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Luis Muñoz Marín

Governor of Puerto Rico
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Order: 1st Democratically Elected Governor
Term of Office: January 2, 1949January 2, 1965
Predecessor: None
Successor: Roberto Sánchez Vilella
Date of Birth: Monday, February 18, 1898
Place of Birth: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Date of Death: Thursday, April 30, 1980
Place of Death: San Juan, Puerto Rico
First Lady: Inés María Mendoza
Profession: politician, journalist, poet
Political Party: Popular Democratic Party
Resident Commissioner: Antonio Fernós Isern (1949-1965)

Luis Muñoz Marín (February 18, 1898 - April 30, 1980) was a poet, journalist and politician. He was the first democratically elected Governor of Puerto Rico and considered one of the most important twentieth-century political figures in the Americas. He worked closely with the Government of the United States for the creation of a Constitution for Puerto Rico that would create a more favorable environment in which the island could achieve progress both economically and politically. Muñoz served for sixteen years as Governor and his achievements made him worthy of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1962 and of the title "Father of the Modern Puerto Rico".



Born José Luis Alberto Muñoz Marín at 152 Fortaleza street in Old San Juan, he was the son of Don Luis Muñoz Rivera, and Doña Amalia Marín Castilla. Luis Muñoz Marín's early years were spent with frequent travels between the United States and Puerto Rico. His father founded the newspaper the "Puerto Rico Herald" in New York and in 1910 was elected Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico to the United States Congress.

In 1911 Muñoz began his studies at the Georgetown Preparatory School, in Washington D.C.. In 1915 he began his Law studies at Georgetown University but was forced to return to Puerto Rico after his father became ill. Luis Muñoz Rivera died November 15, 1916.

Political Career

In 1920 Muñoz Marín joined the Puerto Rican Socialist Party headed by Santiago Iglesias Pantín. During this time he advocated for Puerto Rican Independence from the United States and sympathized with the Puerto Rican worker, who in his views was being neglected by the political forces of the time.


In 1932 he joined the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal), founded by Antonio R. Barceló and would lead the party's official newspaper, "La Democracia". On March 13, 1932, Muñoz was nominated by the party for the post of Senator. Antonio R. Barceló and Muñoz where elected senators in the 1932 elections for the 1933-1937 term.

In 1937 political disagreements between Muñoz and Antonio R. Barceló led to the expulsion of Muñoz Marín from the Liberal Party. He would then create a group named, the Social Independence Action ("Acción Social Independentista" known as "ASI") which would later give rise to the "Partido Liberal Neto, Auténtico y Completo" in opposition to the Liberal Party which Antonio R. Barceló headed.

Luis Muñoz Marín would help create the Popular Democratic Party (Partido Popular Democratico-PPD) in 1938. Muñoz concentrated his political campaigning in the rural areas of Puerto Rico. He attacked the then common practice of paying off rural farm workers to influence their vote. During his campaign he met Inés María Mendoza who would later become his second wife.

President of the Senate

In 1940 the PPD won a slight but surprising victory in the Puerto Rican Senate, a victory which was attributed to the campaining he did in the rural areas. Muñoz Marín is then named President of the Senate.

During his term as President of the Senate, Muñoz was an advocate of the worker class of Puerto Rico. Along with the United States' appointed Governor of the time, Rexford G. Tugwell, and the republican-socialist coalition which headed the House of Representatives, he would help advance legislation geared towards agricultural reform, economic recovery and industrialization. He backed legislation to limit the amount of land a company could own. In 1944 the PPD repeated the political victory of the previous elections.

For the 1948 elections the United States Congress allowed Puerto Ricans to democratically elect their governor for the first time. Muñoz successfully campaigned for the post, thus becoming the first democratically elected Governor of Puerto Rico. He officially took office on January 2, 1949.


Muñoz held the post of Governor for sixteen years, being re-elected again in the 1952, 1956 and 1960 elections. During the 1960 elections, Catholic bishops ruled it would be a sin to vote for PPD candidates due to the party's policy on birth control and disallowing religious teachings in public schools.

