Why is Jose Celso Barbosa important?
José Celso Barbosa, a doctor and a politician, was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico in 1857. He received his medical degree from the University of Michigan. He was a member of the Autonomous Party led by Baldorioty de Castro. In 1899, he founded the Republican Party of Puerto Rico that advocated statehood for the island.
A brief history on Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa and his accomplishments
José Celso Barbosa Alcalá, a physician, polemicist, professor, politician, and publisher, was born on July 27, 1857 in Bayamón, Puerto Rico to Carmen Alcalá and Hermógenes Barbosa.Barbosa’s life traversed significant periods: Spanish colonization; Grito de Lares; slavery, abolition and emancipation; and the Spanish-American War.
Barbosa attended New York’s Fort Edward Collegiate Institute (1876) but was denied admission into Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (1877). As their first Afro-Puerto Rican student, Barbosa earned a medical degree with honors from the University of Michigan (1880). Becoming the first Puerto Rican to earn a medical degree in the U.S.
Returning to Puerto Rico, his medical reputation grew while serving poor and Black communities. Spanish authorities refused to recognize his American medical training until a hostile panel administered additional assessments. He went on to work with many health related groups like The Mutual Aid Society, and created Puerto Rico’s first cooperative (1893-1898). He taught natural history, anatomy, obstetrics, and midwifery at the Ateneo Científico y Literario (1888) and was appointed Under-Secretary of Education during the brief autonomous regime.
He advocated for autonomy from Spain and supported the United States’ annexation of Puerto Rico. Considered “Father of the Puerto Rican Statehood Movement,” Barbosa established the Republican Party of Puerto Rico (1899) and their organ, El Tiempo, the island’s first bilingual newspaper (1907).
Politics and Beyond
Dr. Barbosa was inspired by African American abolitionists, educators, scholars. He used that inspiration to continue providing great medical care to his people, use his political platform to help improve living conditions, and published forty years’ worth of articles about civil rights and justice for Afro-Puerto Rican people, and African people throughout the diaspora.
For all these reasons and many more we are recognizing this great man. He dedicated over 30 years of his life to serving his people as a doctor, educator, and politician because he wanted his people to live free, healthy, and prosperous lives. To Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa Alcala, Happy Birthday!!
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