ILLUSTRIOUS PUERTO RICAN PEOPLE
DR. RAMON EMETERIO BETANCES
was born in Cabo Rojo, P.R., was the main leader of the "El Grito de Lares"
revolution and as such, he is considered by historians to be the father of the
Puerto Rican Independence movement. In 1846 he obtained his Bachelors
Degree and he then proceeded to study medicine in Paris. In 1853, he
graduated with the titles of Doctor in Medicine and Surgeon. When returned
to Puerto Rico, one of the first things that he did was to establish a hospital
in Mayaguez. He work hard to save many Puerto Ricans from the ravages of
the cholera epidemic of 1856. He believed in the abolition of slavery and
founded a clandestine organization called "The Secret Abolitionist Society".
was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, was a leader in Puerto Rico's Independence
Revolution against Spain, known as "El Grito de Lares". Brugman's father
was Pierre Brugman, from Chicago of Dutch ancestry and his mother, Isabel
Duliebre from Puerto Rico. He was raised and educated in Louisiana.
He moved to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico with his family after the United States
purchased that region from the French. Like many other Puerto Ricans at
that time, he resented the political injustices practiced by Spain in the
island. This led him to become a believer in the cause of the Puerto Rican
Independence movement. He admired Ramón Emeterio Betances and Segundo Ruiz
Belvis. It was this admiration which inspired him to become and outspoken
advocate for independence. Eventually he befriended Manuel Rojas and his
brother, Miguel and joined them in the conspiracy to revolt against Spain.
He openeed a Colmado (Grocery Store) that he used it as his headquarters and its
code name was "Capa Prieto". Manuel Rojas committee in Lares was code
named "Centro Bravo".
She was born in Añasco, P.R., was a patriotic firm believer in the Independence
of Puerto Rico. She always was willing to fight for her ideals. She
was a believer in women's rights and showed it by her participation in Puerto
Rico's first revolution. She was married for the second time with Miguel
Rojas, a rich businessmen who lived in Añasco and who together with his brother
Manuel owned a coffee plantation called "El Triunfo" which was to become the
clandestine nucleos of the revolution that would be known as "El Grito de
Lares". Betances instructed her to knit a flag for the revolution using
the colors of the Dominican Republic.
was born in Caracas, Venezuela from a Puerto Rican father and a venezuelan
mother. He was one of the main leaders of the "Grito de Lares" uprising
against the Spanish colonial government in 1868. The Rojas family moved to
Puerto Rico and settled down, close to the town of Lares. He grew up in a
region which was montainous and whose main income came from the coffee crop.
His brother Miguel meet Mariana Bracetti, whom he was to marry, while on a trip
Reference: Wikepedia: en.wikipedia.org/wki/Manuel_Rojas
LOLA RODRIGUEZ DE TIO
She was born in San Germán, P.R., where she received her primary education.
Her schooling continued at home where various intellectuals and politicians
often met. In 1868, inspired by the call for Puerto Rican Independence
known as the "Grito de Lares", she wrote patriotic lyrics to the tune of "La
Borinqueña". The song became very popular, but brought her into conflict
with Spanish authorities. In 1876 her family moved to Mayaguez, where she
published her first book of poetry, "Mis Cabtares" which sold 2,500 copies.
In 1877 the family fled to Venezuela where they met Eugenio María de Hostos.
Upon their return to Puerto Rico, she and her husband founded the magazine "La
Almojábana". They were exiled again in 1887, returning first to Venezuela
and then to Cuba. Once in Havana, their home became a gathering point for
politicians and intellectuals as well as exiled Puerto Ricans. Since her
death she has been recognized for her suggestion that Puerto Ricans use the
Cuban flag with its colors reversed as the model for their own standard.
Lola Rodríguez De Tió
que han dado la señal!
¡Despierta de ese sueño
que es hora de luchar!
A ese llamar patriótico
¿no arde tu corazón?
¡Ven! Nos será
el ruido del cañón.
Mira, ya el cubano
le dará el machete
le dará el machete
Ya el tambor guerrero
dice en su son,
que es la manigua el
el sitio de la reunión,
de la reunión...
de la reunión.
El Grito de Lares
se ha de repetir,
y entonces sabremos
vencer o morir.
a Cuba hay que seguir;
que quieren combatir.
