Skip Navigation

Famous Puerto Ricans

A - C

Acosta, José Julian

(1825--1891), journalist and a leader of the Puerto Rican abolishement movement, was born in on May 27, 1825 in San Juan. He received his primary and secondary education from Rafael Cordero. In 1867, he was a member of the Puerto Rican commission, which participated in the Overseas Information Committee in Madrid, Spain. The commission advocated for the abolition of slavery and political reforms at the local level. On November, 1870, he became a leading member of the Liberal Reformist Party. He also collaborated to the foundation of "El Progreso" (Progress) newspaper, of which he was editor. In 1873, he became the president of the Liberal Reformist Party. He died on August 26, 1891 in San Juan.

Acosta, Juan F.

(1890--1968), musician, composer, and music teacher, was born on May 27, 1890 in San Sebastián. Acosta wrote over 844 musical pieces, including 127 religious hymns. Among Acosta's may composition are " Bajo La Sombra de un Pino" (Under the Shade of a Pine) , "Asi es la Vida" (That's Life), and "Glorias del Pasado" (Glories of the Past). Acosta died in 1968 and buried in Quebradillas.

Agrelot, Jose Miguel

(1927--2004), radio and television show host, and a notorious comedian, better known as Don Cholito, was born on April 21, 1927 in San Juan. Agrelot started working on radio stations when he was 14. Some of Agrelot's long list of shows include: "El Colegio de la Alegría" (The School of Joy), "El Profesor Colgate", "La Criada Malcriada" (The Nasty Maid), "Desafiando a los Genios" (Challenging the Geniuses), and "El Show del Mediodia" (The Midday Show).

In 2003, his radio show, "Su Alegre Despertar" (Joyful Awakening), broke the world's record for the longest run non stop radio show in history, reaching its 53rd year to run non-stop and making Agrelot the second person from Puerto Rico, after Wilfredo Benitez, to join the Guinness Book of World Records. He died on January 28, 2004.

Albizu Campos, Pedro

(1891--1965), politician, was born on September 12, 1891 in Tenerias Village, Ponce. The son of Alejandro Albizu and Juana Campos. He was the nephew of Juan Morel Campos. Terrorist to his enemies and critics, hero to the most fervent Puerto Rican nationalist. After service in an African-American unit during World War I he developed a lasting enmity for the United States and became the fiery champion of Puerto Rican independence. Educated at Harvard (BS 1916, LL B 1923), he joined the Nationalist Party in 1924 and was the most prominent "independentista" of his time. In 1930, he was elected president of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico. Convicted of seeking to overthrow the U.S. government, he was imprisoned (1937-43) before returning to Puerto Rico in 1947. His party made a poor showing in the 1948 election. He masterminded a nationalist attack to the governor's mansion in Puerto Rico and was accused of being behind the October 31, 1950, assassination attempt on President Truman at Blair House in Washington. After he was sentenced to prison for 53 years, Governor Luis Muñoz Marín offered him a conditional pardon in 1953, but withdrew it after the nationalist attack on the U.S. House of Representatives the next year. Campos spent his final years in prison. While in prison, he claimed that he was the subject of human radiation experiments. He suffered a stroke in 1956 and was again pardoned in 1964. Died in Hato Rey, on April 21, 1965.

Alegría, Ricardo E.

(1921--), cultural antropologist and archeologist, was born on April 14, 1921 in San Juan. He was the driving force behind the creation of the influential Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, which he headed from its foundation in 1955 to 1972. In 1993 he was the first Latin-American to win the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's Picasso Medal, the same year that President Clinton awarded him the Charles Frankel Award of the Humanities.

Alers, Rafael

(1903--1978), musician, notorious orchestra director, and composer, was born on October 16, 1903 in Aguadilla. He received his first musical instructions from Juan F. Acosta. In 1956, Alers became the first Puerto Rican to compose the music score for a Hollywood movie, "Crowded Paradise". His best known work is "Violeta" . Other works include: "Recuerdos," "Serenata Galante," "Estrella de Borinquen," "Rosita," and "Juanita". He died on March 20, 1978 in San Juan.

Alonso y Pacheco, Manuel A.

