In 1941, the US Navy expropriated 75 percent of the island of Vieques. The residents were forced to live in a narrow swath of land while the rest was turned into a bombing range. For the next six decades, the Navy launched bombs from ships, dropped napalm from planes, fired depleted uranium shells, staged mock invasions on the beaches, and rented out the island to arms manufacturers to test their munitions.
On April 19, 1999, that all changed when the US Navy dropped a five hundred pound bomb on David Sanes, a Vieques resident who worked on the base, killing him instantly. The next day a group of activists entered the restricted zone as an act of remembrance and resistance. One of them, Tito Kayak, spent the night camped out on the naval base.
Two days later, fifteen boats of protesters returned and built Campamento Monte David, the first of what would be fourteen encampments that shut down the base. Their dislodgement by the Navy launched a campaign of civil disobedience inwhich over one thousand were arrested and the largest political demonstration in the history of Puerto Rico was held. The Navy closed the base in 2003, but the residents are still fighting to have their island fully cleaned of the Navy’s toxic remains.
Printed at the worker-owned Stumptown Printers, Portland, OR.
This is #75 in the Celebrate People’s History Poster Series.
Dave Buchen lives in Puerto Rico, where he makes theater with Theater Oobleck and El Teatro Bárbaro, and plays music with La Banda Municipal de Makula Barun.