HOLYOKE — For his work within and on behalf of the Puerto Rican community, activist Jose López was honored in City Hall Monday.
During a press conference, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse declared March 28, 2016 “Jose López Day” with a mayoral commendation.
López spoke at the Holyoke Public Library Monday evening about the Puerto Rican independence movement and identity outside of the island. He is the brother of Oscar López Rivera.
In the 1980s, López Rivera was sentenced to 55 years in federal prison for an array of charges including seditious conspiracy. He was a member of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional, Spanish for the Armed Forces of National Liberation. The paramilitary organization advocated for the independence of Puerto Rico from the United States.
Now in his 70s still serving his sentence in an Indiana federal facility, López Rivera is called a political prisoner by supporters and a terrorist by those petitioning to keep him behind bars.
López has advocated internationally for the release of his brother and is an expert on Puerto Rican identity in the U.S.
The effort to advocate for his release has received support locally. Several buildings along Main Street feature drawings of López Rivera and call for him to be free.
Ward 2 City Councilor Nelson Roman introduced a resolution at the start of the new term urging President Barack Obama to grant the immediate, unconditional release of López Rivera.
“This is a Holyoke issue and is important to the Puerto Rican community,” Roman said Monday. “When it comes to Oscar, he is the Nelson Mandela of Holyoke.”
López thanked Roman Monday for introducing the resolution, which is expected to be voted on next week.
“The support of Holyoke, symbolically, is really important as it has the highest concentration of Puerto Rican people in the United States,” López told MassLive. He said that the Puerto Rican community has growing voter power across the country and that issues important to them must be considered by politicians running for local, state and national office.