Municipalities / Education in Río Piedras
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High school Ramón Vila Mayo
The old municipality of Río Piedras, today a sector within the municipality of San Juan, has played an important role in the development of education in Puerto Rico. Despite the fact that Río Piedras was founded in 1714, it was not until the beginning of the 19th century that its urban center was created. During the first years after its founding, there were no schools in the Río Piedras region.

In 1837, the Río Piedras towntown, founding: A group of vecinos that wanted to found a town had to grant a power of attorney to one or more other vecinos to represent them before the governor and viceroy. This person could authorize the founding of the town and the establishment of a parish. The grantors of the power of attorney had to be a majority in the given territory and more than ten in number. Once the case had been made, the governor appointed a capitán poblador or settlement official to represent the vecinos and one or more delegates, who usually lived in nearby cabildos vecinos to receive the necessary documentation. Proof was required that the settlement was so far from a church that it was very difficult for the settlers to partake of sacraments and municipal services. In general, proof was provided of the absence or bad condition of roads and bridges. If the petition was approved, it was required that the vecinos mark off the new municipality and build public works such as a church, a parish house, a government house (Casa del Rey), a slaughterhouse, and a cemetery, and to set aside land for the town square or plaza and the commons (ejidos). The vecinos were expected to cover the cost of building these works by levying special assessments. Usually one of the land owners donated some land for the founding. Once the requirements had been met, the governor authorized the founding of the town and the parish, and he appointed a Lieutenant at War who usually was the same capitán poblador. council inaugurated the first municipal elementary school for boys and in 1862 the first one for girls. In 1870, each neighborhood in Río Piedras had an elementary school. The increase in the amount of schools was due to the fact that in 1865 there was a directive that stated that each town council should have a board of education that would establish and supervise elementary schools funded by the municipality. However, according to the census of 1897, 85 percent of Río Piedras population was illiterate. This was probably due to fact that few children could go to school because they lived far away from the schools and did not have a way to get there. In addition, parents did not show interest in their children’s education because they believed it was not necessary for the manual work they themselves did, and that their children would probably do. Therefore, the only ones that could go to school were children of the wealthy and those who lived near the schools.

During the 20th century, education underwent great progress in Río Piedras as well as in the rest of the island. With the arrival of the United States in 1898, Puerto Rico’s educational panorama changed. The U.S. government reorganized the public education system as part of their program to Americanize. As a consequence, this interest in education brought an increase in the number of schools.

In 1900, the Escuela Normal was created in Fajardo, which was transferred to Río Piedras in 1903 and marked the beginning of the University of Puerto Rico. At the beginning, it only had two faculties, but in time, there were more. A community of professors, administrators, and students was created; they contributed with their talent and efforts to the town’s development, to the extent that Río Piedras became known as la Ciudad Universitaria (University City).

In 1950, Río Piedras had 24 elementary schools, four middle schools, and one high school named Ramón Vilá Mayo. It also had some private schools, secular and Catholic, such as Academia San Agustín, Colegio San José, and La Milagrosa.

With the progress in university studies on the island, university institutions and colleges have appeared in Río Piedras such as the Universidad Interamericana and the campuses of the Fundación Ana G. Méndez. Today, Río Piedras is the main and most important educational center in Puerto Rico.

Adapted by Grupo Editorial EPR
Original source: Ocasio Meléndez, Marcial E. Río Piedras (Ciudad universitaria): Notas para su historia, 1985. Project subsidized by State Historic Preservation Office.

Autor: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: December 29, 2009.

Version: 08102704 Rev. 1
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