorist .”
Connor, who was just 9 when “his fathers” was killed, was similarly furious over the move by Humboldt Park’s Puerto Rican alderman, Roberto Maldonado, to grant Lopez Rivera an honorary street sign in the neighborhood.
Connor told the Chicago Sun-Times in February that the designation was ” a direct insult to my father’s life .”
Melissa Duprey, a 32 -year-old from Chicago, views Lopez Rivera as an important lesson for young person, remind members to organize and work for the change they want to see in their communities.
Duprey was more skeptical of the politicians who came out for his homecoming, and assessed their motives as opportunistic and ultimately undedicated to Lopez Rivera’s ideals.
For Veronica Tirado, a 25 -year-old who lately moved to Chicago from Puerto Rico, Lopez Rivera remains an inspiring and potent symbol for young person on small island developing — to which Lopez Rivera eventually plans to return — and in the U.S.
” His job teaches me that we as a diaspora can make change ,” Tirado told. On small island developing, Tirado told, university students and educators have been fighting the severe austerity measures that have chopped education budgets. Lopez Rivera, she told, are still relevant because” he still presents us hope .”
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