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Luis Munoz Marin: 1898-1980: Governor, Statesman

Found Himself Drawn Into Politics

In 1924 Munoz Marin campaigned aggressively for unsuccessful U.S. presidential candidate Robert La Follette, who ran on the Progressive Party ticket. After La Follette's defeat, Munoz Marin returned to live in Puerto Rico, taking over the reins of La Democracia. As publisher and editor of La Democracia, Munoz Marin left little doubt about where his sympathies lay. His editorials put him squarely in the corner of Puerto Rico's jibaros, the hill country peasants who farmed the island's high country. He also expressed a growing criticism for the American-owned sugar and tobacco companies that exploited Puerto Rico's prime agricultural lowlands, taking the island's natural riches but leaving little in return for an impoverished peasantry.

Four years after his return to Puerto Rico, a hurricane devastated many of the plantations that were growing the island's major cash crop—coffee. Seeing how the hurricane as well as outside exploitation had crippled the economy of Puerto Rico, Munoz Marin felt compelled to enter the political fray in order to see if he could improve the lot of his countrymen. In 1932 Munoz Marin, now a member of the Liberal Party, was elected to the Puerto Rican Senate. During the Great Depression, he used his connections to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to ensure that a steady stream of American dollars flowed to Puerto Rico through the Puerto Rican Reconstruction Administration. Munoz Marin's success in obtaining massive amounts of U.S. financial aid for the island earned him great popularity among his countrymen.

His hand strengthened by his growing popularity, Munoz Marin led a Liberal Party campaign to unseat the widely disliked Robert Gore as governor of Puerto Rico. Convinced that Puerto Rico's problems were more economic than political or cultural, he helped pushed through legislation to divide large sugar company landholdings and distribute the land to Puerto Rico's peasants. In so doing, he was convinced that his strategy of land distribution was the key to putting Puerto Rico on the path to greater economic self-sufficiency. In Puerto Rico's legislature, Munoz Marin battled tirelessly against members of the Nationalist Party, which was pushing for immediate independence from the United States. Munoz Marin was now convinced that independence would be a disaster for Puerto Rico, which was being sustained by large infusions of American aid.

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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