Ya por más tiempo impávido
no podemos estar,
ser libre ya,
y nuestro machete
y nuestro machete
SEGUNDO RUIZ BELVIS
was born in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, was dedicated abolitionist who also fought
for Puerto Rico's right to independence. Belvis received his primary
schooling in Aguadilla. He graduated with a degree in philosophy from the
University of Caracas of Venezuela. He also obtained his law degree from
the Central University of Madrid in Spain. In 1859 he returned to Puerto
Rico and took up the cause of abolitionism in the island. The first thing
he did was to free the slaves in his hacienda. He then befriended Ramón
Emeterio Betances and joined "The Secret Abolitionist Society" founded by
Betances. Belvis eventually ended up in New York, where together with
Betances and other patriots formed the "Comité Revolucionario de Puerto Rico
(Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico) for the independence of Puerto Rico.
An outcome from this venture was the plans of sending an armed expedition to
Puerto Rico in what was to become known as the "Grito de Lares". During
this time he became ill, but this did not keep him from traveling to the City of
Valparaíso, Chile with the intention of obtaining financial aid for the planned
revolution. Belvis died in Chile and never knew that the "Grito de Lares"
failed. He did not live to see his dream come true, the abolition of
slavery in Puerto Rico on March 22, 1873.
EUGENIO MARIA DE HOSTOS
was born in the Barrio "Río Cañas" of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, known as "El
Ciudadano de las Américas" (The Citizen of the Américas), was a Puerto Rican
educator and independence advocate. At a young age his family sent him to
San Juan, where he received his elementary education in the Liceo de San Juan.
In 1852, his family then sent him to Bilbao, Spain, where he graduated from the
Institute of Secondary Education (high school). After he graduaated, he
enrolled and attended the Central University of Madrid. He studied law,
philosophy and letters. When Spain adopted its new constitution in 1869
and refused to grant Puerto Rico its independence, Hostos left and went to the
United States. In the U. S. he joined the Cuban Revolutionary Committee
and became called "La Revolución". He believed in the creation of an
Antillano Confederation between Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
This idea was embraced by fellow Puerto Ricans Ramón Emeterio Betances and
Segundo Ruiz Belvis. One of the things that disappointed Hostos was that
he realized that in Puerto Rico and in Cuba there were many people who wanted
their independence from Spain, but who did not embrace the idea of becoming
revolutionist. Instead they preferred to be annexed by the United States.
Reference: Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenio_María_de_Hostos
PEDRO ALBIZU CAMPOS
was the son of Alejandro Albizu and Juana Campos. He was also the nephew
of Juan Morel Campos, one of Puerto Rico's greatest composers of danzas.
Albizu was the leader and president of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and
avid advocate of Puerto Rican independence from the United States by what ever
means necessary. Albizu felt that Puerto Rico deserved the same right as
the United States and other countries had to fight for independence. In
1912, Pedro was awarded a scholarship to study Engineering specializing in
Chemistry at the University of Vermont. In 1913 he continued his studies
at Harvard University. At the outbreak of World War I, Pedro volunteered
in the United States Infantry. He was trained by the French Military mission and
served under General Frank McInty where he was assigned to an African-American
unit and was discharged as a First Lieutenant. During this time he was
exposed to the racism of the day which left a mark in his beliefs towards the
relationship of Puerto Ricans and the United States. In 1919 he returned
to Harvard University and was elected president of Harvard's Cosmopolitan Club.
He graduated from Harvard University obtaining a Law dregree as well as degrees
in Literature, Philosophy, Chemical Engineering and Military Science. He
was fluent in English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Latin and
Greek. In 1922, he married Dr. Laura Meneses, a peruvian whom he had met
at Harvard University. In 1924 he joined the Puerto Rican Nationalists
Party and was elected vice-president. While in prison, Pedro Albizu
Campos' health deteriorated. In 1956, he suffers a stroke in prison and
was transferred to San Juan's Presbyterian Hospital under police guard. He
alleged officials suggested that he was insane although others who
attended believe that burns on his skin where consistent with
variation exposure. He was pardoned by outgoing governor Luis Muñoz Marín.
He died on April 21, 1965.
JULIA DE BURGOS
Julia De Burgos, the best known female poet in Puerto Rico and one
of the best Latino América, was born on February 17th, 1917 in
Carolina, Puerto Rico. De Burgos graduated from the University
of Puerto Rico as a Teacher. She also studied in Havana and
later moved to New York. At age of nineteen her first
verses were published. Her best-known poem is "Río Grande de
Loíza". De Burgos published several books including:
"Poemas Exactos de mí Misma", "Poemas en Veinte Zurcos" and "Canción
de la Verdad Sencilla". She received several honors and
homenages before and after her death. De Burgos died on July
6, 1953 in New York.
