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Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores – New York City

Portrait and Message of Farewell to a Brother

Our brother, Edgardo Alvelo Burgos

By Luis Ángel Torres Torres, MST

Original Spanish text at
Original spanish text in PDF format

English translation in PDF format

Eulogy for Compañero Edgardo Alvelo Burgos, delivered by Luis Ángel Torres Torres at the Remembrance Act held by the MST on the night of October 27, 2010.

Translated by the MST-NYC for the Edgardo Alvelo Burgos Socialist Summer School.

Greetings to all the compañeras and compañeros present.

What a difficult task my friend and compañero Edgardo Alvelo has left me. But I must take it up, over and above any pretext.

To paraphrase the German playwright, Bertolt Brecht: There are human beings who struggle for days, and they are good. There are other who struggle for years, and they also are good. There are those who struggle for a whole lifetime – those are the indispensable ones. Edgardo Alvelo Burgos is one of the indispensable ones, without whom no political, labor or social project could be successful. The indispensable ones put their life and heart in each and every project they set out, they don’t complain or let themselves be deterred by difficulties large and small, they sacrifice their wellbeing, and risking their own personal security, they go through life combating injustice and handing out buds of freedom. Today we bid farewell to an extraordinary human being who taught us dignity until his last breath, and pointed out with his example that the possible begins with what seems impossible.

A multifaceted fighter, Alvelo was a student leader, founder and leader of the Popular Socialist Movement (MSP) and Workers’ Socialist Movement (MST), Officer of the Puerto Rican Workers’ Union (Gremio Puertorriqueño de Trabajadores), Delegate of the Federation of Teachers (FMPR) at Miguel Such Vocational School, Vice President of the San Juan IV FMPR local, and member of the Labor Education Secretariat of the FMPR, among other important functions.

Edgardo Alvelo Burgos, friend, compañero, teacher, and revolutionary, shared over forty years of struggle and sacrifice with many of us. We met him at the University of Puerto Rico in 1970, as leader of the Pro-Independence Youth at the School of Commerce, and simultaneously as a member of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP). From the university struggles we moved on together to the founding of the MSP in 1973, when a large group of youths left the PIP to dive into the difficult project of creating a socialist political alternative that better represented our ideals of social transformation. The watchword of that movement, of which Alvelo, as we called him (as if it was his first name), was an incorruptible promoter, was that the socialist organization we were creating has to be the prefiguration of the socialist society that we should build. That socialism is built simultaneously in social struggle and on the individual-collective level of the organization that aspires to achieve it. It wasn’t a vow of poverty, as some may think, but a vow to always live up to our principles.

In that school that he helped found as teacher, Alvelo was one of the star students. He lived through unemployment, great economic hardship, political discrimination – in a word, capitalist exploitation and oppression in all its varied forms. Those were the times when, at the homes of some of us, food was prepared for many, and each would bring what he or she could to contribute to the common table. There wasn’t much, but what little there was, was plentifully shared. Alvelo, among others, preached with his examples: what’s important isn’t having many material things, but having what’s necessary to live and struggle for a society free from exploitation and injustices.

That vision of the world was built upon a commitment and conviction that the working class, the workers, who produce social wealth, should be the ones to enjoy it, for which they must take political power in society. Solidarity was its class stamp. There wasn’t a single struggle in this country in which the MSP was involved where compañero Alvelo – who was also its Secretary of Labor Education during the difficult years of its formation – wasn’t present. The strikes of the telephone workers, of the stonecutters at Puerto Rican Cement, of the workers at El Mundo newspaper, at the Datsun plant, of the Electricity Company’s workers (UTIER) and the FMPR, among many others, were the workshop where Alvelo’s class consciousness was tempered. Obviously, solidarity has a price. During the Teachers’ Strike of 1974, even though he wasn’t a teacher, Alvelo suffered the rigors of police repression while defending the picket line, and was also arrested.

His commitment and solidarity with the working class at all costs was especially evidenced in the participation of MSP members, with Alvelo in the lead, during the UTIER strike of 1977, where, risking life and limb, he participated at all levels of the strike in the attempt to make the workers’ victory possible. It was precisely during that conflict that the thugs of the Police Intelligence Division put their persecuting eye on the compañero, deploying all forms of vigilance against him, even trying to fabricate false charges on which to arrest him. On July 23, 1978, two days before the murders at Cerro Maravilla,[1] he was arrested and accused of possessing illegal weapons and stolen vehicles, and jailed for several days. Although police attempted to link him to several armed attacks, he was finally absolved. However, the persecution against Alvelo and the MSP didn’t stop.

It’s important to note that the repression against the pro-independence and socialist movement, the labor and student movements, during the 1970s, was not an isolated phenomenon. Thousands of independentistas and workers were targeted for the fiercest repression, particularly by the Intelligence Division and the death squads fomented by police authorities. Indiscriminate arrests, beatings, case fabrications, and carpeteo [2] were our daily bread for anyone who dared to confront the abuses of the regime. Alvelo’s file, like those of many of us, was obviously hefty.

