Albizu was born out of wedlock to a local mestizo named Juliana Campos. His father, Don Alejandro Albizu Romero, was a wealthy Basque merchant who refused to acknowledge his dark-skinned son, so Albizu ran barefoot through the Barrio Tenerías of Ponce.
Juliana spent most days wandering through the streets of Ponce, talking to herself, and, oddly, burning garbage in their family hut. She took Albizu several times to the nearby Río Bucaná in order to drown them both, but family and friends interceded. Neighbors started calling her La Llorona (the Weeping Woman). One day, when Albizu was four years old, she tried to walk across the river and was carried out to sea.
For a four-year-old orphan, Albizu was remarkably carefree. He didn’t attend school until age twelve. His maternal aunt, Rosa Campos, adopted him, and for eight years he swam, fished, and threw mud balls in the same river that had carried his mother away. He stole coconut pies from La Panadería de Ponce and rigged the town bell to ring at 3 a.m. When he heard of a new sport called beísbol and that the Almendares Beísbol Club had trounced the US Infantry Regiment with a score of 32–18, Albizu learned everything he could about the game, cleared out a small field, and taught the local school kids to play. He made up half of the rules as he went along, but no one complained; this was his first lesson in leadership.
It was a lively, adventurous childhood, not unlike that of Tom Sawyer living with his Aunt Polly on the banks of the Mississippi River. Just like Polly, Aunt Rosa was a devout woman, and they walked several miles to the Catholic church every Sunday. She also made sure that even though Albizu’s clothes were hand-me-downs and a size too small, they were always clean and pressed.
Every morning, rising sleepily from his warm bed, Albizu found Aunt Rosa boiling eggs by the early morning light, his clothes hanging over a kitchen chair. Home from school, he found Rosa sewing and ironing, tending great brown pots on a little stove. She moved in clouds of steam like a humble god, disappearing and reappearing, smelling of warm cotton, sofrito sauce, and simmering rice and beans.
When Albizu entered the Percy Grammar School at the age of twelve, his classmates snickered at the overgrown first grader, but the tittering ended when he completed all eight grades in four and a half years. He graduated in two years from Ponce High School with a 96 percent average. He was the class valedictorian and captain of the debate team and received a scholarship to the University of Vermont.
— Excerpt from the book War Against All Puerto Ricans, by Nelson A. Denis.