Ángel Berríos Martínez (born
1939) is a
current president of the
Puerto Rican Independence Party
(PIP). A former
Berríos is a recurring PIP candidate for
Governor of Puerto Rico
for three decades, although not consecutively for each elective term.
is a leader for the
Cause of Vieques
and was arrested and imprisoned for
Berríos was born in
Puerto Rico. He
attended high school at
Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola.
He received his
in Business Administration and
in 1961, his
in Law from
Law School), and his
in International Rights from
He also did some post-doctoral research in
Sweden at one
time (his first wife was Swedish and his son Rubén was born in
has been a tenured Professor of Law at the
University of Puerto Rico
School of Law from 1967 to the present.
lawyer, Berríos is the only man in
Puerto Rican history
to be accredited by the
International Court of Justice.
Berríos became president of the
PIP when he was 31 years old and has been president of it five times.
Under his leadership, the PIP adopted a
program. Although he has had limited success at the voting booth
regarding his candidacies for the colonial post of
Governor of Puerto Rico
all times to either the
Popular Democratic Party
(PPD) or the
New Progressive Party
(PNP) candidate, he nevertheless has enjoyed great electoral success
when regarding his candidacies to the Senate, receiving more votes
than any other candidates in the Puerto Rico -island wide- senatoral
1972, a thirty
three year old Rubén Berríos is elected as Senator for the first
time. He later returns to the
of Puerto Rico, as a Senator, on three additional occasions, in
Berríos founded the
Permanent Conference of Political Parties of
Latin America and the Caribbean
(COPPPAL), is a member of the Executive Council of the
Latin American Human Rights Association
(ALDHU), and Honorary President of the
published the books The Independence of Puerto Rico: Cause and
Struggle, Puerto Rico: Nationality and Plebiscite, and Towards the
Puerto Rican Socialism, and has collaborated with various
publications enjoying wide international prestige such as
Berríos is widely admired by many people in Puerto Rico, including
those who don't follow his ideology. Proof of this is that he ran
for Senator in 1984 and received 84% of the general vote.
JUAN MARI BRAS
Brás was born in
Mayagüez, Puerto Rico,
to a father active in the independence movement who
often took his son to political meetings and
rallies. In 1943, when Mari Brás was 18 years old,
he founded a pro-independence movement in his high
school, along with some of his friends, in Mayagüez.
He was also the founder and director of the first
program "Grito de la Patria".
Juan Mari Bras was an Independentista, lawyer and Secretary General
of the Puerto- Rican Socialist Party. He first began to be political
conscious at age 15, while his father was also an Indepedentista
within the Liberal Party. In 1943, Mai Bras joined the National
Association of Youth for Independence, and later became it's
President. In 1947, following a student strike at University of
Puerto Rico against the banning of Albizu Campos, Mari Bras was
expelled and he finished his degree in Florida. He became a lawyer
in 1954 and founded the Puerto- Rican Socialist Party. In 1974, his
son was assasinated by a man trained by the FBI. By this time the
FBI had some 75 volumes of "investigative file material" compiled on
him alone. The files contained several memos recounting the
circumstances of Bras' several heart attacks and offering
suggestions as to how the Bureau might put more pressure on him to
"produce more of the same". This pressure included the assassination
of his son in 1976. Ten years later Mari Bras represented Commitee
of Puerto Rico at the Decolonization Commitee hearings in the United
In 1994, renounced his US citizenship and in December 1995, his
denaturalization was confirmed by the US State Department: Mari Bras
was no longer an American citizen. That same month, he requested
that the Puerto Rican State Department furnish him with proof of his
Puerto Rican citizenship. The State Department claimed that Puerto
Rican citizenship does not exist independent of American
citizenship. A 1917 act granted islanders a partial American
citizenship; though without voting rights, Puerto Ricans were
nonetheless available for the draft, just in time for the first
When Mari Bras died of a heart attack, one FBI document stated: "It
is hardly idle boasting to say that at least some of the Bureau's
activities have provoked the situation of Mari Bras".
Luisa Capetillo Perone was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico on October
28, 1879. Her father was Spanish and her mother French. She was
known as a feminist, labor leader, writer, and anarchist. Capetillo
worked as a journalist for the newspaper Unión Obrera; she was a
promoter of free love, raised three children, and lived in New York
City and Tampa before being deported for her political views. She
lived in Havana, Cuba, but was arrested there for wearing men's
clothing in public.
