Benítez, Jaime (1908–2001)

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Benítez, Jaime (1908–2001)

Jaime Benítez (b. 29 October 1908; d. 30 May 2001), Puerto Rican intellectual, politician, and member of the United States Congress (1973–1977), and one of the architects of modern Puerto Rico, especially its system of higher education. He was born in Vieques and educated in public schools in Puerto Rico; he received a master's degree in law from Georgetown University in 1931 and a master of arts from the University of Chicago in 1938. From 1931 to 1942, Benítez taught political science at the University of Puerto Rico and served as chancellor and then president of the university—and the entire university system—from 1942 until 1971. As president, he directed a complete reorganization of the university, publishing his plan in La reforma universitaria (1943). He established a university museum and a research library in the university's main campus at Río Piedras. Benítez attracted major intellectuals to teach at the university, among them the Spanish poets Pedro Salinas and Juan Ramón Jiménez, and founded and contributed to the literary review La Torre.

Benítez wrote influential books on education, including Education for Democracy on a Cultural Frontier (1955), Etica y estilo de la universidad (1964), Junto a la Torre: Jornadas de un programa universitario (1963), and La universidad del futuro (1964). He wrote for Sur and Cuadernos Americanos, the most prestigious cultural journals of Latin America, was a member of the United States National Commission for UNESCO (1948–1954), and lectured at many universities around the world. Benítez worked closely with Puerto Rican statesman Luis Muñoz Marín to establish the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention of Puerto Rico and served as chairman of the Committee on Bill of Rights (1951–1952). He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1976 and was elected as a Popular Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972 for a four-year term. From 1980 to 1986 he was a professor of government at the Inter-American University in Puerto Rico, and in 1984 he became a professor of government at the American College in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. While there he focused on finding faculty positions for scholars who were refugees from dictatorial regimes in Spain and other countries. He died on May 30, 2001, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

See alsoPuerto Ricoxml .


Cesáreo Rosa-Nieves, Biografías puertorriqueñas: Pérfil histórico de un pueblo (1970); Hispanic Members of Congress, 1822–1994 (1996).

                              Georgette Magassy Dorn

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Benítez, Jaime (1908–2001)

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