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Oscar Collazo

Oscar Collazo

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Oscar Collazo was one of two Puerto Ricans who attempted to assassinate
Truman assassination attempt
The assassination attempt on U.S. President Harry S. Truman occurred on November 1, 1950. It was perpetrated by two Puerto Rican pro-independence activists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, while the President resided at the Blair House. The attempt resulted in the deaths of White House Police...

 U.S. President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...


Early life

Collazo was born in what is now Florida, Puerto Rico
Florida, Puerto Rico
Florida is a municipality of Puerto Rico located north of Ciales, south of Barceloneta, east of Arecibo, and west of Manatí. Florida is spread over one ward and Florida Pueblo...

. In 1920, Collazo's father died and his mother sent him to live with his brother in Jayuya
Jayuya, Puerto Rico
Jayuya is a municipality of Puerto Rico located in the mountainous center region of the island, north of Ponce; east of Utuado; and west of Ciales. Jayuya is spread over 18 wards and Jayuya Pueblo...

. His brother was a member of the Liberal Party which had independence beliefs. When Collazo was 14 years old, he participated in a student demonstration, which was considered illegal, commemorating the birth of José de Diego
José de Diego
José de Diego y Martínez , known as "The Father of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement", was a statesman, journalist, poet, lawyer, and advocate for Puerto Rico's independence from Spain and from the United States....

. In 1932, when Collazo was 18 years old, he again participated in another demonstration commemorating José de Diego. This time however, the main speaker was 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...

, the president of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party
Puerto Rican Nationalist Party
The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was founded on September 17, 1922. Its main objective is to work for Puerto Rican Independence.In 1919, José Coll y Cuchí, a member of the Union Party of Puerto Rico, felt that the Union Party was not doing enough for the cause of Puerto Rican independence and he...

. That day he was so impressed by Albizu Campos' leadership that he joined the Nationalist Party.

In 1941, Collazo moved to New York City where he met and married Rosa, a divorcee. Rosa had two daughters and Collazo had one, both from a previous marriage. Collazo worked in a metal polishing factory and led a normal life. He met and became friends with Albizu Campos when the latter was hospitalized at the Columbus Hospital. Collazo became the secretary and later president of the New York branch of the Nationalist Party. Collazo met Griselio Torresola
Griselio Torresola
Griselio Torresola born in Jayuya, Puerto Rico, was one of two Puerto Rican Nationalists who attempted to assassinate United States President Harry Truman. During the attack on the president, Torresola mortally wounded White House policeman Private Leslie Coffelt and wounded two other law...

 in New York and they soon became friends.

Plot to assassinate President Truman

On October 28, 1950, they received the news that the Jayuya Uprising led by the nationalist leader Blanca Canales
Blanca Canales
Blanca Canales Torresola was a Puerto Rican nationalist leader. Canales may possibly have been the first woman to have led a revolt against the United States when she led the The Jayuya Uprising.-Early years:...

 in Puerto Rico, had failed. Torresola's sister had been wounded and his brother Elio was arrested. Collazo and Torresola then decided to assassinate President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 with the intention of bringing world attention to the independence cause of Puerto Rico.

On October 31, 1950, Collazo and Torresola arrived at Union Station in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 and registered in the Harris Hotel. On November 1, 1950, Collazo and Torresola, with guns in hand, attempted to enter the Blair House
Blair House
Blair House is the official state guest house for the President of the United States. It is located at 1651-1653 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., opposite the Old Executive Office Building of the White House, off the corner of Lafayette Park....

 with the intention of assassinating the President, who was residing there while the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 was being renovated. During the attack one White House police officer, Private Leslie Coffelt, was killed and multiple others wounded. Torresola was killed by the mortally wounded Coffelt, and Collazo was shot in the chest and arrested.

In prison, Collazo was asked why he had targeted Truman, who was in favor of self-determination for Puerto Rico and who had appointed the first native-born Puerto Rican governor. Collazo replied that he had nothing against Truman, saying that he was "a symbol of the system. You don't attack the man, you attack the system."