(1822--1889), writer, poet and journalist, was born on October 22, 1822 in San Juan. He is considered to be the first Puerto Rican writer of notable importance. He received his primary education in Cayey and in the San Idelfonso Seminary in San Juan. In 1842, he moved to Barcelona, Spain where he enrolled in the University of Bercelona to study medicine, specializing in mental disorders. He finished his medical studies in 1845 and practiced medicine in Barcelona. In 1844, he published the "Album Puertorriqueño" (Puerto Rican Album), which was the second anthology of poems published in the island. In 1848, he returned to Puerto Rico and setup his medical practice in Caguas. In 1849, he published "El Gíbaro" (now is spelled "Jibaro"), a book that is part prose and part poetry and centered on the life as a poor Puerto Rican country farmer and Puerto Rican traditions. Alonso died on November 4, 1889 in San Juan.

Baldorioty de Castro, Román

(1823--1889), politician, was born on February 23, 1823 in Guaynabo. He considered to be Puerto Rico's foremost abolitionist and spokeperson for the islands right to self-determination. Baldorioty received his elementary schooling in San Juan. He went to Madrid on a scholarship and completed studies in Physical and Mathematical Sciences. He then went to France and studied in the Central School of Arts and Manufactures in Paris. In 1853 he returned to Puerto Rico and became a teacher in Botany and Maritime Sciences at the School of Commerce, Agriculture, and Maritime Studies in San Juan. From 1860 to 1865 he also was a delegate to the Spanish parliament. He is considered the father of Puerto Rican Autonomy from Spain, although his achievement was superseded by the U.S. annexation. The statesman fought to abolish slavery and establish a constitution guaranteeing the rights of islanders. In 1870 he was elected to be a deputy to the Spanish Cortes, supporting abolitionist and autonomist causes. He founded and edited the magazine "Asuntos de Puerto Rico" and contributed to "Correo de Española." He returned to Puerto Rico in 1873 where he founded the newspaper "El Derecho" in Ponce. In 1878, he started a political weekly again in Ponce, "La Crónica," as a vehicle for his autonomist ideology. In 1887, he founded the Autonomist Party, whose platform advocated home government for Puerto Rico and representation in the Spanish parliament. But that year also saw a crackdown against political dissenters and Baldorioty was accused of publishing seditious propaganda and jailed in El Morro Castle. Despite his rapid release, his imprisonment affected his health and he died soon after on September 20, 1889 in Ponce.

Barbosa, José Celso

(1857--1921), doctor and politician, was born on July 27, 1857 in Bayamón. A gifted mulatto medical doctor, Barbosa is better known as the father of the Statehood for Puerto Rico movement. He formed the pro-statehood Republican Party (July 4, 1899) in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. He was the first black to attend Puerto Rico's prestigious Jesuit Seminary. In 1893, he founded the first Puerto Rican "Cooperativa," named "El Ahorro Colectivo." In 1899, he founded the Republican Party of Puerto Rico, advocating for statehood for the island. In 1907, he established the newspaper "El Tiempo." He was a member of the Executive Cabinet from 1900 to 1917 and held a seat in the Puerto Rican Senate from 1917 until his death on December, 1921 in San Juan.

Batista, Tomás

(1935--), sculptor, was born in Luquillo. Batista, a notorious sculptor has created several famous Puerto Rican monuments such as: "El Jíbaro Puertorriqueño" Monument in Cayey, Luis A. Ferré Highway, Eugenio María de Hostos in Mayagüez, Nemesio R. Canales in Jayuya, Chuíto el de Cayey in Cayey, Rafael Hernández in Bayamón, among others. In 1991, Luquillo City Hall assigned permanent exhibits for some of Batista works.

Benitez, Maria Bibiana

(Maria Bibiana Benitez Constanza)

(1783--1873), poet, was born on December 10, 1783 in Aguadilla. She is known as the first Puerto Rican woman poet. In 1832, Maria published her first poem, "La Ninfa de Puerto Rico". She also became the first Puerto Rican woman to write a dramatic play, "La Cruz del Morro" (The Cross of El Morro), inspired in the defense of San Juan against the Dutch attack in 1625. Among her best known poems are "Soneto" (1839), "Diálogo Alegórico" (1858) and "A La Vejez." She died on April 18, 1873 in San Juan.

