Today in History: The Tragedy of Cerro Maravilla (VIDEO)

Jul 25, 2014
8:49 AM

July 25, 1978 will forever be seen as a tragedy in the history of Puerto Rico.

Cerro Maravilla.


Very little exists in English about what happened that day, but the following ’60 Minutes’ report from around that time shares a lot. The quality of the videos is not the greatest, but the report speaks for itself.

There is also this story from 2003:

SAN JUAN – Former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo acknowledged that it was an error of judgment to have referred to the police officers who executed two independence activists on Cerro Maravilla more than 25 years ago as heroes.

Romero Barcelo said in a radio interview that it “was a premature declaration” and when asked if it were an error of judgment he replied, “Yes.”

The two young activists, along with an undercover police officer, took a taxi driver hostage on July 25, 1978, and ordered him to the hill known as Cerro Maravilla, where they planned to set afire a TV tower in protest. But the undercover officer alerted other police, who ambushed and shot Arnaldo Dario Rosado, 24, and Carlos Soto Arrivi, 18.

Courts later convicted 10 officers of perjury and four of second-degree murder in a case which became known as Puerto Rico’s Watergate. The four convicted on the murder charge remain incarcerated but could be eligible for parole starting in 2006.

The date of the killings coincided with the 24th anniversary of Puerto Rico’s commonwealth relationship with the United States. Then-Gov. Romero delivered a speech days later when he called the police heroes. A journalist, who covered the executions and subsequent Senate hearings throughout the 1980s and early 1990s and has written two books on the scandal, said the remarks were the first Romero had made acknowledging it was a mistake.

“It took him 25 years to say it was an error,” said Manny Suarez, a 73-year-old reporter at The San Juan Star.

One obscure book written in English speaks to the cover-up, as well as this book.

So while July 25 is officially known as Constitution Day in Puerto Rico, many Puerto Ricans also remember Cerro Maravilla.

By the way, there was also a 1990 Hollywood movie about this, too.