“We Must and Can be Independent”: La Hija del Caribe and Puerto Rican Liberation

Written by Carly Miller, Special Collections Intern
Since the arrival of Spanish explorers in the late fifteenth century, a defining characteristic of Puerto Rico has been colonialism. In one form or another, this tiny island has been subjugated by a larger power. After four centuries of Spanish rule came to an end in the late 1800s, Puerto Rico fell under U.S. control as a territory, a status that continues to the present day. As a result of this perpetual intrusion by foreign nations, a parallel theme throughout the island’s history has been the fight for independence.

Trina Padilla de Sanz was no stranger to this liberation movement. Although she wore many hats during her lifetime, it was her Puerto Rican pride that was most inextricably linked to her identity. Her devotion to her homeland, or “La Patria,” permeated all aspects of her life. Her nickname, “La Hija del Caribe,” was not only tribute to her father, but an acknowledgement of her cultural pride as well.

La Hija championed Puerto Rican independence and preservation of its culture and customs using the most effective weapon at her disposal, her pen. Throughout her lifetime she wrote harsh critiques of American influence in Puerto Rico, believing fervently in Puerto Rico’s right to self-govern. In an inquiry entitled “Apuntes sobre Puerto Rico,” La Hija boldly addressed the hypocrisy of a nation, predicated on the idea of democracy, denying another nation its independence.

“…y si Estados Unidos no quiere verse ante los pueblos del mundo como una irrisoria República, tiene que dar a Puerto Rico su Independencia…un derecho que nadie puede negar.”


“…and if the United States does not want to see itself in front of the nations of the world as a laughable Republic, it has to give Puerto Rico its Independence…a right that nobody can deny.”

With this sharp declaration, Padilla de Sanz demonstrated that she did not passively observe with her pen, rather she actively fought for change with it. She was firm, vocal, and unwavering in her defense of Puerto Rico.

Part of her pro-independence stance included extolling Puerto Rican culture and language. She regularly called on her fellow compatriots to fight to preserve the Spanish language, understanding a language’s role in preserving a culture’s identity. She believed that cultures that let themselves be completely absorbed by stronger powers would simply cease to exist. She was quick to highlight the many accomplishments produced by Puerto Ricans in literature, the sciences, and the arts.

In addition to her writings, La Hija rebelled against foreign influence in other ways. Her granddaughter, Yolanda Fernández Sanz, recalled a time in which Padilla de Sanz, ignoring the law against displaying the Puerto Rican flag, hung it defiantly from her balcony. Although it was an illegal act, no one challenged La Hija (Fernández Sanz 158).

La Hija’s fight for independence was an unyielding constant throughout her life. Shortly before passing, she made the request to be buried with the Puerto Rican flag. Even in death, her devotion and loyalty to her treasured Puerto Rico was unequivocally on display.

The Trina Padilla de Sanz collection is now available for research at The Monsignor William Noé Field Archives & Special Collections Center.  Click here to view this collection’s finding aid.


Works Cited

Fernández Sanz, Yolanda. Trina Padilla de Sanz: La Hija del Caribe. Madrid: Talleres Gráficos Peñalara, 1996. Print.

Padilla de Sanz, Trina. “Apuntes sobre Puerto Rico.” Arecibo, 1945. Print.