In Puerto Rico she worked to implement a minimum wage law, then
returned to New York and operated a vegetarian restaurant and guest
house that became a political center for the working class.
FILIBERTO OJEDA RIOS
Filiberto Ojeda Ríos born
on April 26, 1933 and died on September 23, 2005) was the "commander
in chief" ("Responsable General") of the Boricua Popular Army
(Ejército Popular Boricua – Los Macheteros), a clandestine
paramilitary organization, described by United States law
enforcement agencies as a terrorist organization, based on the
island and commonwealth of Puerto Rico, with branches in the
mainland United States and in other countries. Los Macheteros is a
political group which advocates independence for Puerto Rico through
violent means. The organization considers United States rule over
Puerto Rico to be oppressive colonization.
For his last fifteen
years, Ojeda Ríos was wanted as a fugitive by the FBI for his role
in the 1983 Wells Fargo depot robbery in West Hartford, Connecticut,
as well as a bail bond default in September 1990. Ojeda Ríos was
killed on 23 September 2005 when members of the FBI claim they
attempted to serve an arrest warrant on him, after surrounding the
house in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, where he was hiding. The FBI
operation has raised questions both in and outside Puerto Rico.
The killing of Ojeda Ríos
has been mourned by members of the Puerto Rican Independence
movement, who have expressed their indignation through repeated
protests. Members of the statehood movement and supporters of the
Commonwealth have also joined in the criticism of the federal and
local handling of this incident. In late March 2006, the Puerto Rico
Justice Department sued federal authorities, including FBI Director,
Robert Mueller and US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, seeking an
injunction to force the federal government authorities to provide
the Commonwealth government with information related to the
operation in which Ojeda Ríos died, as well as another one in which
the FBI searched the homes of independence supporters affiliated
with Los Macheteros. The lawsuit was dismissed in the summer of
A. LAGUERRE VELEZ
Enrique A. Laguerre Velez was born on 1905 and died on 2005.
Writer, poet, teacher and critic, was born on July 15, 1905 in Moca.
He is the best-known novelist of the 20th century. He graduated from
the University of Puerto Rico with a degree in Arts (BA in 1938 and
MA in 1941) and a doctoral degree in Arts from the University of
Columbia (1949) in New York. His first and best known novel, "La
(1935) is considered the most important novel of the Generation of
the '30s, it describes the political, economic and social conditions
that prevailded in the island. Laguerre was also known as an
advocate for enviromental conservation. Laguerre is considered the
most important Puerto Rican novelist, among his many novels are: "Solar
(1976) (The Benevolent Masters), and "Los
(1992). He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.
He died on June 16, 2005.
Oller was born in
Bayamon, Puerto Rico, the third of four
children of Cayetano Juan Oller y Fromesta and María del Carmen
Cestero Dávila, who was from
Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
When he was eleven he began his studies in art under Juan Cleto Noa,
a painter who ran an art academy in
San Juan, Puerto Rico. Here, Oller
demonstrated enormous talent and in 1848 was offered the chance to
continue his studies in
Rome by General
Governor of Puerto Rico; the offer was not
accepted as his mother felt he was too young.
When he was eighteen Oller
Spain, to study painting at the
Royal Academy of San Fernando, under
Don Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz, director
Prado Museum. In 1858, he moved to
Paris, France where he studied under
Thomas Couture and where he enrolled to
study art in the
Louvre under the instruction of
. During his free time, Oller
found work as a baritone in local Italian operas and would
frequently visit cafés where he met with fellow artists. He would
also become a friend of Puerto Rican expatriates in France such as
Ramón Emeterio Betances and Salvador
In 1859, Oller exhibited some
of his artistic works next to those of
By 1865, Francisco Oller was known as the first Puerto Rican and
Hispanic Impressionist artist and in 1868
he became the founder of
The Free Academy of Art of Puerto Rico.
JUAN MOREL CAMPOS
Juan Morel Campos: born on 1857 and died on 1896), musician and
composer, was born on May 16, 1857 in Ponce. He was the most
important figure in Puerto Rican music of the 19th century. His
first teacher was none other than the illustrious pianist-composer
Manuel G. Tavarez (a Parisian trained composer and former pupil of
M. Alphonse Laurent and M. Daniel Auber), who also wrote some of the
most beloved Danza repertory for the piano. He composed countless
danzas, the dance (along with the bomba and plena) most closely
associated with Puerto Rico. "Felices
and many others are among his most famous compositions. It's
calculated that Morel created more than 550 compositions of which
more than 300 are danzas. He died on May 12, 1896 in Ponce.