In 1952, Collazo was sentenced to death, but President Truman commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. He was sent to the federal prison
United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth
The United States Penitentiary , Leavenworth was the largest maximum security federal prison in the United States from 1903 until 2005. It became a medium security prison in 2005.It is located in Leavenworth, Kansas...

 at Leavenworth, Kansas
Leavenworth, Kansas
Leavenworth is the largest city and county seat of Leavenworth County, in the U.S. state of Kansas and within the Kansas City, Missouri Metropolitan Area. Located in the northeast portion of the state, it is on the west bank of the Missouri River. As of the 2010 census, the city population was...

. Collazo's sentence was commuted to time served by President Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

 on September 6, 1979, after spending 29 years in jail. President Carter also commuted the sentences of Collazo's fellow nationalists Irving Flores, Rafael Cancel Miranda
Rafael Cancel Miranda
Rafael Cancel Miranda , political activist, is a member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and an advocate of Puerto Rican independence. On March 1, 1954, Cancel Miranda together with fellow Nationalists Lolita Lebron, Andres Figueroa Cordero, and Irving Flores Rodriguez entered the United...

, and Lolita Lebrón
Lolita Lebrón
Dolores "Lolita" Lebrón Sotomayor was a Puerto Rican nationalist who wasconvicted of attempted murder and other crimes after leading an assault on the United States House of Representatives in 1954,...

. Collazo had been eligible for parole since April 1966, and Lebron since July 1969. Both Messrs. Cancel Miranda and Flores became eligible for parole in July 1979. However, none had applied for parole because of their political beliefs. Upon their return to Puerto Rico, they were received as heroes by the different independence groups.

Collazo's wife, Rosa, was also arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 (FBI) on suspicion of having conspired
Conspiracy (crime)
In the criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future, and, in some cases, with at least one overt act in furtherance of that agreement...

 with her husband, and spent eight months in federal prison.

Upon her release from prison, Rosa continued to work with the Nationalist Party. She helped gather 100,000 signatures in an effort to save her husband from the electric chair.

Later years

In 1979, Collazo and the other nationalists were decorated by Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

's President Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

. In the Puerto Rican Cultural Center of Chicago, Illinois, there is a mural
A mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other large permanent surface. A particularly distinguishing characteristic of mural painting is that the architectural elements of the given space are harmoniously incorporated into the picture.-History:Murals of...

 painted honoring Puerto Rico's independence leaders which include the images of Collazo and Torresola.

Oscar and Rosa Collazo eventually were divorced. She continued to actively participate in Puerto Rico's independence movement and in 1984 a commemoration for her fifty years of patriotic work was held in the Bar Association Building. She was also given a recognition for her efforts towards the commutation of her former husband's death sentence. Rosa Collazo, who died in May 1988, lived the last years of her life by the side of her daughter Lydia Collazo Cortez.

Oscar Collazo continued to participate in activities related to 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...

. On February 21, 1994, Oscar Collazo died of a stroke, having passed his 80th birthday by just over a month. The guns used by Collazo and Torresola in the assassination attempt are on display at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum
Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum
The Harry S Truman Library and Museum is dedicated to preserving papers, books, and other historical materials relating to the 33rd President of the United States Harry S Truman. It is located on a small hill facing U.S...

 in Independence, Missouri
Independence, Missouri
Independence is the fourth largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri, and is contained within the counties of Jackson and Clay. It is part of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area...


See also

  • Puerto Rican Nationalist Party Revolts of the 1950s
    Puerto Rican Nationalist Party Revolts of the 1950s
    The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party Revolts of the 1950s was a call for independence and uprising by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party against United States Government rule of Puerto Rico and against the approval of the creation of the political status "Free Associated State" for Puerto Rico which...

  • List of famous Puerto Ricans
  • Private Leslie Coffelt

External links