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Juan Mari Brás

Juan Mari Brás

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Juan Mari Brás was an advocate for Puerto Rican independence
Puerto Rican independence movement
The Puerto Rican independence movement refers to initiatives throughout the history of Puerto Rico aimed at obtaining independence for the Island, first from Spain, and then from the United States...

 from the United States who founded the Puerto Rican Socialist Party
Puerto Rican Socialist Party
The Puerto Rican Socialist Party was a Marxist and pro-independence political party in Puerto Rico seeking the end of United States of America control on the Hispanic and Caribbean island...

 (PSP). On October 25, 2006, he became the first person to receive a Puerto Rican citizenship
Puerto Rican citizenship
Puerto Rican citizenship was first legislated by the U.S. Congress in Article 7 of the Foraker Act of 1900 and later recognized by the Puerto Rican constitution...

 certificate from the Puerto Rico State Department.

Early years


Mari Brás was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico
Mayagüez, Puerto Rico
Mayagüez is the eighth-largest municipality of Puerto Rico. Originally founded as "Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria" it is also known as "La Sultana del Oeste" , "Ciudad de las Aguas Puras" , or "Ciudad del Mangó"...

, to a father active in the independence movement
Puerto Rican independence movement
The Puerto Rican independence movement refers to initiatives throughout the history of Puerto Rico aimed at obtaining independence for the Island, first from Spain, and then from the United States...

 who often took his son to political meetings and rallies. In 1943, when Mari Brás was 18 years old, he founded a pro-independence movement in his high school, along with some of his friends, in Mayagüez. He was also the founder and director of the first pro-independence political radio program "Grito de la Patria".

Student activist


In 1944, he enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico
University of Puerto Rico
The University of Puerto Rico is the state university system of Puerto Rico. The system consists of 11 campuses and has approximately 64,511 students and 5,300 faculty members...

 (Universidad de Puerto Rico) and in 1946 became a founding member of Gilberto Concepción de Gracia
Gilberto Concepción de Gracia
Dr. Gilberto Concepción de Gracia was a lawyer, journalist, author, politician and founder of the Puerto Rican Independence Party.-Early years:Concepción de Gracia was born in the town of Vega Alta, Puerto Rico...

's Puerto Rican Independence Party
Puerto Rican Independence Party
The Puerto Rican Independence Party is a Puerto Rican political party that campaigns for the independence of Puerto Rico from United States suzerainty....

. Mari Brás became the president of the party's "Puerto Rican
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

 Independence Youth". In 1948, the university's pro-independence student body invited nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos
Pedro Albizu Campos
Don Pedro Albizu Campos was a Puerto Rican politician and one of the leading figures in the Puerto Rican independence movement. He was the leader and president of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party from 1930 until his death...

 to the Río Piedras
San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan , officially Municipio de la Ciudad Capital San Juan Bautista , is the capital and most populous municipality in Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 395,326 making it the 46th-largest city under the jurisdiction of...

 campus as a guest speaker. The chancellor of the university, Jaime Benítez
Jaime Benitez
Jaime Benítez Rexach was a Puerto Rican author, academic and politician. He was the longest serving chancellor and the first president of the University of Puerto Rico.-Early life:...

, did not permit Albizu access to the campus. As a consequence, the students protested and went on strike. Mari Brás was one of the student leaders who chanted anti-American slogans and who marched with a Puerto Rican flag in his hand. Both of these acts were considered as acts against the Government of the United States, which at that time had a complete control of the government of the island. Mari Brás and those who protested, were expelled from the university.

Mari Brás went to Lakeland, Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, where he received his Bachelor's Degree. He also studied at Georgetown University
Georgetown University
Georgetown University is a private, Jesuit, research university whose main campus is in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Founded in 1789, it is the oldest Catholic university in the United States...

. In 1954, he went to study law at George Washington University Law School but was expelled. He finally obtained his law degree from American University
American University
American University is a private, Methodist, liberal arts, and research university in Washington, D.C. The university was chartered by an Act of Congress on December 5, 1892 as "The American University", which was approved by President Benjamin Harrison on February 24, 1893...

.

Political career



In 1959, Mari Brás founded the "Pro-Independence Movement", which grouped Puerto Rican independence followers who supported the Socialist philosophy. Along with César Andreu Iglesias
César Andreu Iglesias
César Andreu Iglesias was a Puerto Rican journalist, novelist, and short-story writer. He was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on July 31, 1915.-Independentista activities:...

 he founded the political newspaper Claridad
Claridad
Claridad is a Spanish-language weekly newspaper based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was first published in June, 1959. Claridad served as the official publication of the Pro-Independence Movement and later the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. The paper has been praised for its strong political and...

, which he directed for three decades. In 1971, the "Pro-Independence Movement" was renamed and became the Puerto Rican Socialist Party
Puerto Rican Socialist Party
The Puerto Rican Socialist Party was a Marxist and pro-independence political party in Puerto Rico seeking the end of United States of America control on the Hispanic and Caribbean island...

 (PSP). In 1973, he spoke before the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 about Puerto Rico being a colony of the United States and demanded the decolonization of the island. He was the first Puerto Rican to raise this issue.

On March 1976, one of Mari Brás' sons, Santiago Mari Pesquera, was murdered while his father was campaigning for the PSP. Police investigations have hinted that Mari Pesquera was assassinated as a reprisal against his father's political activism, but have stopped short of obtaining definite proof to accuse his suspected assassins. Mari Pesquera's murder has never been officially solved.

