Eugenio María de Hostos: Puerto Rico’s Architect of Liberation
In 19th century’s Puerto Rico, there was a man called Eugenio María de Hostos who dreamt of independence and union for his people.
This dream still hasn’t come true, but Eugenio María de Hostos’ ideas and work left a legacy of education throughout Latin America.
Keep reading to learn more about the life and work of Eugenio María de Hostos, his dream of creating a union of the Antilles Islands, and his life-long fight to achieve that goal.
Who Was Eugenio María de Hostos and Why Is He So Important?
Eugenio María de Hostos was a Puerto Rican writer, intellectual, journalist, educator, liberator, and sociologist among other occupations.
More importantly, he was one of the main voices pushing for the liberation of Puerto Rico from Spain and the creation of a Union of Antilles islands during the 19th century.
Mainly in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Dominican Republic, he’s recognized as one of the architects of the liberation of these three islands from Spanish colonial rule.
Eugenio María de Hostos Biography
Eugenio María de Hostos was born on January 11, 1839, in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, at a time when this island was still one of the last Spanish colonial possessions in the Americas. As a result, he was a Spanish citizen born in the American territories of the Spanish Crown, considered at the time criollo or “Creole.”
As a criollo, Eugenio María de Hostos was a type of “second-class Spanish citizen.” He received a good education and his talents took him far, yet he never had the breaks and opportunities reserved only for the citizens born in the Spanish mainland—who were called peninsulares or “Peninsular,” as a reference to the Iberian Peninsula.
An Education and Successful Career in Spain
In 1852, Eugenio María de Hostos went to Spain to finish his academic formation. He studied law in Bilbao and Madrid, and got in contact with groups of Karl Krause followers. Krause was a German philosopher who heavily influenced Spanish education ideas in the 19th century.
Krause’s ideas determined those of Eugenio María de Hostos, who saw in them a way to achieve the independence of the Antilles. He became a fervent promoter of the independence of the three Spanish remaining colonies in the Americas, giving lectures about the topic in Madrid.
When the First Spanish Republic came into existence in 1873, he made sure that it would grant independence to Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. However, when even a republican Spain couldn’t bring itself to lose those territories, he left Spain to keep fighting for the independence cause in the Americas.
A Citizen of the Americas
Back in the Americas, Eugenio María de Hostos dedicated his whole life to improving the lives of the citizens of the Americas through education, political activism, and never forgetting about his ultimate goal of achieving the independence of the Antilles and the creation of an Antilles Union.
He traveled throughout the Americas, always working towards his political goals. In New York, de Hostos joined the Junta Revolucionaria Cubana or “Cuban Revolutionary Board” and was director of its newspaper, La Revolución or “The Revolution.”
In 1870, he founded the Sociedad de Inmigración Antillana or “Antille Immigration Society.” In Peru, he opened the La Patria or “The Homeland” newspaper and created the Sociedad de Auxilios para Cuba or “Cuba Helping Society.”
He later traveled through Chile and Argentina. In Chile, he became a member of the Academia de Bellas Letras de Santiago de Chile or “Fine Letters Academy.”
In Argentina, he received an academic post at the Buenos Aires University, but declined in order to continue with his political activism.
He would then go on traveling throughout the Americas, visiting Rio de Janeiro, New York, Boston, Caracas, and Santo Domingo—where he put together a long and productive education work, founding a series of schools and universities.
The Liberation of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Dominican Republic
In 1895, José Martí started the Independence War in Cuba, giving Eugenio María de Hostos a renewed hope that his long-awaited dream was close to come true.
In 1898, he went back to Puerto Rico where they appointed him chief of the commission in charge of claiming independence from the United States after the American-Spanish War.
In 1899, he traveled to Washington to interview with American President William McKinley to explain the needs and interests of Puerto Rico.
However, in 1900, the U.S. Congress passed the Foraker Bill, which determined the status of Puerto Rico as a U.S. territory, giving a fatal blow to de Hostos’ hopes.
Cuba and the Dominican Republic would achieve their independence through different grades of success and with their own struggles.
However, the dream of Eugenio María de Hostos of creating an Antilles Union was never close to materializing.
Eugenio María de Hostos died on August 11, 1903, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He is buried in the Panteón de la Patria de la República Dominicana or “Dominican Republic Homeland Cemetery.”
He asked to be buried there and moved to Puerto Rico when his country was independent.
Puerto Rico is up to this day one of the last non-independent territories in the world.
A Legacy of Education
Although he wasn’t successful in his lifelong dream of achieving independence for his country and creating an Antilles Union, he left behind a legacy of education throughout the Americas but mostly in the Dominican Republic where founded the Escuela Normal (Teacher-Training College) of Santiago de los Caballeros, and the Escuela Nocturna (Nightly School) of Santo Domingo.
He was also named General Inspector of Public Education in the Dominican Republic and was Principal of the Escuela Normal de Santo Domingo.
In Chile, he was Rector of different schools and universities, and wrote a Teaching Reform for that country. He also redesigned the curriculum of Santiago de Chile’s Law School.
He published a wide array of essays, treatises, novels, and poems—his most important work being the novel La peregrinación de Bayoán or “The Bayoan Pilgrimage.”
Nowadays, the University Eugenio María de Hostos continues his educational work in Santo Domingo, and the Airport Eugenio María de Hostos in Mayagüez honors one of the most illustrious children of that Puerto Rican city.
Discover the History of Latin America and Practice Your Spanish
Hostos was one of the most committed Latin American citizens, even before the concept of Latin America existed.
He was able to see the common identity of the peoples that populated the American continent of his time, and of the Antilles islands in particular.
By learning about Latin America’s history you’re able to better understand this fascinating culture and the language it speaks.
Mastering the Spanish language opens many opportunities for you, such as cooler and better-paid jobs, as well as making your traveling through the Antilles much easier.
Sign up for a free class with one of our certified, native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala. They teach more than 24,000 actively enrolled students every month, offer flexible scheduling, and tailored Spanish programs.
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