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Former governor of Puerto Rico to speak April 3 at The Warehouse
Former governor of Puerto Rico to speak April 3 at The Warehouse March 27, 2008Eileen Jevisejevis@uc.syr.edu
The Hon. Rafael Hernandez Colon, who headed the Puerto Rican government for three four-year terms before leaving public office in 1993, will speak to an audience of SU students, faculty, staff and community members Thursday, April 3, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of The Warehouse, 350 West Fayette St. in downtown Syracuse. The governor, who will speak about the current political status of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and its relationship with the United States, will be introduced by Bethsaida (Bea) Gonzalez, president of the Common Council of the City of Syracuse and dean of University College, the continuing education division of Syracuse University.
When elected to head the government of Puerto Rico in 1973 at age 36, Hernandez Colon became the youngest governor of the island since 1898, the year that the island’s political affiliation with the United States began following a U.S. military occupation. Hernandez Colon achieved political prominence by his late 20s; in 1965, he had already attained enough distinction to be named minister of justice. By 1968, as a candidate for the Popular Democratic Party, he was elected to the Senate, becoming the youngest member ever to hold a senatorial seat in Puerto Rican history. In light of his political stardom, he easily became president of the Senate, a post that he held until 1972, when he successfully ran for the position of governor of Puerto Rico.
Economically, the island faced a severe recession induced by the 1973 oil crisis during Hernandez Colon’s first term. Politically, he fought to retain the island’s status as a “free associated state,” opposing U.S. President Gerald Ford’s willingness to make Puerto Rico into the 51st state in the union. He later suffered a defeat in his bid for reelection, losing in 1977 to the New Progressive Party candidate Carlos Romero Barcelo, who favored statehood. Subsequently, he scored an electoral victory against Barcelo in 1985 and four years later secured re-election to another term, which ended in 1993, when he had already publicly announced that he would no longer seek re-election as governor of Puerto Rico and had resigned as president of the Popular Democratic Party.
Various polls taken in recent years show Hernandez Colon as the politician with the second-best image in Puerto Rico, the most-liked former governor and the most-liked member of his party. Born in Ponce, P.R., Hernandez Colon received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Johns Hopkins University in 1956 and a law degree from the University of Puerto Rico in 1959. A practicing lawyer and professor of law, he has published widely on the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s political relationship with the United States.
The event is sponsored by SU’s Latino-Latin American Studies Program, University College and the Office of Multicultural Affairs in collaboration with Onondaga County’s Spanish Action League. Street parking is available near The Warehouse.