Eric Morales-Franceschini


Interview with Lolita Lebrón* 


Born in Puerto Rico and raised in southern Florida, Eric is a former day laborer, US Army veteran, and community college grad who now holds a PhD from UC, Berkeley and is Assistant Professor of English and Latin American Studies at the University of Georgia. Other than his scholarly work, he practices herbal medicine, prays to the santos, cultivates the land, and loves to tell stories. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Moko, Somos en escrito, Chiricú, Witness, and Dryland.

Tell us, who is Lolita Lebrón? Is she a heroine or a terrorist?    

i am not afraid to be romantic so i will say: let me hold you, divine writ of lost kisses saint of all woes and nectar to my hunger, a hunger that says i, this bellow and woe, am not afraid to ask when is the right time to do the right thing because it was always my blood to give and not theirs to take, always my altar to bless but there were no worthy lambs to slay so i said come to me fall from the sky like tropical rain and let your wrath quench my thirst.

I see. So when did you decide enough was enough?

my name is Dolores which means knowing how to love lost temples under a god-like sky, a sky above a small isla and this little claustrophobic jibarita who needed to roam freely and wildly, whose road to Ponce was littered with dead poems and long sad walks and what is a dead poem if not its own epiphany, but i digress… 


No, please go on. 

i was born in Lares, where they say grito like it meant prayer and so we shall pray: aleluya aleluya to the river that rises in your sovereign lips and the mount that whispers to me a dark secret i, and i alone, decrypted say it with me, aleluya aleluya to our fresh waters that wet the tilled land and our sweated brows that live not by bread alone our history written with machetes our cries aleluya aleluya!


But as I understand it, you now renounce violence… don’t you? 

when the counselor said I was mentally unfit I yelled “No!” and such words don’t come easy to a mother of so many sins or don’t they know that only so much can be molded from this fallible felicitous time and don’t they know that the spectacular has a right to exist or else what Word will put an end to this tragedy if not the one that says “We have nothing to repent” insofar, I say, as there is nothing to violate, or do you think that one could grow so old and be so abundantly naïve?    


Interesting. And what was jail like?  

fathomless, especially for those who have lost their children and there comes a point when they are all our children so, tell me, why did such docile bodies and quaint souls have to leave us and isn’t the isla its own carceral eden so peculiar and so fathomless it all is and why not admit it: i loved them but i loved the transcendent more and my little altar was my solace as i became a communicant and a betrothed or else all that was left was the abasement of these small serene hands which is to say: parole. and i have no illusions about what constitutes: pardon. 


That must have been difficult. You said you wrote poetry while in jail. Do you have a favorite poet?

25 years in prison and i learned that it is important to be earnest, about love and all things revolutionary, so i learned not to write poetry inasmuch as the importance of becoming it. or let me put it differently: i learned that Che read and wrote poetry, prosaically yes, but what i mean is that he became verse begetting gifts which beget what gifts beget and i don’t take metaphors lightly.


But you became religious, too. Do you still believe in God? Go to Mass? 

at my trial i said i was ready to be crucified for my people and it was Martí who said we must learn to die on the cross every day and so born were the proverbs of the dispossessed who pray to as many gods as are willing to listen and as many sermons as must be told on as many mounts as these islands can bear and what you mean to ask is whether i come to life overjoyed and hungry or whether all my grandmothers’ grandmothers have stopped singing their righteous songs.


You consider yourself a feminist then, is that right?

let me put it like this: it was a woven cloistered wait from within my cocoon, all those dry tedious mornings and i called to you or didn’t you hear me and didn’t you know we’re all just fireflies, the delicacy of a mayhem about to happen the remnant of some bioluminescent truth and its cruel radiance and what a curious name or didn’t you know we were once clean petals wading in waters that smelled like hope and how could i be so tired how could there still be so much aridity or didn’t you hear me.   


That makes me wonder… which flag do you salute?  

to salute is a misnomer. fabrics are a text so one must learn to read like one reads the stars or which way the winds blow and this i know because it’s not about the colors and it was history, not me, who mistook friends for foes which is why i’ve spent my life in search of a ceremony to end this plague of illiteracy and for how many more centuries will we have to wait for a new Verb or a new flag and i could go on but as for the rest: it cannot be said.   


Well on that note… any parting words for our readers, Ms. Lebrón?

write poetry; and when necessary, use words.





* Dolores Lebrón Sotomayor, popularly known as Lolita Lebrón, led an armed assault on the US capitol building on March 1, 1954. From the visitor’s gallery, she and three Puerto Rican nationalists opened fire on Congress, wounding five congressmen. Lolita and her comrades were sentenced to over 50 years in prison, but were released in 1979 on presidential pardon. She spent the rest of her days praying, writing mystical poetry, and committed to Puerto Rico’s independence. In 2001, she was arrested for peacefully protesting the military occupation of Vieques. The recipient of international awards (including Cuba’s Order of Playa de Girón) and the subject of murals, posters, songs, and, yes, poems, Lolita died in 2010 at the age of 90.   


© The Acentos Review 2020