Lolita Lebrón is a hero to many, but a villain to others. She’s a rebel without a cause to a vast majority of Puerto Ricans, but a freedom fighter to a small community of Boricuas who want to see the US territory be independent. Lolita is a polarizing figure that, almost nine years after her death, continues to be villainized.
But to the collective Las Lolitas NYC, Lolita Lebrón is a symbol of resistance.
Born in Lares, Puerto Rico, Lebrón was a member of the Nationalist Party, who notoriously opened fire inside Capitol Hill in 1954. She served a 25-year sentence in federal prison and was pardoned by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, alongside Rafael Cancel Miranda and Irvin Flores. The act is revered by many as a statement against colonialism and terror in Puerto Rico, but to others it was plain terrorism. A Washington Post Magazine article famously referred to the attack as “when terror wore lipstick.”
More than 60 years later, Las Lolitas are embracing Lebrón’s outfit and ideologies to celebrate her 100th birthday and continue to fight for Puerto Rican independence in the face of a social, political, and economic crisis. At the 62nd annual Puerto Rican Day Parade, the Lolitas were an unmissable army of women dressed as Lebrón herself she she led the attack on Capitol Hill. It’s a symbol that fashion is indeed a political statement.
The group invited women who wanted to celebrate Lolita at the parade to dress in a grey blazer and skirt combo with red lipstick and low chignon. They also draped a blue ribbon sash on the chests, similar to the one Lolita wore in 1954. They walked solemnly, wearing their pride on their lipstick and showing that a crimson stain on the mouth will always be armor against oppression. They raised their fists in solidarity and gave the middle finger to Trump as they passed his infamous tower.
Their presence at this year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade marks one of a series of events and actions the collective is taking to celebrate Lolita’s 100th birthday in New York City, where Lebrón first joined the Nationalist Party in 1941. The collective recognizes the power of the diaspora for Puerto Rican independence. Lolita would’ve been proud.