Berrios Martínez, Rubén

(1930--), lawyer, politician and current president of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), was born on June 21, 1939 in Aibonito. He was the head of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (1970-93) and a member of the Puerto Rican Senate (1972-1973). In 1971 he was jailed for three months for a sit-in on the island of Culebra protesting the US military presence there.

Betances, Ramón Emeterio

(1827--1898), politician, was born on April 8, 1827 in Cabo Rojo. He received his primary and secondary education in private schools. His mother died when he was young and his father sent him to France. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Paris in 1855, Betances returned to Puerto Rico and founded a hospital and worked to save Puerto Ricans from the ravages of a cholera epidemic. He also founded a clandestine society dedicated to the liberation of the slaves. The Spanish colonial government exiled him for these activities several times. In 1867, he fled to the present-day Dominican Republic where he founded the Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico. The following year he organized an armed expedition that led to the abortive insurrection of September 23, known as the Grito de Lares. When the insurrection failed Betances went back to Paris where he dedicated to work for the independence of Puerto Rico. His works "La Viérge de Borinquen" (1859) and "Les Voyages de Scaldado" (1890), written in French, and "La Botijuela" (1863), in Spanish, symbolically portrayed the political aspirations of Puerto Rico during this period. Although he spent his remaining years away from his homeland, he viewed the abolition of slavery there on March 22, 1873 with great satisfaction. For his contributions to literature, the French government awarded him its Legion of Honor. Died on September 18, 1898 in Nevilly, France and is remains returned to Puerto Rico in 1920 where they were buried in his birthplace.

Birriel, Felipe

(1916--1994), was the tallest man in Puerto Rican history, with an unconfirmed height of 2.413 meters or seven feet eleven inches (7' 11"), was born in Carolina on August 16, 1916. He was known as "El Gigante de Carolina" (The Giant of Carolina). He died from a heart attack on March 15, 1994, at the age of 77, in Carolina.

Blanco, Tomás

(1900--1975), was a writer, historian and essayists, was born on December 9, 1900 in San Juan. Blanco received his primary and secondary education in Catholic schools. He moved to the United States where he enrolled in the Georgetown University to study medicine. He traveled throught Europe and in Spain he started writing literary and music criticism. After his return to the island, he wrote about Puerto Rican subjects. Blanco is best known for writing what is considered to be one of the best histories of the island, "Prontuario Historico de Puerto Rico" (1935). Among other Blanco's recognized works are "El Prejuicio Racial en Puerto Rico" (Racial Prejudice in Puerto Rico), "Los Aguinaldos del Infante" (Christmas Stories for Children), "Cuentos sin Ton ni Son" and "Los Vates." He died on April 12, 1975 in San Juan.

Bracetti, Mariana

(1825--1903), patriot and leader of the Puerto Rico independence movement in the 1860's, was born in Añasco. She is believed to have crafted the first Puerto Rican flag. The flag was considered a symbol of revolution and a call to overthrow the Spanish government on the island and establish a sovereign republic.

On September 23, 1868, the flag was flown on the Lares church during a revolt, later known as the Grito de Lares. The flag was designed by Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances. Many years later, in 1952, the flag's design was adopted as the official flag of Lares. The flag was divided in the middle by a white cross. The two lower corners were red and the two upper corners were blue. There was a white star in the upper left blue corner. Mariana Bracetti died in Añasco in 1903 and was buried in the Plaza of Añasco. There is a monument honoring her on the spot where she is buried.

Brau, Salvador

(1842--1912), historian, journalist, sociologist, novelist, and essayists, was born on January 11, 1842 in Cabo Rojo. He wrote an earlier history of the island, "Historia de Puerto Rico" (1904). He was named the Official Historian for Puerto Rico from 1903 until his dead. His books are considered an important contribution to the study of Puerto Rican history, including "Puerto Rico and its History" (1894), "The Colonization of Puerto Rico," and "The Foundation of Ponce."

