Luis Munoz Marin: 1898-1980: Governor, Statesman
Served As Governor Through 1964
Reelected to the governorship in 1952, Munoz Marin modified the island's constitution to limit the powers of the governor and ensure minority parties at least one-third of the votes in the island's legislature. As the island grew steadily more prosperous under programs instituted by Munoz Marin, he was returned to office in 1956 and 1960. Under his direction, Puerto Rico had become the richest state in the Caribbean. As more and more industries were attracted to the island, many of Puerto Rico's landless peasants became industrial workers, creating a new middle class. The number of schools and hospitals on the island grew at an exponential rate to meet the growing needs of the island's citizens. However, problems remained, many of them attributable to the island's booming birth rate. Despite Munoz Marin's best efforts, Puerto Rican joblessness topped ten percent. Puerto Ricans unable to find a job on the island migrated by the thousands to the mainland, many of them settling in and around New York City, which had a large Spanish-speaking population.
In recognition of his years of service to the people of Puerto Rico, Munoz Marin in 1963 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The following year he decided not to run for a fifth term as governor, opting instead to run for the Senate and entrusting the governor's job to his Popular Democratic protégé Roberto Sanchez Vilella. In a 1967 referendum, Puerto Ricans voted overwhelmingly to continue the island's commonwealth status, rejecting the alternatives of state-hood or independence. In the elections of 1968, the Popular Democrats lost control of the island's legislature, signaling the end of the era of Munoz Marin's political domination. Munoz Marin retired from politics in 1970, although he jumped back into the political fray a few years later when the forces favoring state-hood for Puerto Rico once again seemed to be on the ascendancy. Ill health forced him to abandon his independent campaign against statehood in 1979. After suffering a series of heart attacks, Munoz Marin died in San Juan on April 30, 1980. In his book, TruthIsMy Sword: Volume I, Dr. Bo Hi Pak stated at a commemorative service for Munoz Marin, "Luis Munoz Marin could have been a national liberator, but he sought first to fulfill the immediate needs of his people. A man with such practical and immediate goals is not usually seen as a national hero. However, Puerto Ricans remember Luis Munoz Marin because of the sincerity of his commitment."
Munoz Marin's legacy as the father of modern Puerto Rico lives on. It is doubtful that the island's impressive economic strides throughout the latter half of the twentieth century would have been possible without the groundwork laid by Munoz Marin, first as a political activist and later as the island's first popularly elected governor. To honor the enormous contributions he made to the island and its citizens, Puerto Rico's main jetport at San Juan was renamed the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.
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Mensajes al Pueblo Puertorriqueno: Pronunciados ante las Cameras Legislativas, 1949-1964, Inter American University Press, 1980.
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Historia del Partido Popular Democratico, El Batey, 1984.
Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press, 2001.
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Dictionary of Hispanic Biography, Gale, 1996.
Encyclopedia Britannica 2003, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 2003.
Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., 17 vols., Gale, 1998.
"In Memory of Luis Munoz Marin," True Parents Organization, www.tparents.org/Library/Unification/Books/Tims1/Tims1-12.htm (March 31, 2003).
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