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Rafael Cordero was a free black man born in San Juan on October 24, 1790. Most free black men were poor and illiterate but he was different. Very little is known about him. He was the son of Lucas Andino and Rita Molina. No one knows why he used the name Cordero but his sister used it also. At that time Puerto Rico was a colony with more free blacks than slaves. His parents, both free blacks, were educated. They could read and they taught their children at a time and place when most of the white population was illiterate.

Cordero's story is extremely unusual. He was a cigar maker and had his own shop in a very poor section in San Juan. He began teaching black children how to read and write and spent time tutoring them in the classics. Back then there were only two school for children in the entire island. Soon Cordero was teaching white children as well. He taught without pay for it was not until his later years that the government recognized him and budgeted $15.00 per month for his school.

Cordero's alumni adored and revered him remembering to visit him often. Many went on to become civic leaders. His was an integrated school. His students fought for the abolition of slavery. After his death on July 5th 1868 a former student, the print shop owner, prints a Biography in his honor. "Bless his memory!" pleading to the former students of this great man. The Maestro's funeral was a grand event. It was attended by former students that included heads of state, priest, scientists, business men, doctors, lawyers, politicians, young children, grandfathers and grandmothers. More than two thousand people participate in the funeral march. The Maestro was taken to the cemetery on the shoulders of his former pupils. A band of former students who had become musicians played at the funeral. Heading the procession were his school children, carrying sweet smelling lilacs.

Today there is a school and a street named for him in San Juan. A plaque on Luna Street commemorates the house where he lived and taught.

Roberto Clemente (1934-1972) was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico on August 18, 1934. At age eighteen Clemente signed up with the Cangrejeros de Santurce and two years later was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates where he played for eighteen seasons. Clemente became one of baseball's most accomplished players and premier defensive outfielder. He was awarded the Golden Glove. In 1972, after his 3,000th hit in the last game of the 1972 season, Clemente died in an airplane crash while on a mission to supply earthquake victims in Managua, Nicaragua. The plane crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico. Clemente was selected for the Hall of Fame in 1973.



Josť Campeche, (1752-1809) was born in San Juan on January 6th 1752 to an African freed slave and a Canary Islander. Campeche became Puerto Rico's first and one of its most prominent "painters." He never left the island and had no formal schooling in his chosen profession. Campeche produced around 400 pieces of art and became known as "the most gifted of Latin American rococo artist." Much of his art reflected his religious devotion but he was also known for his talents as a portrait artist. Today his art is found over all Latino America and in Europe.


Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was born on January 24, 1874 in San Juan. Schomburg was primarily self-taught but attended public schools in Puerto Rico and attended St. Thomas college in the Virgin Islands. At school in the Virgin Islands he was informed by one of his teachers that blacks had no history or accomplishments. Schomburg set out to prove his teacher wrong. Schomburg began collecting information, documents, memorabillia, and other materials on African history and culture from all around the world. Soon he became a walking encyclopedia on black culture and history.

Schomburg's obsession with making black history "less a matter of argument and more a matter of record" and to "restore what slavery took away" makes this self-taught, lonely visionary of indomitable spirit one whom the world of black scholarship will forever be immensely indebted. Schomburg died in 1938.

Today the "Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture," located at 135th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem, NY has over 150,000 volumes of black history, and nearly five million artifacts, photographs, magazines, and manuscripts from throughout the world and has become the mecca for anyone needing to document or research black history.