Latinegr@s Project: Dr. José Celso Barbosa

Today’s Project highlight was actually a suggestion from one of my followers that I have met on Twitter. She had suggested that I look up the name: Dr. José Barbosa. What made me happy about today’s highlight is that this is the true nature of the project. I do invite more communal involvement because I am not sure we will get to everyone we want to this month.

Dr. José Barbosa (1857-1921) was a citizen of Bayamón, Puerto Rico who moved to the United States in search for a better education. Notably he graduated with a medical degree from the University of Michigan and was the valedictorian of the class of 1880. Taking the knowledge that he learned, he moved back to Bayamón and opened his own practice.

Dr. Barbosa was the first native born Puerto Rican to have a medical degree from the United States and that was not an easy thing to deal with. The Spanish government did not recognize his medical degree because it was not acquired through a university in Europe. It took the intervention of the American Consul for Barbosa to be recognized as a legitimate physician.

Barbosa’s work in the medical field became well known across the island. He became a proponent of employee based health benefits, which at the time was not really hard of. This was a very early start to health insurance in Puerto Rico

After the Spanish American war, Dr. Barbosa formed the Puerto Rican Republican Party. This was a political party the was for idea that Puerto Rico should become the next state of America. In 1900 he was appointed to The Executive Cabinet of the United States by President William McKinley. Finally in 1907, he created the first bilingual publication on the island called El Tiempo.

Dr. José Barbosa died on September 21, 1921. Since then Puerto Rico has declared July 27 an official holiday. His residence has been converted into a Museum as well. One thing that I did notice in my research of Dr. Barbosa is the fact that many Republicans are proud to consider him a conservative, which he indeed was. Many also refer to him as the father of the Pro Statehood movement that still exists today.

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