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Luisa Capetillo Is The Fascinating Puerto Rican Labor Leader Who Wore Pants Before Frida Did

Long before the argument about whether or not leggings are pants, there was another argument: should women be allowed to wear pants? Throughout history, women have long been judged – and even arrested – for what they choose or choose not to wear, but few know the outrage and chaos created by Luisa Capetillo, the Puerto Rican labor organizer who fought for women’s rights and the liberation of Puerto Rico.

Here’s a look at most interesting facts and accomplishments about this mujer fuerte.

Luis and Luisa, parents of Luisa

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Capetillo was raised by fairly independent-minded parents who insisted she was educated at home. Her mother, Luisa Margarita Perone, was a Corsican immigrant of French descent who deeply believed women should live as equals alongside men and have control of their bodies and lifestyles. Perone strongly rejected the idea that women should have to marry and abandon their goals and political ideals to marry and raise children.

Reading beccame a big part of her passion.

Credit: @_matthoffman_ / Unsplash

Luisa’s father, Luis Capetillo Echevarría, passed on to his daughter the love of reading.

With her father’s guidance, Luisa became an avid reader and developed her ideas of anarchism and romanticism from the literature she loved.

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With her father’s guidance, Luisa became an avid reader and developed her ideas of anarchism and romanticism from the literature she loved. Luisa was fascinated with Leo Tolstoy, Victor Hugo, and Emile Zola. Luisa’s future as a writer and revolutionary was firmly grounded in the books her father incited her to read.

A Single Mother

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When Luisa was 19, she fell in love with a young man named Manuel Ledesma. She and Ledesma would have two children before ending their relationship, never marrying. This was no era to be a single mother, much less one who had a child out of wedlock. Capetillo would leave her children in the care of her mother before joining the workforce at a cigar factory. 

This would be her first encounter with labor unions and a vital part of her radicalization.

Credit: @allthingscigars / Instagram

During this time, some factory workers were accompanied by live readings of written works to help the time pass. At the cigar factory, Capetillo worked as a reader.

Luisa read literary works and political essays voted on by the workers each day.

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The workers would openly have lively discussions and debates while they stemmed the tobacco leaves and rolled the cigars. It was the perfect job for someone like Luisa who loved reading.

Labor Organizing

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It was at the cigar factory that Luisa met and joined the Federation of Tobacco Rollers, an affiliated union of the Regional Federation of Workers. Later the union was known as the FLT – the Federacion Libre de Trabajadores, or the Free Federation of Workers. 

By 1905, Luisa was writing for radical and union newspapers.

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She moved on to writing propaganda for organizing workers for farmworkers strikes. Her work was so successful she soon became a leader in the union, and after traveling across the country educating other workers, her hometown of Arecibo became the most unionized place in Puerto Rico.

The First Puerto Rican Suffragist

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In 1908, Luisa urged the Federacion Libre de Trabajadores to include women’s suffrage in their list of causes. Her vision was that women’s rights would include working and poor women, not just the rich or privileged and that it be considered an integral part of the workers’ rights movement.

It was during this time that Luisa began what she would call la Cruzada del Ideal – the Crusade of the Ideal.

 Credit: @kiskeyalibertaria / Instagram

She and other union members traveled by foot, on horseback, and by train across the country to educate and organize workers. Luisa launched her own newspaper, La Mujer, and released a collection of essays, Ensayos Libertarios.

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Luisa continued writing and published her new book, Mi opinion sobre las libertades, derechos y deberes de la mujer, which is considered the first feminist thesis written in Puerto Rico.

The book, which translates to My opinion about the liberties, rights and responsibilities of women, covered ideas far ahead of her time, like free love, universal and no-cost education, and more.

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The book, which translates to My opinion about the liberties, rights and responsibilities of women, covered ideas far ahead of her time, like free love, universal and no-cost education, and more. Some were incensed by her idea surrounding free love, misinterpreting it as a call for promiscuity and recklessness. Instead, her ideas would later be recognized for what they were: the idea that men did not need to legally own women through the binding legal contract of marriage as it was commonly known at the time. This is also when Luisa would start wearing pants in public.

The International Anarchist

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Luisa traveled to the United States, stopping in New York to organize with Cuban and Puerto Rican tobacco workers. She began writing for radical and anarchist newspapers of the time and eventually moved to Tampa, Florida. Again, she worked as a reader at a tobacco factory there. Florida proved a great springboard for travel to Cuba, where she could join forces with the Federacion Anarquista de Cuba as they organized strikes with sugar cane workers. When her work advocated direct action  – if need be by uprising – she was arrested on the grounds of her clothes choice.

