Eugenio María de Hostos (1839-1903)

Today marked the birth of Eugenio María de Hostos. Eugenio María de Hostos y Bonilla was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico on January 11, 1839. He went to Spain for his secondary studies and then law school. While there, he joined the Spanish republicans, only to become disillusioned when they abandoned their pledge to make Puerto Rico independent. Hostos moved to New York City in 1869 where he became a member of the Cuban Revolutionary Junta and editor of the Cuban independence journal La Revolución.

In 1870 he began a four-year trip throughout Latin America giving lectures about the abolition of slavery and his dreams of the foundation of the Federación Antillana, a federation of Antillean nations. He left a mark in Latin America. For example, his championing of mistreated Chinese laborers in Peru helped change public opinion there. He also helped to develop that country’s educational system. He lived in Chile for three years, where he taught at the University of Chile. His teaching and speeches (for example, “The Scientific Education of Women”) in favor of allowing women to attend college helped transform the Chilean educational system. In Argentina he proposed a railroad system between Argentina and Chile. His proposal was accepted and the first locomotive was named after him. Hostos later played a major role in reorganizing the educational system of the Dominican Republic, where he founded the first Normal School.

He returned to New York City in 1898 and for the next two years pursued his advocacy of establishing the future status of Puerto Rico through popular vote throughout the island. He was a member of a delegation that delivered such demands to U.S. President William McKinley. His hopes for Puerto Rican self-government after the Spanish-American War (1898) were disappointed when the U.S. government rejected his proposal for autonomy and instead established its rule over the island as a territory. Hostos returned to the Dominican Republic, where he remained until his death on August 11, 1903.

He wrote many essays and treatises on social science topics and was one of the first systematic sociologists in Latin America. For his own epitaph, Hostos wrote “I wish that they will say: In that island [Puerto Rico] a man was born who loved truth, desired justice, and worked for the good of men.”

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