The Birthday of José Celso Barbosa falls on July 27 and is celebrated with great reverence in Puerto Rico. Dr. Barbosa’s enduring legacy as a champion of Puerto Rican sovereignty earned him the title of “father of the statehood movement in Puerto Rico.” Among his prolific achievements are being the first African Puerto Rican to receive a medical degree in the U.S. and introducing the concept of shared health insurance in the late 19th century. Puerto Rico remembers the hero with an official public holiday. Offices and holdings are closed throughout the nation, and his teachings are shared with younger generations.
History of Birthday of Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa
Dr. José Celso Barbosa Alcala was born in a remote town in Puerto Rico. He was a bright and forward child with an affinity for education. Following his admirable performance in primary school, he was accepted into the highly acclaimed Jesuit Seminary, becoming the first Black person to attend the prestigious Christian convent. Soon after completing his schooling, he moved to New York to explore his options and increase his academic exposure. After an unfortunate run-in with pneumonia, Barbosa dropped his original plan to pursue law and opted to go to medical school. He graduated as valedictorian from the University of Michigan in 1880, becoming the first Puerto Rican to earn a medical degree in the U.S. Upon his return to his hometown, Bayamón, he set up a clinic and provided medical services to the entire island.
Barbosa quickly acquired local fame, earning him the eyes and ears of many political leaders. At the height of the Spanish-American War in 1898, Barbosa joined the Red Cross and traveled to conflict areas, often risking his own life. In one of these excursions, Barbosa journeyed to the trenches of San Juan Bay, which acquired him the Spanish Government’s favor. However, things turned south when Puerto Rico surrendered to the U.S. at the end of the war.
Barbosa passionately disliked the United States’ territorial powers over Puerto Rico. On July 4, 1899, he formed a pro-statehood political arm, Partido Republicano de Puerto Rico, and started recruiting like-minded people. He also served as a diplomat for the nation. In 1917, Barbosa was elected to the first Puerto Rican Senate. Today, he is remembered for his devoted medical service, distinguished statesmanship, and innate love for his homeland.
Birthday of Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa timeline
Dr. José Celso Barbosa is born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico.
An 18-year-old Barbosa moves to New York City to pursue higher studies.
Barbosa becomes the first Puerto Rican to earn a medical degree in the U.S.
Barbose launches Partido Republicano de Puerto Rico, a pro-statehood party in Puerto Rico.
U.S. President William McKinley names Barbosa as a member of the Executive Cabinet to develop relations with Puerto Rico.
Barbosa is elected to the first-ever Puerto Rican Senate.
Birthday of Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa FAQs
When was José Celso Barbosa born?
Barbosa was born on July 27, 1857.
Is Puerto Rico a part of America?
Although it isn’t one of the 50 states, Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States.
Which language do Puerto Ricans speak?
Puerto Rico’s official languages are Spanish and English.
How to Observe Birthday of Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa
Watch the official commemoration
Every July 27, the town of Bayamón holds a formal event in honor of its hero. Long-term supporters and nationalists organize demonstrations, and a ceremony is held in front of his tomb at the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery in historic Old San Juan.
Visit the José Celso Barbosa House Museum
Barbosa’s ancestral home in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, has been turned into a museum operated by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. Years of his life are stored within the museum's walls, making it a building of utmost reverence to locals. Find some time to visit the landmark and walk in Barbosa’s footsteps.
Learn a new language
Barbosa perfected the English language within a year. Language is knowledge, and knowledge is priceless. To honor the hero of Puerto Rico, pick up a new language and commit yourself to learning it for a year.
5 Facts About Dr. José Celso Barbosa
He was a curious creator
Barbosa developed the first Credit Union in North and South America.
He was a loyal public servant
Before he was elected a senator, Barbosa served in Puerto Rico’s first civilian government.
He was a statesman and educator
Barbosa founded the country’s first bilingual newspaper, “El Tiempo,” in 1907.
He was a public policy savant
Barbosa was involved in the successful negotiation of U.S. citizenship for Puerto Ricans.
He was a medical hero
Barbosa signed up with the Red Cross and served in the war-torn areas of San Juan.
Why Birthday of Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa is Important
He persevered through many hardships
Dr. José Celso Barbosa was rejected from many colleges, including Columbia University, because of his skin color. Nevertheless, he persevered and kept applying to colleges until he was accepted into the University of Michigan.
He’s an inspiration to many
Barbosa is credited with making an early version of a health-insurance system. His selfless public service and devotion to the nation make him worthy of celebration.
He was a fearless public servant
From serving the wounded on active battlefields to launching a political party, Barbosa was a fearless servant and fought for the causes that he believed in. He could have settled in the U.S. and pursued a conflict-free life, but he chose to return to his homeland. On José Celso Barbosa Day, we honor the remarkable Puerto Rican’s tenacity and courage.
Birthday of Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa dates