Biographies/Conrado Rosario Figueroa

Tags: Battle of Brunete New York Volunteers Immigrant Puerto Rican Black KIA Young Communist League

Researcher: Ria Escamilla-Gil, Stuyvesant '23

It was the year 1912 when one the heroic souls of the Lincoln Brigade would be brought into the world. Born in the paradise of Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Conrado Rosario Figueroa would rise to become one of many brave volunteers to join the fight against fascism and to make a stand as a member of the Young Communist League in New York City.

Figueroa was born in Puerto Rico, a United States territory but would not be considered an American citizen until the year 1917, when Congress granted Puerto Ricans citizenship status. With the Jones-Shafroth Act and the recent construction of the Panama Canal, many Puerto Ricans would find their way to the United States cultural centers, such as the big apple. Before leaving for Spain, Figueroa resided in 65 East 99th Street, an apartment building in East Harlem.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Harlem was known as a symbol of the African American struggle movement and for being a rich and diverse community. As a Black man, Figueroa was looked down upon in Puerto Rico where many racial tensions occurred between White residents and Puerto Ricans with African Descent. In the United States, where racial oppression was a major issue and only worsened with the Great Depression, groups such as the Communist Party became communities where everyone could feel empowered and a sense of belonging and unity.

The revolutionary spirit of 1930s Harlem spread throughout the nation, African Americans throughout the nation feeling inspired to speak out injustice and take action. For Conrado Rosario Figueroa, that meant leaving the vibrant community of Harlem where he worked as a clerk to sail the Queen Mary ship in 1937. Headed to fight for the republic, Figueroa was one of several brave African American volunteers that would fight in the Brunete Campaign of 1937.

Thousands of young soldiers, many without having ever held a gun in their life before, would be heading to Villanueva de la Canada to prevent a takeover of Madrid. Regardless of such, members of the 15th international brigade, which was composed of the British, George Washington and Lincoln battalions quickly united to defend the Spanish Republic. As a part of the Lincoln Brigade, Conrado Rosario proudly represented his identity as an African American and was determined to continue showing the excellence of the brigade that had been shown during the Jarama Valley battle. For people like Figueroa, defending the territory from nationalist takeover was more than a physical battle. It was a fight for humanity, a world where everyone had rights and democracy could take place.

On the ninth of July of 1937, Figueroa would sacrifice his own life to defend a justly voted government and a global cause. While many international volunteers would be seen as dispensable because they were not Spanish, Conrado Rosario Figueroa will always be remembered as a resilient spirit who proudly represented the Black community and fought for what he believed was right: a just government and equal nation. It was brave minorities like Figeuroa who set an example for others to fight for others and their own rights as well.


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