CAYETANO COLL Y TOSTE
y Toste was born in the City of Arecibo, Puerto Rico where he
received his primary and secondary education. In 1863, he entered
the Jesuits' Seminary College in San Juan from where he graduated
with a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy in 1868. In 1872, Coll y
Toste went to Barcelona, Spain and enrolled in the "School of
Medicine" of the University of Barcelona. From here he
graduated as a "Doctor in Medicine and Surgery" in 1872. During his
stay in Spain, he was able to study historical documents relating to
Puerto Rico which he later found to be useful to him.
In 1874, Coll
y Toste returned to the island where he set up his own medical
practice in Arecibo. In 1891, he was named director of the Catholic
Hospital of Arecibo. In his free time, he developed both a love of
and an interest in literature. Not only did he become interested in
investigating the history of Puerto Rico, but, he also took an
active interest in the island's politics and was the founder and
director of a publication called "El Ramillete". He also
collaborated with the "Revista Puertorriqueña" (Puerto Rican
Review), "La Semana Politica" (Political Weekly) and "Plumas Amigas"
In 1897, a year before the Spanish-American War,
Coll y Toste was "Sub-Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce" and was
named "Regional Governor of Northern Puerto Rico" by the Spanish
Crown. After the war, Coll y Toste was named "Civil Secretary" and
in 1900 "Commissioner of the Interior" by General Davis the military
governor appointed by the United States. He held the position of
"Secretary of the Government" and he also became a delegate to
Puerto Rico's "House of Representatives". In 1913 Coll y Toste was
named "Official Historian of Puerto Rico" and among Coll y Toste's
other civil positions were the Presidency of the "Puerto Rican
Historical Academy" and of the "Ateneo Puertorriqueño".
Among his many written works are:
"El Boletin Historico de Puerto Rico"
(Historical Boletin of Puerto Rico),
"Cronicas de Arecibo" (Cronicals
of Arecibo) and
"Leyendas y Tradiciones
Puertorriqueñas" (Puerto Rican Legends and Traditions).
His research into the
history of Puerto Rico gave people an insight into the island from
the times of the Tainos up until 1927. One of his works "The
Indo-Antillean Vocabulary" is valuable in understanding the way of
life of the Tainos. His works are required reading in Puerto Rican
high schools and universities.
CARDINAL LUIS APONTE MARTINEZ
Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez was born on 1922 on the 4th of August
in Lajas, Puerto Rico. In 1950 he was ordained a catholic priest in
San German, Puerto Rico. From 1950 to 1960 he was the
superintendent of the Catholic Schools for the diocese of Ponce and
chancellor of the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. He
also served as Chaplain for the Puerto Rican National Guard. In
1960 he became the second Puerto Rican to be consecrated Bishop,
having been appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Ponce, Puerto Rico by Pope
In 1963 he was appointed
Coadjutor Bishop of Ponce, and succeeded as Bishop of Ponce and in
1964 became the Archbishop of San Juan at the recommendation of
Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York.
In 1973 Pope Paul VI honored Aponte Martinez by making him a
Cardinal and bestowed on him the title of "Santa Maria della
Provvidenza a Monteverde". He held the position of President of the
Board of Directors of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico. He was
also the President of the Latin American Episcopal Conference.
In 1984 helped coordinate and was among the many dignitaries who
greeted Pope John Paul II, upon his Holiness' visit to Puerto Rico.
In 1999 he retired as Archbishop of San Juan. In 2005 he
participated in the preparation for the papal conclave but was
unable to vote, since he was 82 at the time of the conclave and in
2006 he published his memoirs.
LUIS LLORENS TORRES
Llorens Torres was born on May 14, 1876 and died on June 16, 1944 in
Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, was a Puerto Rican poet, playwright, and
politician. He was also an advocate for the independence of
Puerto Rico. Llorens' parents, Luis Aurelio del Carmen Llorens
and Marcelina Soledad de Torres, were the wealthy owners of a coffee
plantation. In Collores (a section of Juana Diaz), Llorens Torres
was always in contact with nature, which accounts for the love that
he felt for nature and country. Llorens always stated that he was
proud to come from "Collores". HisCatalan grandfather, Josep
de Llorens i Robles, had immigrated from the village of Llorens,
which belongs to the town of El Vendrell in Tarragona (Catalonia,
He went to school in Mayaguez and Maricao.
