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Luis Munoz Marin: 1898-1980: Governor, Statesman

Followed In Father's Footsteps

Jose Luis Alberto Munoz Marin was born on February 18, 1898, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the son of Luis Munoz Rivera and Amalia Marin. His father, considered by many "the George Washington of Puerto Rico," helped Puerto Rico obtain its charter of home rule from Spain in 1897 and served briefly as president of the island-state's home rule cabinet. After the United States put an end to Puerto Rico's home rule in 1899, Munoz Rivera stepped down as president but continued throughout his life to press for Puerto Rican independence. Munoz Marin spent most of his early years in the United States, living in New York City and Washington, D.C., where his father had served as resident commissioner for Puerto Rico from 1910 until his death in 1916. As a boy, Munoz Marin attended Georgetown Preparatory School in Washington, D.C., and in 1912 enrolled at Georgetown University to pursue pre-law studies. Throughout his childhood, Munoz Marin had been interested in writing, and as a student had freelanced for the Baltimore Sun and several national magazines. In 1917 the aspiring writer published two volumes of poetry, Borrones and Madre Haraposa.

Shortly after his father's death, Munoz Marin dropped out of Georgetown Law School and took a job as secretary to his father's successor as resident commissioner. In March of 1917, while Munoz Marin was serving in that position, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Law, a piece of legislation embodying measures long sought by Munoz Marin's father. Under the law, Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship, as well as most of the basic freedoms granted under the Bill of Rights. The Jones Law also created a Puerto Rican Senate of 19 senators and a 39-member House of Representatives, all of whom were to be elected by popular vote.

In 1918, a year after the Jones Law was signed, Munoz Marin moved from Washington to New York City, determined to make his living as a freelance writer. Not long after moving to the city, he met Muna Lee, a poet from Mississippi. The couple married on July 1, 1919.

At a Glance . . .

Born Jose Luis Alberto Munoz Marin on February 18, 1898, in San Juan, Puerto Rico; died on April 30, 1980, in San Juan; married Muna Lee, 1919 (divorced in 1947); married Ines Maria Mendosa, 1947; children: Luis and Munita (first marriage), Viviana and Victoria (second marriage). Education: Georgetown University and Georgetown Law School. Religion: Roman Catholic. Politics: Popular Democratic Party.

Career: Politician. Secretary to Puerto Rico's resident commissioner in Washington, D.C., 1916-18; active in Pan American Labor movement; served in secretariat of Pan American Union during Havana Conference, 1929; elected to Puerto Rico's Senate as a Liberal, 1932; elected to Puerto Rico's Senate as founder of Popular Democratic Party in 1940, re-elected in 1944; elected president of Senate in 1941; served as chairman of commission on political status of Puerto Rico, 1946; served as first elected governor of Puerto Rico, 1949-65.

During his years in New York, Munoz Marin contributed articles to the New York Herald Tribune and to La Democracia, the Puerto Rican newspaper founded by his father in 1889. In addition to his freelance work, he translated into Spanish the works of such notable American poets as Walt Whitman and Carl Sandburg. Although Munoz Marin and his wife spent the bulk of their time in New York, they paid occasional visits to Puerto Rico. On one such visit in 1920, Munoz Marin joined the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, led by labor leader Santiago Iglesias. It was a dispute with Iglesias over the question of independence for Puerto Rico that four years later drove Munoz Marin from the ranks of the Socialist Party. While Iglesias favored complete independence from the United States, Munoz Marin leaned toward a limited association with Washington, a relationship that he felt would best serve the interests of Puerto Ricans.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Al Loving Biography - Loved Painting from Early Age to Alice McGill Biography - PersonalLuis Munoz Marin: 1898-1980: Governor, Statesman Biography - Followed In Father's Footsteps, Found Himself Drawn Into Politics, Left Liberals To Start New Party