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Luis Muñoz Marín (center) meets with President John F. Kennedy (right) and Pablo Casals (left)

During his terms as governor, a Constitutional Assembly was convened in which the Constitution of Puerto Rico was drafted. It was approved by the United States Congress in 1952.

An ambitious industrialization project dubbed "Operation Bootstrap," was coupled with a program of agrarian reform aimed at the sugar industry. In the first forty years of this century, before Operation Bootstrap, Puerto Rico's economy was dominated by its role as a source of cheap sugar for the mainland U.S. market. Operation Bootstrap enticed U.S. mainland investors to transfer industries to Puerto Rico or create new ones there by granting them tax concessions and other subsidies including access to Puerto Rico's impoverished cheap labor market.

The program accelerated the shift from agricultural to industrial production; and, today, sugar production plays a relatively minor role in the island's economy. The 1950s saw the development of labor-intensive light industries, such as textiles; manufacturing later gave way to heavy industry, such as petrochemicals and oil refining, in the 1960s and 1970s.

Muñoz Marín's development programs brought some prosperity for an emergent middle class, but they also deprived Puerto Rico of tax revenues and overwhelmed native industries. The poor peasantry was merely transformed into a poor industrial working class (suffering from high unemployment). Although initially touted as an economic miracle, Operation Bootstrap by the 1960s was increasingly characterized by a growing unemployment problem.

Muñoz Marín also launched "Operación Serenidad" (Operation Serenity), a series of projects geared towards promoting education and appreciation of the arts.

His reversal on not pursuing Puerto Rican Independence angered some Puerto Ricans, including nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos. On October 30, 1950 a group of Puerto Rican nationalists staged a revolt which included an attack on the governor's mansion- La Fortaleza-, the United States Capitol and at Blair House, where United States Harry S. Truman was staying during a renovation of the White House. These acts led Muñoz to crack down on Puerto Rican Nationalists and advocates of Puerto Rican Independence. This actions by both Muñoz and the United States' Government would later be determined as infringing on constitutional rights.

In 1964, he chose not to run for another term, leaving his party's candidacy to his Secretary of State, Roberto Sánchez Vilella who would go on to be elected Governor.

Retirement, Death and Legacy

After leaving the post of Governor, Muñoz Marín would continue his public service as a senator in the Puerto Rican Legislature until 1968. That year, Muñoz had a serious dispute with Governor Roberto Sánchez Vilella. Muñoz, who was still an influential figure inside the Popular Democratic Party, decided to deny Governor Sánchez the opportunity to run for another term in 1968. Governor Sánchez then founded The People's Party and decided to ran for governor under this new Party. Many members of the Popular Democratic Party voted for Sánchez, thus leading to the PPD's first electorial defeat ever. Muñoz Marín and Sánchez Vilella's friendship was severely strained after this.

After the loss in the 1968 elections, Muñoz traveled all over Europe and met with many political figures of the time. He returned to Puerto Rico in 1972 to promote the candidacy of Rafael Hernández Colón, the new leader of the Popular Democratic Party.

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Conmemorative Stamp issued by the United State's Post Office in 1990.

On April 30, 1980 Luis Muñoz Marín died at the age of 82, after suffering complications from a severe stroke. His funeral became a national event attended by hundreds of followers.

To some, Muñoz never fulfilled a promise on Puerto Rican Independence and instead cemented Puerto Rico's colonial status. Others see Luis Muñoz Marín as the person who heralded a new era in Puerto Rico, helping to industrilize the island and bring with it social change. Marin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on December 6, 1962 by President John F. Kennedy and was featured twice in the cover of Time Magazine. The articles called him "one of the most influential politicians in recent times, whose works will be remembered for years to come."

His daughter Victoria Muñoz Mendoza, also became involved in the politics of Puerto Rico, and in 1992 made an unsuccessful bid for Governor. The main civil airport on the island of Puerto Rico bears his name- Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport- as well as other educational institutions.

Preceded by:
Jesús T. Piñero
Governor of Puerto Rico
Succeeded by:
Roberto Sánchez Vilella

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See also

External links


es:Luis Muñoz Marín


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