Luisa was brave and challenged the courts, pointing out that there was no official law on the books prohibiting women from wearing men’s clothing.

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The judge dropped her charges and let her go, but the news was already making international headlines. She would go back to Puerto Rico after this.

The Sugar Cane Struggle

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When Luisa returned to Puerto Rico, she joined several different strike campaigns, notably the major Sugar Cane Strike of 1916. Historians say over 40,000 workers in 32 different municipalities joined the strike. This unprecedented turnout led to a staggering victory for workers, who saw an average salary increase of thirteen percent.

Luisa saw her success as a chance to continue traveling, and she later launched a guest house and cafe in New York City, where she frequently traveled to.

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The few years after 1916 when they won were largely considered the most intense in terms of workers rights organizing during the period. Later in 1919, Luisa along with other labor activists helped pass a minimum-wage law in the Puerto Rican Legislature.


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Luisa ultimately succumbed to tuberculous and died in 1922 at the age of 42. Historical accounts say she was vivacious and active almost until the day she dropped dead, fighting for workers rights and the emancipation of women.

Her burial site is at a special place.

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She was buried in the Municipal Cemetery of Arecibo and many years would pass before her legacy would be rediscovered by historians and activists.


Credit: @habiaunavezpr / Instagram

Nearly a century after her death, Luisa’s life and work were finally honored publicly by Puerto Rico. The Legislative Assembly of the country honored 12 women with plaques in La Plaza de Honor de la Mujer Puertorriqueña in San Juan. Luisa Capetillo was one of the select 12 honored women who are listed as having their merits and legacies stand out in Puerto Rican history.

In 1990, The University of Puerto Rico, Cayey Campus unveiled the Luisa Capetillo Center of Documentation Hall.

Credit: @lectorsocialclub / Instagram

The Women Studies program uses the center, which was built with the help from the Ángel Ramos Foundation.

In 1990, a made-for-TV movie on Luisa’s life, Luisa Capetillo, pasión de justicia, aired in Latin America.

Credit: @ash_lugo_ / Instagram

It was officially shown in 1995 at the Mar De Plata Film Festival in 1995. Her story was also turned into a stage play.

Her legacy lives on.

Credit: @mxb990 / Instagram

Today, in her hometown of Arecibo, a house named Casa Protegida Luisa Capetillo is home to a nonprofit organization that serves and protects women survivors of mental and physical abuse.

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

There’s no denying that the world looks a lot different now than it did in 1947. And while the list of all of the positive changes that the decades stretching between now and then have done for the world and minorities, a recent campaign is also highlighting the ways in which our current president could take some notes on certain values the United States held dear during this time. Particularly ones that had been pressed for by one of our former presidents.

As part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” effort, he worked to promote positive and healthy relations between the United States in Latin American countries.

At the time Rooseveltaimed to ensure that the North, Central and South American countries avoided breaking under the influence of Axis countries during World War II. As part of this campaign, Roosevelt comissioned a Spanish and a Portuguese version of the U.S. national anthem. According to Time Magazine he also “recruited Hollywood to participate in this Good Neighbor Policy; Walt Disney went on goodwill tour of South America, hoping to find a new market for his films, and ended up producing two movies inspired by the trip: Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944). The Brazilian star Carmen Miranda also got a boost, and her role in The Gang’s All Here made her even more famous in the U.S. And alongside these cross-cultural exchanges, the U.S. government decided it needed an anthem that could reach Spanish speakers.”

According to NPR, Clotilde Arias, wrote wrote the translation at the end of World War II, was born in the small Peruvian city, Iquitos in 1901 and moved to New York City to become a composer when she was 22-years-old. Her version of the anthem is now part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Now in an effort to support Latino communities affected by the coronavirus, the non-profit We Are All Human Foundation’s Hispanic Star campaign commissioned the a remake of the song.

Hoping to raise awareness of its Hispanic Recovery Plan and efforts to help to connect Hispanic small businesses and workers with resources during the pandemic, the campaign brought the old recording from obscurity.

For the song, the 2019 winner of the singing competition La Voz,  Jeidimar Rijos, performed “El Pendón Estrellado.” Or, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

The song has already received quite a bit of comments and support on Youtube.

Hang in there, fam. We can only get through this together.