Llorens Torres went to Spain after he finished his secondary studies
on the island. He studied at the University of Barcelona and became
a lawyer. He then proceeded to study Philosophy and Letters at the
University of Granada where he obtained a Doctorate degree in both
disciplines. In Spain he published his first book of poetic verses
"Al Pie de la Alhambra", which was dedicated to his girlfriend,
He returned to Puerto Rico in 1901, married, and
moved to Ponce where he established his own lawyers' bufette (Nemesio
Canales later joined his bufette) and collaborated with the
newspaper Lienzos del Solar. During this time he wrote some of his
best works. was born out of love.
When Llorens Torres returned to Puerto Rico he
found a political situation completely different then from the one
that he had left. Puerto Rico had been annexed by the United States,
thus motivating Llorens Torres to join the political Union Party
which defended the ideal of independence for the island. He
transmitted his beliefs to the public through his poem "El Patito
Feo" (The Ugly Duckling). He became a member of the legislature when
he was named to the Camara of Delegates from 1908 to 1910
representing the municipality of Ponce. On February 8, 1912,
together with Matienzo Cintrón, Manuel Zeno Gandía and others, he
wrote a manisfesto which stated that it was time for Puerto Rico to
have its independence. That year he,
Manuel Zeno Gandia,
Eugenio Benítez Castaño, y Pedro Franceschi found the Independence
party which was the first party in the history of the island to
exclusively want Puerto Rican independence. Eugenio Benítez Castaño
was named president of the short lived political party. In 1913,
Llorens Torres co-founded with Nemesio Canales La Revista de Las
Antillas, a literary publication.
Llorens Torres died in Santurce, a sector of San
Juan, Puerto Rico. He was a defender of the independence ideal until
the day that he died.
Muñoz Rivera studied in local schools and entered politics in 1887.
He became a leader of the Autonomist Party and in 1890 founded its
newspaper La Democracía.
In 1893 he journeyed to
learn about its political system. When he returned to Puerto Rico,
he participated in the writing of the
Plan de Ponce
which proposed administrative autonomy for the island. In March 1895
he returned to Spain as part of a commission that met with Liberal
Sagasta. That political group
accepted the commission's views and in November 1897 Sagasta granted
the Autonomist Charter. Muñoz Rivera served as Secretary of State
and Chief of the Cabinet for the newly-independent Government of
Puerto Rico until U.S. troops invaded the island in July 1898.
1899 Muñoz Rivera founded the newspaper El Territorio,
the voice of landowners hurt by a U.S.-imposed blockade. Just as he
had done in Spain, Muñoz Rivera travelled to the United States to
argue for the establishment of free trade between the island and the
mainland. He then resettled in New York where he founded the
bilingual newspaper Puerto Rican Herald
in 1901. Upon his return to Puerto Rico in 1904, Muñoz Rivera
founded the Unionist Party and was elected in 1906 to the House of
Delegates where he served until 1910 when he became Resident
Commissioner to the U.S. House of Representatives. Although he was
largely responsible for the
(signed March 4, 1917), granting U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans
and creating a bicameral legislature modeled on the U.S., he died in Luquillo before the act was enacted into law.
Lolita Lebron, a Puerto Rican independence activist who spent 25 years in prison for participating in a gun attack on the U.S. Congress a half-century ago, died Sunday. She was 90. Lebron died at a hospital in San Juan of complications from respiratory disease, said Francisco Torres, president of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico. She had been hospitalized repeatedly in recent months for her ailments. Lebron was a leading figure in the small but passionate nationalist movement in this U.S. territory. "Lolita was the mother of the independence movement. This is an insurmountable loss," said Maria de Lourdes Santiago, a member of the Caribbean island's Senate from the Puerto Rican Independence Party.
Lebron was born Nov. 19, 1919, in Lares, in southwestern Puerto Rico, and moved as a young adult to New York, part of a mass migration from the island to the United States during the 1940s. There she developed her nationalist views and became a follower of movement leader Pedro Albizu Campos. In 1954, she and three other nationalists entered the U.S. Capitol with automatic pistols and opened fire from an upstairs spectators' gallery onto the crowded floor of the House, firing nearly 30 shots. They unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and Lebron shouted "Viva Puerto Rico libre!" No one died in the attack but five U.S. representatives were wounded, including one congressman who was shot in the chest.
