Mariana Bracetti (1825–1903) was a patriot and leader of the Puerto Rico independence movement in the 1860s. She is attributed with having knitted the flag that was intended to be used as the national emblem of Puerto Rico in the failed attempt to overthrow the Spanish government on the island to establish it as a sovereign republic, later known as the Grito de Lares. The flag’s design was later adopted as the official flag of the municipality of Lares, Puerto Rico.
Bracetti, born in the city of Añasco, Puerto Rico, met and developed a romantic relationship with Miguel Rojas, a rich businessman visiting Añasco. Rojas and his brother Manuel owned a coffee plantation called “El Triunfo”. Miguel and Manuel Rojas were admirers of Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances and were influenced by his ideals of independence for Puerto Rico. Bracetti married Rojas with whom she had children.
The first flag of Puerto Rico
Bracetti then moved to the hacienda “El Triunfo” which was to become the clandestine nucleus of the revolution that would be known as El “Grito de Lares”. The Rojas’ admiration for Betances led them to join him in the conspiracy to rebel against and gain independence from Spain.
The Rojas brothers became the independence leaders in Lares and their code name was “Centro Bravo” (Bravo Center). Manuel Rojas, Bracetti’s brother-in-law, was named Commander of the Liberation Army. Mathias Brugman was the independence leader in Mayagüez and his group went by the code name of “Capá Prieto” (Dark Cape).
Bracetti’s nickname was “Brazo de Oro” (Golden Arm) and she was appointed the leader of the “Lares’s Revolutionary Council”. Betances suggested that Bracetti knit the first flag (modeled on the Dominican republic’s flag) of the future “Republic of Puerto Rico”. She designed and knitted the flag taking into consideration Betances’ suggestions. The flag was divided in the middle by a white Latin cross, the two lower corners were red and the two upper corners were blue. A white star was placed in the upper left blue corner. According to Puerto Rican poet Luis Llorens Torres the white cross on it stand for the yearning for homeland redemption; the red squares, the blood poured by the heroes of the rebellion and the white star in the blue solitude square, stands for liberty and freedom.
l Grito de Lares
On the morning of September 23, 1868, an Army of about 800 men met in the “El Triunfo” plantation and Manuel Rojas proceeded to take the town of Lares, which initiated the revolution known as “El Grito de Lares”. Once the town was taken, Bracetti’s flag was placed on the High Altar of the Parroquial Church. The revolutionists declared Puerto Rico a Republic, sworn in Francisco Ramírez Medina as its first president and celebrated a speedy Mass.
The rebel forces then departed to take over the next town, San Sebastián del Pepino. The Spanish militia, however, surprised the group with strong resistance, causing great confusion among the armed rebels who, led by Manuel Rojas, retreated back to Lares. Upon an order from the governor, Julián Pavía, the Spanish militia soon rounded up the rebels. All of the survivors, including Bracetti, were imprisoned in Arecibo and the insurrection was quickly brought to an end. The original Lares flag was taken by a Spanish army officer as a war prize and many years later transferred to the Puerto Rican people. It is now exhibited in the University of Puerto Rico’s Museum. Eighty of the prisoners died in jail, Bracetti however, lived and was released on January 20, 1869, when the new Spanish Republican government granted them general amnesty. Mariana Bracetti died in the City of Añasco, Puerto Rico in 1903 and was buried in the Plaza of Añasco. There is a monument honoring her on the spot where she is buried.
Juan de Mata Terreforte, a revolutionist who fought alongside Manuel Rojas in “El Grito de Lares”, who was the Vice-President of Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee, a Chapter of the Cuban Revolutionary Party in New York City, adopted the Bracetti’s “Flag of Lares” as the flag which represented Puerto Rico. It became their standard until 1892, when the current design, modeled after the Cuban flag, was unveiled and adopted by the committee.
Bracetti was the principal subject of two books. The first book was “El Grito de Lares” by Luis Llorens Torres and the second book “Brazo de Oro” by Cesáreo Rosa-Nieves. Her memory has been honored in Puerto Rico were there are schools, streets and avenues named after her. In Lares there is a Mariana Bracetti Museum and there is a Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter School in Philadelphia. The Mariana Bracetti Plaza in New York City was also named after her.