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These Online Botanicas Will Satisfy The Bruja In You


These Online Botanicas Will Satisfy The Bruja In You

With young Latinxs reclaiming the bruja identity, the demand for access to novenas, herbs and other specially crafted ritual tools has grown tremendously. Luckily, these Latinx-owned online botanicas have made it easy for brujas, or anyone who wants to dive deeper into the practice, to get their hands on the goods. Whether you’re looking to conjure up more cash flow or secure some extra protection from those pesky mal de ojos, these shops have the magia you need.

1. The Flowerchild Bruja

You know you’ve received some real tesoro when you open your delivery and see the holographic cellophane. Unmistakable and unique products are what make The Flowerchild Bruja’s shop un cielo de flores. Garden Smudge Sticks adorned with colorful flowers and loose herbs packaged in clear hearts make this online botanica a must-visit if you’re looking to manifest more love and beauty into your life.

2. Brooklyn Brujeria

No forlorn-looking saints and pale stricken Marys here! Brookyn Brujeria offers a fresh and modern take on the classic bruja necessity of novena candles. At $10 a candle, you can enhance the vibrations and style of your space without blowing all your chavo. With intentions like Boss Bitch and F*ck Outta Here, these ain’t your abuelitas’ novenas.

3. The Hoodwitch Store

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Thank you for all of your love & support to those who have been readers and customers of @thehoodwitch over the years. ♥️You know truly how hard I work and that this is my livelihood and culture. Visual art and magic ARE my life and practice. Not a peach flavored “turquoise” glitter drink. My magic is in my blood, my magic is in my ability to bring life to my visions, it is creation & destruction. Over the last 6 years, I have been so honored and lucky to be featured in some of the largest media publications internationally not limited to Instagram. This is bigger than that and the creative team for Starbucks knew that. I have personally worked on consulting large companies in their design concepts this work comes naturally to me. “So what’s the big fuss?” My personal style has become synonymous with the visual aesthetic of my brand. No, I absolutely did not “invent” the crystal balls nor acrylic nails but What I created was a space for myself along with other POC to feel represented and have visual imagery that was representative of us. The colorful candles of my local botanicas, my gold jewelry, and my long nails clutching my crystals are certainly not “new” but to see them presented in a manner that I shared visually in this space was. Katherine de Vos Devine @devosdevine is a lawyer and art historian who wrote a powerful and insightful look as to what exactly is happening with this situation and we are sharing it in our story today because more than anything she truly gives the full tea of the situation. I can strip away the crystal balls, the nail art, and delete all of my beautifully curated photos but I will always be me, I will always be my grandmother’s voices and wisdom. I will create, and I will always know my value and my worth. I trust and believe that my ancestors and my guides are looking after me. These giants may have the money to bully artists, creatives, and small business but we know the truth and absolutely must not allow it. As a small business owner, I appreciate you standing with us in this uphill journey and even if it goes nowhere, at the end of the day I can laugh to myself knowing that Starbucks made a drink inspired by HW 🔮

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If you’re in the market for an obsidian scrying mirror, unique tarot decks or nail polish for your mystic manos, then The Hoodwitch Store is your one-stop bruja shop. Be sure to also check out the Bruja Bookshop tab, where you’ll find vintage, one-of-a-kind libros to up your witchy wisdom. The shop offers some rare finds en español as well. However, make sure you stay up to date on the latest inventory. These goods sell out fast!

4. House of Intuition

If you live in LA, you’ve most likely heard of House of Intuition. With four brick and mortar stores throughout the area, plus an online shop, it’s probably a wise investment to grab one of their “Success” intention candles. Their beautifully colored novenas aren’t the only reason to check out the shop, though. Seriously, this casa is staked with everything from crystals skulls, cauldrons and wands to a line called “Hair Mystics” featuring crystal-infused hair mists. You’ll be glad your intuition led you here.  

5. Lunar Magic Shop

Lunar Magic Shop is the super affordable and super thoughtful shop with some of our favorite bruja apparel. You will for sure want to grab the “My Mom Will Hex You” tee for the little one in your life or the “I Am My Own Sacred Place” one for yourself. While you’re at it, you might as well secure the “Motherhood”and “Student” crystal kit bags. This small shop definitely has the whole family’s brujeria needs in mind.

6. Curandera Press

While this shop is currently taking a small hiatus, they will re-launch on August 1. This gives us time to save up for a big vela haul. We could all use some divine intervention with lazy lovers and bad hair days, right? With Curandera Press’ “No Mas Amante Perezoso” and “Good Hair Day” velas, your prayers are answered. We’re excited to see what intentions they roll out next.

Read: In These Trying Times, Boricua Bruja Emilia Ortiz Provides A Digital Space For Healing

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