U.S. citizenship renunciation


On July 11, 1994, Mari Brás renounced his United States citizenship at the American Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela. He did this to test a technicality in United States citizenship laws. Ordinarily, a person holding United States citizenship and who subsequently renounces his citizenship is deported to his country of origin. Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, Brás theorized that the U.S. Department of State would have to deport, to Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans who renounced their American citizenship.

In 1997 Brás was taken before the Puerto Rico Supreme Court (in 97 DTS 135 RAMIREZ V. MARI BRAS) on the allegation that if he had renounced his American citizenship, then he also had renounced his right to vote in the local Puerto Rican elections. The Puerto Rico Supreme Court determined that Mari Brás could continue to vote in Puerto Rico.

Later litigation in U.S. District Court in 1998 (in the case of Alberto O. LOZADA COLON, Plaintiff, v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, et. al., Defendants) the Court held that the case was about "the much debated political question as to the status of Puerto Rico and its nationals in relation to the United States." It added that "While Plaintiff may well have strong political views with regard to Puerto Rican independence and the need for a citizenship separate and apart from the United States, this is not an issue for this Court to decide." and it concluded that "the Plaintiff must seek another, more appropriate forum to express his political views." These actions and rulings continue to be a popular subject of debate.

Based on the federal court ruling on Colon v. U.S. Department of State, months after the U.S. State Department accepted his renunciation, Juan Mari Bras was notified on June 4, 1998, by the U.S Department of State, that they were rescinding their acceptance, and refused to accept Bras renunciation, determining that Mari Brás could not renounce his American citizenship because he did not request another national citizenship, and he was born and remains living and working in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

. This, said the federal agency, makes Mari Brás a U.S. citizen, the only national citizenship that Washington recognizes for Puerto Ricans.

Later years


By the end of his life Juan Mari Brás, had retired from active politics and was no longer as the president of the defunct "Puerto Rican Socialist Party", but did, however, make appearances at pro-independence activities and continued to teach law at the Eugenio María de Hostos School of Law
Eugenio María de Hostos School of Law
The Facultad de Derecho Eugenio Maria de Hostos is a law school located in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. The School was founded by Fernando Bayrón, Juan Mari Brás and Carlos Rivera Lugo in 1995...

 which he cofounded in his native Mayagüez over a decade ago. On December 10, 2008, he was recognized by the Puerto Rico chapter of the American Association of Jurists with the award of Jurist
Jurist
A jurist or jurisconsult is a professional who studies, develops, applies, or otherwise deals with the law. The term is widely used in American English, but in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries it has only historical and specialist usage...

 of the Year, along with fellow lawyer Noel Colón Martínez.

Death and legacy


Don Juan died the morning of September 10, 2010 in the city of San Juan. That very morning after hearing of his passing the mayor of the city of Mayagüez José Guillermo Rodríguez
José Guillermo Rodríguez
José Guillermo Rodríguez is a Puerto Rican politician who serves as the Mayor of the city of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. He was born in Mayagüez on October 10, 1956. He is a member of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico.-Early years and education:...

 decreed five days of mourning and ordered that the flags in all municipal building be flown at half mast. Guillermo Rodríguez publicly stated that the city would be collaborating with the funeral arrangements as he was sure the Hostos School of Law would do as well. After a mass at the Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria he was laid to rest in the Cementerio Municipal de Mayagüez
Cementerio Municipal de Mayagüez
The Cementerio Municipal de Mayagüez, also known as Cementerio Viejo, was constructed in 1876 in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. It was designed by the municipal architect Félix Vidal de D’Ors following the master plan for the city from 1804. The outskirts of the cemetery are defined by brick walls and...

.

Puerto Rican citizenship


After attempting to renounce his American citizenship, a renunciation which was in turn revoked by the United States Department of State, and over 10 years of litigation claiming he was a citizen of Puerto Rico, the State Department of Puerto Rico granted him the certification, rendering Mari Blas the first one to hold it. He stated "I freed myself from the indignity of a false citizenship...that of the country that invaded mine, which continues to keep the only country that I owe allegiance to as a colony.

The Supreme Court of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Secretary of Justice determined that Puerto Rican citizenship exists and was recognized in the Constitution of Puerto Rico. Since the summer of 2007, the Puerto Rico State Department has developed the protocol to grant Puerto Rican citizenship to Puerto Ricans.

Former Puerto Rico Supreme Court Associate Justice and former Secretary of State Baltasar Corrada questioned the legality of the certification, citing a law passed in 1997 and authored by Kenneth McClintock
Kenneth McClintock
Kenneth D. McClintock-Hernández is the current Secretary of State of Puerto Rico. Mr. McClintock served as co-chair of Hillary Clinton presidential campaign's National Hispanic Leadership Council in 2008, co-chaired Clinton's successful Puerto Rico primary campaign that year and served as the...

which establishes United States citizenship and nationality as a prerequisite for Puerto Rican citizenship. Mari Bras' efforts have generated vigorous public debate regarding the citizenship issue.

Mari Bras' is not the only Puerto Rican citizen to renounce his U.S. citizenship. Since Mari Bras' application, a number of other Puerto Rican citizens have also presented the required application papers before U.S. authorities to renounce their American citizenship.

Quotes



— Juan Mari Brás

External links