--el ultimo de los proceres....
soy el panfletista de Dios,
el agitador de Dios,
y voy con la turba de estrellas
y hombres hambrientos
hacia la gran aurora..."
Luis Muñoz Marín
Luis Munoz Marin-Centenario
Muñoz, in his earliest campaigns among the jíbaros
The man who transformed Puerto Rico to such an extent that he is called by many the father of modern Puerto Rico, Luis Muñoz Marín, was born in 1898, just months before the American invasion. Son to Don Luis Muñoz Rivera and Doña Amalia Marín, he was eventually to bring forth a transformation of Puerto rican politics and economy so profound that it would touch every aspect of life in Puerto Rico.
Most of his formative years were spent in the United States giving little indication of the role he was to eventually play in the history of Puerto Rico. He was a writer and poet and in the future received the nickname of "el Vate"( "the Poet"). In those years away from the island he also wrote political assays and gained a perspective of the Puerto Rican problems and on the nature of the American nation.
When he returned to live in Puerto Rico in 1931, many doubted his seriousness although some expected much from the son of Don Luis Muñoz Rivera. He had many ideas on what needed to be done to get the island moving out of its poor socio-economic condition.
Puerto Ricans were American citizens and had a government with a limited democratic framework and self-rule in most local matters but the Governor, appointed by the US President, retained a big veto power. The island's political processes were compromised by the great rise of power of the large sugar companies which composed the largest agricultural output--sugar cane harvesting. The sugar cane workers received very poor wages which made them live in tremendous poverty.It was not uncommon for people especially in rural areas to sell their vote.
In 1938 Muñoz launched a political campaign like no other in Puerto Rican history. Going deep within the countryside, he gained the confidence of "el jíbaro" (peasants) and their votes. The Popular Democratic Party which he had founded, promised it would fight for their PAN(bread), TIERRA(land), and LIBERTAD(liberty). In the 1940 election Muñoz and the PPD won the control of the legislature from the Sugar interests and started the road towards broad social and economic reforms.Four years later he consolidated the control of the Legislature becoming the President of the island'd Senate and carried out a broad program of economic reform. He insisted that the island's problems of poverty, unemployment, bad housing and health, and terrible educational facilities had priority over the status issue. His efforts to attack these human ills got the support of the people and of the United States government.
In 1941 President Roosevelt named Rexford Tugwell governor of Puerto Rico. An experienced administrator with progressive ideas,Tugwell worked closely with Muñoz Marin to begin what was to become Puerto Rico's peaceful revolution. In 1948 Puerto Rico was given the right to elect its own governor. Muñoz, as expected, was elected by a large majority, becoming the first Puerto Rican governor elected by the Puerto Rican people. In a few years he had started to move the island toward a modern, democratic society with a new and bold political strategy.
It was not long before Muñoz and his government made one fundamental discovery. All the reform laws and speeches about equality and social justice were not going to do much to lift the island from four centuries of economic misery unless there was large scale industrialization. Operation Bootstrap finally put the island on the road to prosperity.
Muñoz had moved away from being in favor of independence over the years..He realized that the island with its poor economy and non-existant resources was not economically ready for independence. It was more important at that time to liberate the people from their hunger and the despair of their poverty....He came to believe that the Puerto Rican realities would best be served not by independence but by some form of autonomy, what he envissioned as a "commonwealth" or "free associated state" under the American flag. He decided to tackle the status issue. This relationship would be formalized in 1952 with the adoption of the Puerto Rican Constitution and the Estado Libre Asociado or Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.Under this new status the islanders retained both the United States citizenship and tax exemption.Commonwealth status also did much for the dignity of the island. It lifted the island from colonial status to a position of self-determination.For the first time since the landing of American troops in 1898, Puerto Rico had the status that the majority of its people wanted.
Historians have called the years 1940 to 1964 the Era of Muñoz. During those years he and his Popular Democratic Party received great support from his people. Particularly among the rural people, the jíbaros, Muñoz was the object of intense loyalty anf affection. Muñoz and his Populares would remain in power continuously until 1968. But not even Don Luis would be able to put an end to the debate that has so dominated Puerto Rican opinion since the beginning of the century--whether independence, statehood or commonwealth would be the best in the interest of the island.The controversy still rages....
Don Luis retired from political life in 1964 and afterward lived in Puerto Rico and at times in Spain. At his death in 1980 all Puerto Rico, irrespective of political ideologies, mourned at the passing of a real giant in their history.
Biografía --in Spanish
"Un pueblo que confía en sí mismo tiene que proponerse
constantemente transformar la
esperanza de un tiempo en la historia de otro...."
---Luis Munoz Marin
"No pierdas nunca la confianza en tu propia voluntad. Confía en tu propia voluntad más que en hombre alguno sobre la tierra. Esa es tu fuerza, no soy yo tu fuerza. Tú mismo eres tu fuerza! "
---Luis Munoz Marin
"Puerto Rico es un país latinoamericano compuesto por buenos
ciudadanas de Estados Unidos.
Esta unido al Norte por fraternales lazos politicos, al sur por fraternales lazos raciales e históricos
y unidos por las culturas que conviven en su seno. "
--Luis Munoz Marin