Lebron later said that she never intended to kill anyone and that all four nationalists expected to be killed in the assault. She and the others - Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores and Andres Figueroa Cordero - received lengthy prison sentences. President Jimmy Carter granted them clemency in 1979 and they were released. "We didn't do anything that we should regret," Lebron said upon her release. "Everyone has the right to defend their right to freedom that God gave them."
Back in Puerto Rico, Lebron continued to attend political rallies on the island, where the independence movement holds little sway with voters. The vast majority of people in Puerto Rico favor either becoming a U.S. state or maintaining the semiautonomous status they have now. Lebron was arrested in 2001 at age 81 when she and five other people cut through a fence on the neighboring island of Vieques to protest the 1999 death of a civilian security guard killed by an errant bomb dropped during a U.S. Navy training exercise. The U.S. has since closed the Vieques bombing range. She was sentenced to 60 days in jail for trespassing.
In recent years, Lebron tempered her support for violent struggle. "I think times have changed, and there is no need now to kill for freedom," she told El Mundo newspaper in 1998. "I would not take up arms nowadays, but I acknowledge that the people have a right to use any means available to free themselves."
Reference: washingtonpost.com; The Associated Press
JAIME BENITEZ REXACH
(October 29, 1908 - May 30, 2001)
REST IN PEACE!
Jaime Benítez Rexach (October 29, 1908 – May 30, 2001), the longest
serving chancellor and the first president of the Univisersity of
Puerto Rico was a Puerto Rican author, academic and politician.
Benítez Rexach was born in Vieques, a small island about twenty
miles from the shores of Puerto Rico. His mother died when he was
six years old, and his father died a year later. It fell to his
older sister, who lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to raise him and
his siblings. His brother was Felix Rexach Benitez who was a
contractor in the Dominican Republic under Trujillo and Puerto Rico.
Rexach Benítez attended local public schools, but in 1926 he left
the Island to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.,
where he received an LL.B. degree in 1930 and an LL.M. in 1931. That
same year he passed the District of Columbia bar examination and
returned to Puerto Rico. He earned an M.A. at the University of
In 1931 Benítez Rexach began a career in education at
University of Puerto Rico
that spanned four decades: he was associate professor of social and
political sciences (1931–1942), chancellor of its main campus in Río
Piedras (1942–1966). In 1948, during his tenure as chancellor, the
university's pro-independence student body invited nationalist
leader Pedro Albizu Campos to the Río Piedras campus as a guest
speaker. Rexach Benítez, did not permit Albizu access to the campus
and as a consequence, the students protested and went on strike. The
university was temporarily shut down and the leaders of the strike
expelled from the university. As chancellor, Rexach Benítez also
attracted many distinguished scholars and artists who had left Spain
after its civil war, including Nobel Prize-winning poet Juan Ramón
Jiménez and Catalan cellist Pablo Casals. In 1966, Rexach Benítez
became the first president of the University, position in which he
served until 1971. When Rexach Benítez began teaching, the
university had three thousand students; by the time he left, the
university had grown to forty-three thousand six-hundred students
under his leadership.
A close associate of the political leader Luis Muñoz Marín, who
became Puerto Rico's first elected governor in 1949 and helped
achieve a locally-drafted Constitution in 1952, Rexach Benítez was
part of the Constituent Convention and collaborated in the drafting
of the Bill of Human Rights included in the new Constitution, which
recognized citizens' social and economic rights as well as their
human rights, as well as the initial draft of the Constitution's
Preamble. The two men fell out in 1957, however, when Mr. Muñoz
declared his "loss of confidence" in Rexach Benítez and accused him
of using his university position to build a rival political movement
to his own Popular Democratic Party, or PDP. Rexach Benítez won a
vote of confidence in the Council on Higher Education by one vote.
They were publicly reconciled before the 1960 elections.
In 1972 Benítez Rexach was elected Resident Commissioner of Puerto
Rico for a four-year term. In the U.S. House of Representatives he
was assigned to the Committee on Education and Labor, an important
committee assignment for a man who cared deeply about education and
who had an interest in social and labor conditions in Puerto Rico.
