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Lola Rodríguez de Tió (1843 - 1924)

Updated: Jan 17

The Revolutionary Wordsmith

Lola Rodríguez de Tió was a Puerto Rican poet, author, and political activist. She is considered to be Puerto Rico's premier nineteenth century lyric poet and one of Latin America's most important early feminists. She was committed to women's rights, the abolition of slavery, and the independence of Puerto Rico.

Lola Rodríguez de Tió was born in San Germán, Puerto Rico on September 14, 1843. She received her primary education in San Germán, and her schooling continued at home where various intellectuals and politicians often met. Rodríguez de Tió used her talents as a writer and poet to promote Puerto Rican liberty and democracy at a time of Spanish colonial rule.

El Grito De Lares Uprising

In 1868, inspired by "El Grito de Lares," she wrote patriotic lyrics to the tune of “La Borinquena”. The Grito de Lares (Cry of Lares) was the first and most significant uprising in Puerto Rico against Spanish colonial rule. The revolt took place in Lares, Puerto Rico on September 23, 1868. “La Borinquena” became very popular and led to its adoption as the national anthem, but it also brought her into conflict with Spanish authorities. The lyrics were later changed to Manuel Fernandez Juncos’ version, but Rodriguez’s continues to be popular among independence advocates in Puerto Rico.

In 1876 she and her family moved to Mayagüez where she published her first book of poetry, Mis cantares, which sold 2,500 copies. She was exiled from Puerto Rico because of her political activities. In 1877 the family fled to Venezuela where they met Eugenio María de Hostos. Upon their return to Puerto Rico she and her husband founded the magazine La Almojábana. They were exiled again in 1887, returning first to Venezuela and then to Cuba. Once in Havana, their home became a gathering point for politicians and intellectuals as well as exiled Puerto Ricans.

In 1892, Rodríguez de Tió and her husband were expelled from Havana for their political activity for Cuban independence. The publication of her other book “ Mi libro de Cuba” and her continued revolutionary activities caused her exile to New York City, where she helped José Martí and other Cuban revolutionaries. In 1910 she helped found the Cuban Academy of Arts and Letters. After this she only made three trips to her homeland of Puerto Rico in the next twenty-five years.

Lola Rodríguez de Tió played a key role in establishing a relationship between the independence movements in Cuba and Puerto Rico, writing in one of her poems, “Cuba y Puerto Rico son de un pájaro las dos alas.” (Cuba and Puerto Rico are two wings of the same bird).

Lola is also believed to have inspired the design and colors of the Puerto Rican flag, which were adopted in 1954. She suggested that Puerto Ricans use the Cuban flag with its colors reversed as the model for their own standard.

Puerto Rico has honored her memory by naming schools and avenues after her.

This is the original version of “La Borinquena” written by Lola Rodríguez de Tió.

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