Adolfina Villanueva's assassination was never solved
She died fighting for her land
On 6 February 1980 Adolfina Villanueva was shot at close range with a pellet rifle. Eye accounts testified sergeant Estrella pulled the trigger. The police report did not include that statement. The police report stated that Adolfina indeed died from wounds inflicted by a gunshot but did not relate eyewitnesses accounts, to include her widower. The cop was dismissed from all charges by a unanimous 12-jury vote. Adolfina's family wrote to the Governor and to the Church to no avail. Their lawyer finally dropped their case. Adolfina's husband took out a personal loan for $600 so he could pay $400 to a new lawyer. All the while fending for six children, now without a mother and a few of them having witnessed their mother's death.
This is the tip of the iceberg of Adolfina Villanueva story. How did the mother of six ended shot by the police in front of her children? What heinous crime could any human commit in order to deserve the trauma of watching her mom's life slip away at government's whim? The crime of staying alive while being poor. The so called democracy halts at the smell of the poor.
The setting is the municipality of Loíza, a city comprised of mostly black population, descendants of the same Africans kidnapped from the Ivory Coast. This black population has been strategically displaced to a highly vulnerable area which is currently at sea level. 35,000 souls are at constant risk of dying due to a tsunami. But I am getting way ahead of myself. When Adolfina was shot, no one spoke about how we were going to lose our coastline at such a scary rate. Adolfina's humble home was a beachfront property, not meaning to sound fancy. The wooden shack could barely endure strong winds. Still it was home. Adolfina had inherited the land via her father, who earned it in lieu of his duties as a butler. The case is typical: the slave owner grows appreciative of the enslaved services, future heirs are no where to be found. So the master rewards with a slice of land from which to keep him handy.
But as it happens in love and real estate, the land exchanged owners. The new owner, Veremundo Quiñones Mojica, a worldwide landowner, refused to recognize Adolfina, her husband Agustín Carrasquillo, and her six children the right to live where her ancestors lived before them. After much courthouse struggle, a processed corrupted by Mr. Veremundo, sounds a bit like "vira mundo" or world turner. Horrible pun to state that this man ended being evil itself for the Carrasquillo-Villanueva family. Or maybe it becomes a better pun if we mention Zora Moreno, the great screenwright writer, who created a play inspired by Adolfina called "Coqui Corihundo Vira el Mundo", written the year of Adolfina's killing.
On the day of 6th February of 1980, while governor Carlos Romero Barceló was threatened by the public eye for the Cerro Maravilla case, 16 police agents, six marshalls and bulldozers made sure a certain court order was executed immediately. The family was threaten to leave the premises or else they were going to destroy the place with them in it. Adolfina did then what she knew best to do when someone was taking anything from her: she fought. It is not true that the 34-year old took a machete, a big knife, and went with all her might to meet her doom: a policeman with a rifle. Although she faced her death fighting for what was rightfully hers. Adolfina died a hero. She stood her ground.
Her feat was so astonishing it spiked massive movements of squatters in the vicinities of Rio Grande and Canóvanas. Those attempts were also gruesomely squashed by the government. Houses burnt down and claims of pets being killed to instil fear and scram communities elsewhere. Scram the poor.
As Adolfina's family managed to escape the house a bulldozer ran it over. The action is recorded on tape. It is almost a shame they did not record who killed her. Her children did not manage to be strong enough to grow without a mother. Her younger sister, Marta Villanueva, along with other family members, still tell the tale with a saddened heart.
The people of Loiza have been depleted from their energy to fight. Poorly fed and poorly educated, youngsters endure a higher level of education discrimination than schools in other districts in the Island. Loíza is the only municipality in Puerto Rico that has no access to main roads. Like blacks elsewhere, loiceños have to get to their homes using the roads of other municipalities, in this case Río Grande and Canóvanas.
For those that come to visit the Island longing for a crime tale to tell when they get back home, there is no need to visit Haiti. Your U.S. passport covers Loíza. Alongside with tall tales of crime, Loíza has much to offer. Puerto Rican culture is not an easy kill.
Nevertheless Loíza still thrives in culture and talent, being black amounts to infinite resilience.
Her Story Lives On Everywhere yet repressed in Loíza
Adolfina Villanueva's feat is valued now more than ever
On Saturday, February 6 of this year, the Centro Tecnológico of Villa Cañona, vulnerable sector of many in Loiza, sets the tone for a day to discuss and share with others Adolfina's ultimate sacrifice: dying to defend her land. Activist Tati Fridman and Marta Villanueva, Adolfina's younger sister will be among the speakers, as well as Prof. Daniel Nina, renowned author and an African culture avid enthusiast and supporter.
The system was rigged against Adolfina. Her struggle is the struggle of the poor. One of her biggest accomplishments was autosustentability. This might be the greatest lesson ever to be learned from any leader and human rights advocate. The event will start at 10:30am and will end at 2:30pm
Driving directions: Coming from Old San Juan, take PR-187 (or Arturo Alfonso Schomburg road) all the way, even passing the bridge, keep straight after the second traffic light, into the community, then make a right at the first chance. You will find the place at the end to your right. Adolfina memory lives on.