I’ve met few people, fighters for socialism, with the bravery, daring, and willingness to face any sacrifice, of my brother Edgardo Alvelo Burgos. The stoic and patient manner in which Alvelo faced the avatars of repression is not an everyday thing. Anyone else in his position would have had more than enough reasons to give up the fight or take it down a notch. But Alvelo was not the quitting kind. As he said on occasion: I’m a rank-and-file soldier of the socialist revolution, and proud of it. Staying with the military theme, I have to say that Alvelo was definitely a soldier, politically and militarily speaking, who never gave up, not even at death’s doorstep. Death ended his life, but never his combative spirit.

Alvelo had an incredible sense of humor. In the midst of the gravest situations, he would spout comments that without a doubt helped to loosen tensions and deal with the matter. On July 23, 1978, when he was arrested, he called me to let me know he had been arrested and was being held at the General Headquarters. When I lift the receiver and hear his voice, he says to me: “Luis Ángel, they got me.” Confused, I ask him, “What do you mean, they got you?” Alvelo answers: “Coño, they got my dealer!” I understood immediately. That was Edgardo Alvelo Burgos, even in the most awkward moments, he would take things as a joke.

Great revolutionaries are full of great feelings of love, as Ché Guevara would say, and Alvelo was the living confirmation of that truth. Alvelo was an excellent dialoguer, with no hidden intentions, transparent as water from a spring. He left an imprint on all whom he touched with his patient eloquence. He had so much trust in the workers that he always presumed good faith, without swagger or fictitious poses, he would impact with the charisma of a born leader. When he got certified as an English teacher, especially during the years he worked at Miguel Such, he showed off those persuasive characteristics in his unwavering defense of his compañeros, of teachers’ rights, and of public schools. Alvelo was a socialist convinced that education is a fundamental tool for helping to transform the society of oppression in which we live. Therefore, there was a close link between his ideological positions and the teachers’ struggle, to which he never ceased to contribute.

Revolutionary father Edgardo Alvelo had a particular love for his son Miguel. He wouldn’t stop telling me that Miguel was his greatest pride, his eyes would light up in a special way when he referred to whom he considered his greatest work. Each time we spoke, and there were many, the proud father would opaque any illness or affliction that may have been affecting him.

Although he would have persuaded me not to say so, I must say that there were many who received the selfless and always anonymous contributions of Alvelo. At his side, anyone who needed money or help would receive it with no hope of reward or compensation. In the same way that he gave himself whole to the hard and difficult struggle for socialism, even when physical strength abandoned him, he would practice charity and mutual help, always ready to support the most noble and just causes.

Faithful friend, beloved compañero, exemplary father and teacher, and complete revolutionary, among other important human qualities, Alvelo leaves in his wake an indelible trail of solidarity. The clay with which human beings of the human and revolutionary quality of Edgardo Alvelo Burgos are made is scarce in these times. The undying message we are left by his unfortunate and painful loss is that it is possible to preach through example, it is possible to put actions where one’s words are. At a time when so many independentistas and socialists have succumbed to the pitfalls of the struggle for a free and sovereign patria led by the workers, the example of Alvelo, who refused to surrender even as his body was eaten away by illness, is highly encouraging. Only days before his unfortunate death, it was announced that Miguel Such was on the list of schools slated to be “modernized” and privatized. There was Alvelo, organizing the resistance against the privatizers. He died as he lived, fighting with his boots on.

Compañero Alvelo, Gugu, Agustito, your life fills us with hope that socialism is possible over and above the great hardships we will have to face. Your legacy is assured in the young people who are here today in homage to you. Edgardo Alvelo Burgos: ¡Presente! Edgardo Alvelo Burgos: ¡Presente!

[1] Translator’s Note: During the 1970s and 1980s, the Puerto Rico Police and federal agencies maintained individual carpetas (files) detailing the daily movements of over 150,000 people suspected of being, or having connections to, independentistas or socialists. The practice, modeled after COINTELPRO, is known in Puerto Rico as carpeteo.

[2] Translator’s Note: two independentistas, Arnaldo Darío Rosado and Carlos Soto Arriví, were entrapped and executed by the Police at Cerro Maravilla, in Villalba, Puerto Rico, on July 25, 1978.  The colonial regime attempted, unsuccessfully, to cover up the premeditated crime.

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2 thoughts on “Portrait and Message of Farewell to a Brother

  1. Pingback: Socialist Summer School, June 24 – Sept. 2 | Escuela de Verano Socialista, 24 de junio – 2 de sept. « NYC en Lucha

  2. Pingback: E.A.B. Socialist Summer School: Second class and scheduling change | Escuela Socialista de Verano E.A.B.: Segunda clase y cambio de horario « NYC en Lucha

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