Other works include: "Writings on the Puerto Rican Flora", "Report on the Sugar Cane Disease," "Puerto Rican Flora," "The Puerto Rican Indians," "Fertility of Puerto Rican Women," "Demographic Study," "The Foundation of Aguadilla," and "The Foundation of Bayamon"." He died on November 5, 1912 in San Juan.

Burgos, Julia de

(Julia Constancia Burgos García)

(1914--1953), teacher, journalist and poet, was born on February 17, 1914 in Carolina. One of Puerto Rico's leading 20th-century poets, influenced by Luis Llorens Torres, Clair Lair, Rafael Alberti and Pablo Neruda, she was a prominent member of the literary Vanguard movement in San Juan in the late 1930s. She was also an advocate for the independance of Puerto Rico. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a teaching degree. Her literary work placed her among the greatest poets of Hispanic-America. Her best-known poem is " El Río Grande de Loiza" . Other well-known poems are "Canción Desnuda," "Te Quiero," "A Julia de Burgos," "Yo Misma fui mi Ruta," and "Tres Caminos." She published several books among which are; "Poemas exactos de mi misma," "Poemas en Veinte Zurcos," and "Cancién de la verdad sencilla." Burgos died on July 6, 1953 in New York City, at age 39.

Campeche y Jordan, José

(1752--1809), painter, was born on January 6, 1752 in San Juan. Son of a freed slave and a Canary Islander. This "Sanjuanero" became one of Puerto Rico's most eminent painters. Trained by Luis Paret, a court painter banished from Spain, Campeche produced approximately 400 paintings, thereby earning a reputation as "the most gifted of Latin American Rococo artist." Devoutly religious, he often painted for churches but was also a noted portrait painter of subjects ranging from leading politicians to the local landed gentry. Some of his most famous paintings are: the portraits of Ramón de Castro and Miguel A. de Ustáriz, The Virgin of Belen, The Virgin of the Rosary, Saint John the Baptist, The Sacred Family, The Bishop of San Francisco de la Cuerda, and The Vision of Saint Anthony. Campeche died on November 7, 1809 in San Juan.

Canales, Nemesio

(1878--1923), essayist, poet, journalists, novelist, playwright and politician, was born on December 18, 1878 in Jayuya. He was a member of the Puerto Rican House of Representatives and he wrote a column called "Paliques" for the newspaper of which this article formed part. He published a selection of these articles in a book by the same name. He died on September 14, 1923 in New York.

Capetillo, Luisa

(1879--1922), labor organizer in Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the U.S., was born on October 28, 1879 in Arecibo. A free thinker, a feminist, an anarchist and a workers' and women's rights activist, in the early 1900's. She believed that good wages were a worker's right and insisted that women should have the same right to vote as men. Although she is best known today for being the first woman to wear pants in public. In 1919, she challenged the mainstream society by wearing pants in public and sent to jail for what was then considered to be a "crime", but, the judge later dropped the charges against her. On April 10, 1922, Capetillo died of tuberculosis in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, at the age of 42.

Carreño, Victor A.

(1956--), a NASA Aerospace Engineer and Aerospace Technologist, was born in Guaynabo in 1956. He holds the patent for the Single Frequency Multitransmitter Telemetry System. Dr. Victor A. Carreño received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico in 1979. Upon graduation, he applied to and was hired by the NASA Langley Research Center.

Carreño is credited with inventing and developing the Single Frequency Multitransmitter Telemetry System in 1983.

In 1985, Victor obtained his Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from Old Dominion University. In 1997, he received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge in England. His primary research is the verification of safety critical systems.

Clemente, Roberto

(1934--1972), baseball player, was born on August 18, 1934 in Carolina. He was a baseball player with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1955-1972), he compiled a lifetime batting average of .317, hit 240 home runs and was considered baseball's premier defensive outfielder. Clemente won four National League batting titles (1961, 1964, 1965, 1966). He was the league's Most Valuable Player in 1966 and was selected to the All-Star team 12 times. He also won 12 Gold Glove awards as the NL's premier right fielder, and he was frequently cited by experts as having the best outfielder's throwing arm they had ever seen. After he obtained his 3,000th hit in the last game of the 1972 season. On December 31, 1972, Clemente's life was tragically cut short when an airplane loaded with supplies for earthquake victims in Managua, Nicaragua, crashed off the Puerto Rican coast. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973.

