Today the French celebrate “le Quatorze Juillet” a date that has a lot of significance for me. Today the French celebrate their independence. Living on an island that is the only colony left in the world I have to say that I wish we had the privilege of every other country of being independent. I have been able to trace one of my ancestors Epifanio Presas who came from France back in the late 1800’s. He was trying to get Puerto Rico’s Independence from Spain. More than a century after, we are still not independent.
Every “14 de julliet” my ancestor Epifanio comes to mind because he was from France and at one point he was held as political prisoner in one of our castles.
My great-great-great-grandfather was held as political prisoner in El Morro Fort. He was part of a group of merchants who where tired of the way the Spanish where taxed and took advantage of them. Part of the Boicotizadora Movement, a word derived from boycott, was one of the most successful pacifical movements on the Island to this date.
On the 6th of November of 1887 Governor Romualdo Palacio of Spanish Rule, ordered the transfer of 16 political prisoners from the Ponce Barracks to El Morro Castle. Those 16 prisoners where Ramon Baldorioty de Castro, Ramon Marin Sola, Francisco Cepeda Taborcias, Antonio Molina Vergara, Salvador Carbonell Toro, Tomas Vazquez Rivera, Manual Antonio Zavala Rodriguez, Santiago R. Palmer, Pedro Maria Descartes, Jose Vicente Gonzalez, Andres Santos Negroni, Rudolfo Figueroa Gonzalez, Bruno Negron, Ulises Dalmau Proventud, Cristino Aponte and Epifanio Presas.
Epifanio was held in El Morro and once Romualdo Palacios was taken out of power by the Spanish crown, he was released on December 24, 1887. Epifanio fought for the rights of other Puerto Ricans in a pacific way. He stood his ground and over the years a few family members have identified some of his traits as ones that are similar to what they see in me.
I have stories that were passed on to me by one of the best historians in Puerto Rico, Mr Otto Sievens. I will share more in a future post regarding how Epifanio stood his ground even in the worst of scenarios.
For those of you that visit the El Morro Fort, part of the U.S. National Park system, you can go visit a plaque left in memory of those 16 political prisoners and see Epifanio’s name engraved in it. He also has a street named after him in Guayanilla. It is curious that I am tied to Guayanilla in many ways even as far back the 1800’s.
For my french friends like @thebrandbulilder and @karimacatherine celebrating France’s independence, enjoy good vibes from a descendant of a frenchman. Hopefully one day my small country will have the privilege of celebrating the same.
In honor of Monsieur Epifanio Presas “Joyeux Quatorze Juillet”