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World of 1898: International Perspectives on the Spanish American War

Luis Muñoz Rivera

Luis Muñoz Rivera [Puerto Rican Cultural Institute]



Born in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico, Muñoz Rivera studied in local schools and entered politics in 1887. He became a leader of the Autonomist Party and in 1890 founded its newspaper La Democracía. In 1893 he journeyed to Spain to learn about its political system. When he returned to Puerto Rico, he participated in the writing of the Plan de Ponce which proposed administrative autonomy for the island. In March 1895 he returned to Spain as part of a commission that met with Liberal leader Práxedes Mateo Sagasta. That political group accepted the commission's views and in November 1897 Sagasta granted the Autonomist Charter. Muñoz Rivera served as Secretary of State and Chief of the Cabinet for the newly-independent Government of Puerto Rico until U.S. troops invaded the island in July 1898.

In 1899 Muñoz Rivera founded the newspaper El Territorio, the voice of landowners hurt by a U.S.-imposed blockade. Just as he had done in Spain, Muñoz Rivera traveled to the United States to argue for the establishment of free trade between the island and the mainland. He then resettled in New York where he founded the bilingual newspaper Puerto Rican Herald in 1901. Upon his return to Puerto Rico in 1904, Muñoz Rivera founded the Unionist Party and was elected in 1906 to the House of Delegates where he served until 1910 when he became Resident Commissioner to the U.S. House of Representatives. Although he was largely responsible for the Jones Act (signed March 4, 1917), granting U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans and creating a bicameral legislature modeled on the U.S., he died in Luquillo before the act was enacted into law.

For additional information about Muñoz Rivera, please see his biography in the publication Hispanic Americans in Congress.