Coll y Toste, Cayetano

(1850--1930), historian and writer, was born on November, 30 1850 in Arecibo. Among his many written works are: "El Boletin Historico de Puerto Rico" (Historical Boletin of Puerto Rico), "Cronicas de Arecibo" (Cronicals of Arecibo) and "Legendas y Tradiciones Puertorriqueñas" (Puerto Rican Legends and Traditions). In 1913, Toste was named Official Historian of Puerto Rico. His research into the history of Puerto Rico gave people an insight into the island from the times of the Tainos up until 1927. One of his works "The Indo-Antillano Vocabulary" is valuable in understanding the way of live of the Tainos. His works are required reading in Puerto Rican high schools and Universities. He died on November 19, 1930 in Madrid, Spain.

Colón, Jesús

(1901--1974), writer, was born in Cayey. Jesus Colon is credited as being the intellectual founding father of the "Nuyorican" movement, a group of New York Puerto Rican writers who flowered in the 1960s and '70s, including playwright Miguel Piñero and poets Miguel Algarin and Tato Laviera. He died in 1974 in New York.

Cordero, Angel Tomás, Jr.

(1942--), jockey, was born on November 8, 1942 in Santurce. Cordero is considered one of the most successful jockeys, he won 7,057 races over 22 years before he retired in 1992. Cordero also won six Triple Crown races, including three Kentucky Derbies.

Cordero, Rafael

(1790--1868), educator, was born on October 24, 1790 in San Juan. His great interest and love for reading prepared and helped him to develop the skills and the capabilities to perform as a primary teacher. Since the beginning of XIX century he dedicated himself to the children teaching in his own house, without payment. For 58 years he maintained this educational center, at Luna Street in San Juan. He taught them to read, calligraphy, arithmetic and christian (catholic) instruction. Among the students were: Román Baldorioty de Castro, Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, José Julian Acosta, Francisco del Valle Atiles and others. He died on July 5, 1868 in San Juan.

Corretjer, Juan Antonio

(1908--1985), poet, journalist and politician, was born on March 3, 1908 in Ciales. Corretjer is considered as one of Puerto Rico's greatest poets of the '30s. He received his primary education in Ciales. From early age Corretjer showed interest about the island's political situation. He joined the "Literary Society of José Gautier Benitez," which later renamed to "Nationalist Youth", while he was still in elementary school. When he was in the 8th grade, he organized his first student protest against the American authority in Ciales. As a result, he was expelled from school and he was forced to go to school in Vega Baja. In 1920, when he was only 12 years old, Corretjer wrote his first poem "Canto a Ciales" (My song to Ciales). In 1924, he published his first booklet of poems. In 1927, he worked as a journalist for several newspapers and publications in Puerto Rico, Cuba and the U.S. He travelled to New York, Cuba, Haiti and Dominican Republic to endorse other political groups opposed to U.S. dominion and look for support for Puerto Rico's independance movement. In 1929, he returns to Puerto Rico and soon after, in 1930 he met Pedro Albizu Campos and joins him to work with the Nationalist Party. He was named the Administrative Secretary of the Nationalist Party. Since then, he became a faithfull figther for nationalism. Corretjer was jailed several times because of his political views and activities.

During his reclusion he authored several publications: "Amor de Puerto Rico" and "Cántico de Guerra" (Song of War), both published in 1937.

During his long carrier he published several books of poems: "Agüeybana" (1932), "Versos al Mar de un Hombre de Tierra Adentro" (1933), "El Leñero" (Timberman; 1944), "Imagen de Borinquen: Los Primeros Años" (1950), "Tierra Nativa" (Native Land; 1951), "Alabanza en la Torre de Ciales" (1953), "Yerba Bruja" (Bewitched Grass; 1957) and many more.

In 1978, the Institute of Culture published "Obras Completas", Volume I. He died on January 19, 1985 in San Juan.

Did You Know?

San Juan is the oldest continuously inhabited city in a U.S. territory.