Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jose de Diego

Well, it's confusing...some cite Senor Diego's birthday as the 16th, some as the 20th. I think it's just another excuse to have more holidays. So if you notice any *holiday* like behaviour or closures going on around here, it might be because of a Poet/Politician's birthday...and it might just be because it's Monday. Rather a handsome devil, wasn't he?

From Wikipedia, here is all (and more) than you wanted to know about Jose (if you want to check the links in the article, use the above wiki link, as I have not make them active).

Dr. José de Diego y Benítez

De Diego was born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico and received his primary education in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. He then moved to Spain where he graduated from the "Polytechnic College of Logroño". While in Spain, de Diego collaborated with the newspaper "El Progreso" (Progress) which was founded by José Julián Acosta and which attacked the political situation in Puerto Rico. This led to various arrests and eventually he returned to the island.


In 1886, de Diego had an unhappy love affair, with Carmen Echavarría, which led him to write one of his acclaimed poems "A Laura" (To Laura). This poem became very popular among the romantics of that time. He became known as the "Father" of the "Modern Puerto Rican Poetry Movement". Among his most noted poetry books are:

  • Pomarrosas
  • Jovillos
  • Cantos de Rebeldía
  • Cantos del Pitirre

Confederation of the Spanish-speaking islands in the Caribbean

De Diego returned to Spain and studied law in Barcelona. He received his law degree and continued his studies until he graduated with a doctorate in law in 1892. He then returned to Puerto Rico to advocate for its autonomy from Spain.

De Diego set up his law practice in Arecibo and was the founder of the newspaper "La República" (The Republic). Together with Román Baldorioty de Castro, Diego founded the "Autonomist Party" in 1887 and along with Luis Muñoz Rivera and Matienzo Cintrón, he formed a committee which ultimately convinced the Spanish representative in the island Práxedes Mateo Sagasta to support the idea of autonomy for Puerto Rico. De Diego envisioned the establishment of a Confederation of the Spanish-speaking islands in the Caribbean which would include Dominican Republic and Cuba, known as the Antillean Confederation. In 1897 Spain acknowledged Puerto Rico's autonomy, a status which was short-lived.


After the United States invasion of Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War, the Treaty of Paris (1898) was executed ending the conflict and binding Spain to cede Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam and the Philippines as war bounties to the United States. De Diego was appointed to the ruling Executive Council of the island by the President of the United States William McKinley (1843-1901), a position to which he resigned to pursue the island's right to govern itself. In 1904, he co-founded the "Unionist Party" along with Luis Muñoz Rivera and Antonio R. Barceló.

De Diego was then elected to the House of Delegates, the only locally elected body of government allowed by the U.S., which De Diego presided from 1904 to 1917. The House of Delegates was subject to the U.S. President's veto power and unsuccessfully voted for the island's right to independence and self-government and petitioned against imposition of U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans. De Diego became known as the "Father of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement".

Later years

He founded the "Colegio de Agricultura y Artes Mecánicas de Mayagüez" now known as "University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez". De Diego was honored by Spain by being knighted "Caballero de la Raza" (Knight of the Race).

José de Diego's right leg was amputated in 1916 due to a gangrene infection. He died in New York City on July 16, 1918 during a recital of one of his poems. His remains were returned to Puerto Rico and are buried in the "Cementerio Antiguo de San Juan" (Old San Juan Cemetery), in San Juan, Puerto Rico.


José de Diego's memory has been honored in Puerto Rico, by having his birth date as an official holiday as well as the naming schools, avenues, and a highway after him. There are also schools in Chicago, Illinois, Brooklyn, New York, and Miami, Florida named after him.

Partial bibliography

  • Pomarrosas. Barcelona: Imprenta de Henrich y Ca. en Comnadita, 1904.
  • El caso de Puerto Rico y el Bill de tarifas. San Juan: Porto Rico Progress Publishing, 1913.
  • Jovillos. Barcelona: Editorial Maucci, 1916.
  • Cantos de pitirre. Palma de Mallorca: Imprenta Mosen Alcover, 1950.
  • Cantos de rebeldia. Barcelona: Editorial Maucci, 1916.
  • Obras Completas. Nuevas Campañas, el Plebiscito. San Juan de Puerto Rico: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña,
  • Obras Completas. Poesia. Vol. 2. San Juan: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 1973.
  • Ripoll, Luis. Antología Poética. España: Palma de Mallorca, 1977.

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