Rafael Cordero Molina (1790–1868) is often described as The Father of Public Education in the island of Puerto Rico. He's said to have offered children on the island education for free regardless of their class status or race. He established his home as a classroom to teach youth and today his home is historically preserved in Puerto Rico (unfortunately the Afro-Taino museum was not). He died before having to bear witness to a new form of colonization by the US in 1898.
His work has influenced several educators. One such educator is Arturo Alfonso Schomburg as it has been written:
Schomburg was also inspired by educators. His favorite figure in the field was Rafael Cordero Molina. It was Schomburg's admiration for this Black Puerto Rican educator and his extraordinary contributions, which helped to shape his own educational philosophy. Rafael Cordero Molina founded the first school for Blacks, mulattos, and the poor in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1810. Cordero's school was said to have been one of the best schools in Puerto Rico. The students at the school achieved high levels of literacy and academic achievement after short periods of enrollment.
Rafael Cordero Molina believed that the first duty of a nation was to educate its people. He felt that education should be available to all members of a nation and that no one should be left behind, regardless of class, race or gender. The goal of education was to cultivate and empower the individual so that he could improve his life and position in society, and ultimately free himself and others from repressive situations. For this reason, Cordero believed that education was of primary importance to minorities, the poor and the disadvantaged. It became apparent that Cordero's educational approach enlightened his young learners. They became increasingly concerned about their rights and their role in society. Cordero's school produced several renowned figures in Puerto Rico's political and literary history, such as José Julián Acosta, the famous abolitionist, Román Baldorioty, political reformist, and Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, "the Patriarch of Puerto Rican Literature."
Nearly all of San Juan, Puerto Rico's schools at that time charged tuition. Cordero Molina's school, however, offered education at no cost to poor children of any race. The school gained so much respect that even San Juan's upper class began to enroll their children. Schomburg's strong identification with Rafael Cordero Molina may have accounted for his strong beliefs in equal‑opportunity community education.
Read more about him in Espanol aqui.
foto credit: artistasdepuertorico.ning.com