Blanca Canales Torresola
(February 17, 1906 - July
25, 1996) was a Puerto Rican nationalist
may possibly have been the first woman to have led a revolt against
the United States when she led the The Jayuya Uprising
Canales Torresola was born in Jayuya, Puerto Rico, into a politically active family.
the younger sister of writer and politician Nemesio R. Canales Torresola
. Their father was an
active member of the "Unionist Party" of Puerto Rico which,
notwithstanding its name, lobbied for the independence of the
island. Their mother was a strong willed woman who encouraged her
children to think for themselves. As a child Canales read many
books and stories about other nations and their heroes. She would
often go with her father to political meetings where she became
impressed with the speeches and enjoyed the patriotic nature of the
flag waving in the meetings. She finished her primary and secondary
education in Jayuya.
her father died and her mother moved to Ponce.
She graduated from Ponce High School and
then enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico
. In May
1930 she earned her Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts. Before
graduating, she attended a conference given by the President of the
Puerto Rican Nationalist
, Pedro Albizu Campos
and was impressed. Canales returned to the university that same
year to take a course in social work.
Canales returned to Jayuya and worked at a local rural school. In
1931, she joined the Nationalist Party and was active organizing
the women's branch of that party. A series of events between the
United States appointed government and the nationalists took place
in the 1930s. In 1936, Albizu Campos was arrested and on
March 31, 1937 the infamous Ponce Massacre took place.
1940s, Canales' active political participation was limited to
making monetary collections because her job kept her constantly
traveling from San Juan to Ponce.
In 1947, Albizu Campos was
released from jail.
On June 11, 1948, the United States appointed Governor of Puerto
Rico, Jesús T. Piñero
, signed the infamous "Ley
de la Mordaza" (Gag Law) or Law 53 as it was officially known,
passed by the Puerto Rican legislature which made it illegal to
display the Puerto Rican flag
sing a patriotic song, talk about independence or fight for the
liberation of the island. It resembled the anti-communist Smith Law
passed in the United States.
The House of Nemesio and Blanca
In 1949, the Nationalist Party under Albizu Campos' leadership
planned a revolution in Puerto Rico which was supposed to take
place in 1952 when the United
was to approve the concept of "Estado Libre Associado
The nationalist leaders of Jayuya included Canales, Elio Torresola
and the Irizarry brothers. Weapons for the planned revolution were
stored at Canales' house.
26, 1950, Albizu Campos held a political meeting in Fajardo.
After the meeting Albizu Campos received
word that he was going to be arrested and that his house in San
Juan was surrounded by the police. He escaped from Fajardo and
ordered the revolution to start. On October 27, the police in the
town of Peñuelas, intercepted and fired upon a caravan of
nationalists, killing four. On October 30, the nationalists were ordered
to stage uprisings in the towns of Ponce, Mayagüez, Naranjito, Arecibo,
Utuado (Utuado Uprising),
attack of San Juan and Jayuya. The first battle of the nationalist
uprisings occurred during the early hours of the day of October 29,
in the barrio Macaná in the town of Peñuelas.
The police surrounded the house of the
mother of Melitón Muñiz the president of the Peñuelas Nationalist
Party, under the pretext that he was storing weapons for the
Nationalist Revolt. Without warning, the police fired upon the
nationlists and a firefight between both factions ensued, which
resulted with the death of two nationalists and six police officers
Puerto Rican flag removed by a soldier after the 1950 Jayuya
On October 30, 1950, Canales and her group entered the town of
Jayuya using a bus and a car, the men attacked the police station
after making a left turn in the car, Canales made a right turn to
the end of the main street were the telephone station was located
and cut the phone lines. She led the group to the town's plaza
where she raised the Puerto Rican
(which was outlawed at the time) and declared Puerto Rico
a Free Republic in a speech she gave from a balcony of a building
around the town's plaza. Canales went to the town's hospital, after
being notified by a fellow nacionalist of the town (whom she did
not know but to whom she gave her revolver), that Carlos Irizarry
was wounded. There she found Irizarry leaning against a light post
after being wounded in the police station's armed confrontation,
she took him to Utuado's (neighboring town) hospital because
Jayuya's was closed. Jayuya was under the nationalists' control for
three days until it was bombed by the planes and the artillery of
the United States National
. The nationalists surrendered on November 1, 1950.
Canales was arrested and accused of killing a police officer and
wounding three others. She was also accused of burning down the
local post office; she was sentenced to life imprisonment plus
sixty years of jail. In June 1951, she was sent to the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in Alderson, West
Virginia, the same prison to which Lolita Lebrón would be sent in
Canales was transferred to the Women's Jail in Vega Baja,
In 1967, Canales was given a full pardon by
Puerto Rican Governor Roberto
. She continued to be an active independence
advocate until the day she died. Canales died in 1996 in Jayuya.
The house in which Blanca and Nemesio Canales were born and raised
was turned into a museum by the City of Jayuya.
- Blanca Canales
- Remember the 1950 Uprising of October 30: Puerto
- Puerto Rican History
- Puerto Rico history
- El ataque Nacionalista a La Fortaleza; by Pedro Aponte Vázquez;
Page 7; Publisher: Publicaciones RENÉ; ISBN 978-1-931702-01-0