33 Women, 33 minutes, and one political prisoner. Oscar López Rivera was a Puerto Rican nationalist who has been incarcerated in the United States for 33 years on the charge of seditious conspiracy. He did not kill, or bomb any single person. This story follows a group of determined women who started a national movement to release him.
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The 33 mujeres (33 women), an advocacy group in New York, formed in solidarity with a group of women in Puerto Rico in 2014. They share a common goal: the freedom of a man they consider to be the Island’s Nelson Mandela; Oscar Lopez Rivera. 33 years ago Rivera was charged with seditious conspiracy for being a part of the Puerto Rican nationalist party and has been incarcerated ever since. On May 30, he’ll complete 34 years in prison, and these women will be adding the next member to their group. They vow to continue until he is released.
In recent years Rivera has become an icon of Puerto Rican independence. Nobel Laureates Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire have called for his release. Calle 13, arguably Puerto Rico’s most popular hip-hop duo, is a major advocate for his freedom. Posters of Oscar’s face are popping up all over San Juan. Several notable Puerto Rican musical artists came together to produce an album entitled “La lucha is vida toda” or the struggle is everything, in his honor. What started out as a group of 33 women trying to shed light on an issue catapulted a national movement. Many Puerto Ricans consider the push for the release of #Oscarlopezrivera to be the single most uniting movement amongst Puerto Ricans across
the globe in recent history.
The women involved in this movement each have different reasons for being a part of it. Some of the members understand Oscar’s struggle as one for Puerto Rican independence. Others simply believe that being imprisoned for an ideology is unjust. Many of them, though, cited that “he could be my son, my father, or my grandfather.” So, they show up every last Sunday of every month to fight for the release of someone that they feel like is a member of their family—full of passion, and vigor. They are united by a common cause and have subsequently created a family of their own in the process: Las 33 mujeres por Oscar López Rivera.