In the 94th Congress, Rexach Benítez introduced legislation to
extend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to Puerto Rico. He also
showed interest in the affairs of U.S. territories, sponsoring
legislation to allow American Samoa to elect a governor and
lieutenant governor, and supporting the authorization of a loan to
the Virgin Islands Government. While in Congress he was a strong
advocate of the so-called commonwealth status of Puerto Rico, which
he felt was preferable to statehood or independence. A bill to
enhance Puerto Rico's relationship with the U.S., HR 11,200, died in
committee. After an unsuccessful reelection bid, Rexach Benítez
returned to Puerto Rico. He taught at the Inter-American University
of Puerto Rico (IAU) from 1980 to 1986. He was a professor of
government at the American College in Bayamón, Puerto Rico.
SANTIAGO “CHAGUIN” POLANCO ABREU
(October 30, 1920
- January 18, 1988)
REST IN PEACE!
Born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico on
October 30, 1920, was a Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico.
Polanco-Abreu attended elementary and high schools in Isabela,
Puerto Rico. He was in the University of Puerto Rico, B.A., 1941,
and LL.B., 1943. He joined Phi Sigma Alpha Fraternity. He was
admitted to the bar in 1943 and practiced law in Isabela and San
Juan. Legal adviser to the Tax Court of Puerto Rico from 1943 to
1944. He served as member of the American Bar and Puerto Rico Bar
Associations. He was one of the founders of the Institute for
Democratic Studies in San José, Costa Rica. He served in the House
of Representatives, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico from 1949 to 1964.
He served as member of the Constitutional Convention of Puerto Rico
in 1951-1952. He was appointed speaker of the house from 1963 to
Polanco-Abreu was elected as a
Popular Democrat to be Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico to the
United States Congress, November 3, 1964, for the term ending
January 3, 1969. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in
1968. He resumed the practice of law. He was a resident of San
Juan, Puerto Rico, until his death there on January 18, 1988. He
was buried in Municipal Cemetery, Isabela, P.R.
20, 1898 - February 23, 1959
REST IN PEACE!
Luis Palés Matos was born on March 20, 1898, in Guayama, Puerto
Rico, a small village with a predominantly black population. His
father, Vicente Palés Anés, and his brothers, Vicente and Gustavo
Palés Matos, were all poets laureate of Puerto Rico. His mother,
Consuelo Matos Vicil, was also a poet. Vicente Palés Anés died in
1913, just after reciting his poem "El cementerio" (the cemetery).
Luis Palés Matos read voraciously as a child and began writing poems
at the age of thirteen. His self-published his first collection of
poetry, Azaleas (1915) followed the modernist trend. It also
depleted Palés's financial resources so that at age seventeen, he
had to leave school to join the world of work. He supported himself
variously, as a secretary, bookkeeper, journalist, civil servant,
In 1918 Palés married Natividad Suliveres. They had a son, Eduardo,
but the following year, Natividad died. Some of Palés's grief made
its way into the poems of his second manuscript, El palacio en
sombras (the darkened palace, 1919-20), which was not published. In
1921, Palés moved to San Juan, where he began sending his poems to
magazines. With the writer Jose T. de Diego Padró, he created an
avant-garde literary movement called "Diepalismo," (a combination of
their names), which emphasized the musicality of language,
especially through onomatopoeia. The movement produced one
monaifesto and a single, collaboratively written poem: "Orquestación
Deipálica," which was published in El Imparcial in 1921. In 1925, he
collected Canciones de la vida media (songs at mid-life), another
manuscript which was to remain unpublished. In 1926, however, La
Democracia published "Pueblo Negro" (black town), the first
flowering of what was to become an influential and lasting movement:
by blending rhythms, folklore, and words from African and
Afro-Caribbean culture into the Spanish verse of Puerto Rico, Palés
created a new genre of Latin American literature that came to be
called Afro-Antillian poetry.
In 1937, he published a collection of these poems as Tuntun de pasa
y griferia (drumbeats of kink and blackness), which was recognized
with an award from the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature. This
collection also placed him, with Afro-Cuban poet Nicolas Guillén, as
founder of the literary movement known as Negrismo. These poems also
attracted some criticism toward Matos, who was white, for his
appropriation of African elements. After Tuntún, he moved away from
some of the Negrismo emphasis into more Antillean work that did not
emphasize black themes. Luis Pales Matos is widely considered the
most important lyric poet of Puerto Rico. His literary influence
reached to the Greater Antilles, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay,
and Venezuela. In 1949 he began writing love poems to a woman he
addressed as "Finí-Melé." In 1957 he published Poesía, 1915-1956
(1957). Until the time of his death, in February 23, 1959, he served
as lecturer to the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Puerto
Rico. He died in Santurce, Puerto Rico, of a heart attack.