Memoirs of Bernardo Vega

Memoirs of Bernardo Vega: Cover of the book that narrated the experiences of the Puerto Rican in the US at the beginnings of 20th century.

Labor leader, novelist, essayist, journalist and playwright who was part of the 1945 generation, which was characterized by pessimism toward the colonial political, social and economic conditions of the island. He was a follower of the ideals of independence for Puerto Rico within the Communist Party and the Pro Independence Movement Party.

César Andreu was born in Ponce in 1915. At ten years of age, he moved with his family to San Juan, where he graduated from Central High School in Santurce. During his university studies, he participated in a strike protesting the requirement that teaching be done in English in the public schools. In 1935, he enrolled in Social Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico, but his family’s economic situation prevented him from continuing.

His journalism career began at Lucha Obrera, the publication of the Puerto Rican Communist Party (PCP), which he joined in 1936. That same year, he worked as an organizer for the National Maritime Union at the Port of San Juan. At the end of the decade, he helped organize a sugar cane workers union and participated in the general strike of 1938. He also supported the release from prison of Nationalist Party leader Pedro Albizu Campos. In 1939, Andreu Iglesias enrolled at the National School of the Communist Party of the United States, located in New York.

In the early 1940s, Andreu Iglesias served as secretary of education and propaganda for the Puerto Rican Communist Party and as director of its new periodical, Verdad. Shortly thereafter he was drafted by the United States Army. Once he finished his military service in 1946, he resumed his studies at the University of Puerto Rico and graduated in 1950.

In 1947, he was again elected president of the Puerto Rican Communist Party. Because of his political affiliation, he was imprisoned after the nationalist revolt of 1950, also known as the Grito de Jayuya. He was released several months later. In 1951, he was elected party president for a third time.

In 1954, because of the attacks on Congress and Blair House in Washington, Andreu Iglesias was arrested again, but after a short time he was freed. However, federal charges were then filed against him for violations of the Smith Law, better known as the Gag Law. In 1958, the charges against him, his wife, Jane, and other pro-independence leaders were dropped.

His communist and pro-independence ideas are also reflected in the collection of political essays “Independencia y socialismo” (1951), as well as in articles prepared for the party, such as “La política del partido y nuestras tareas” (1952), “Respuesta al camarada Emmanuelli” (1952), La situación de P.R y el camino de la victoria del pueblo (1953) and Memorial a las Naciones Unidas sobre el caso de Puerto Rico (1953), which was also published in English.

In his first novel, Los derrotados, published in Mexico (1956), he describes social problems, the conflict between colonialism and nationalism, and the labor struggles. With a direct, neo-naturalist style, he shows the degeneration of the family structure, the bureaucratic world, the rural man displaced to urban life and other social ills. A year later, the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature gave the novel an award. In 1958, the newspaper El Imparcial began publishing the novel in serial form.

That year, his second novel, Una gota en el tiempo, appeared and it received an award from the Puerto Rican Athenaeum. The book club of San Juan published his third novel, El derrumbe, in 1960, the same year he also wrote a pamphlet called Bases para una nueva política independentista, based on a speech he gave the prior year as part of the efforts to organize the Pro Independence Movement (MPI for its acronym in Spanish).

From 1960 to 1968, he wrote a daily column called Cosas de aquí for the newspaper El Imparcial that won the Journalism Prize from the Institute for Puerto Rican Literature. In 1962, he unveiled El inciso hache, a comedy that won third honorable mention at the Puerto Rican Athenaeum’s Fifth Festival of Puerto Rican Theater. In childlike tones he addressed his concerns, such as the economic ruin of man and the indifference and irresponsibility of the government.

He fully joined the MPI and wrote La hora de la independencia (1963), the movement’s political thesis. In 1964, he presented ¡Despierta boricua! ¡Defiende lo tuyo! as part of that political thesis. He also published Luis Muñoz Marín: un hombre acorralado por la historia, a collection of some of the columns he wrote for the newspaper El Imparcial. The following year, the magazine the San Juan Review awarded him its Journalism Prize. In 1969, he published the MPI’s third political thesis, Presente y futuro de P.R.: la doctrina de la nueva lucha de independencia. A year later, he left the movement.

In 1970, he worked as a professor in the Puerto Rican Studies Program at Hunter College in New York. He returned to Puerto Rico and, along with Samuel Aponte, began publishing a weekly called La Hora (1971-1973). When it closed, he contributed as a writer to the magazine Avance. In 1975, he finished editing Memorias de Bernardo Vega.

César Andreu Iglesias died at Veterans Hospital from a heart attack on April 17, 1976.

Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 16, 2014.

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