Historian, professor and university administrator. His historical research covers themes such as slavery in Puerto Rico and the historical environment of distinguished Puerto Ricans.
Luis Manuel Díaz Soler was born November 12, 1916 in the capital city of San Juan. He began his primary school studies in Barceloneta and later in the Santurce sector of San Juan. He grew vegetables and raised chickens to support his high school studies in Bayamón. He helped pay for his college studies at the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico, where he had enrolled to study Natural Sciences, in the same way.
After two years, he transferred to Arts and Sciences to study history, and he earned his degree in 1939. Later, he transferred to Louisiana State University to continue his graduate studies, which were interrupted by World War II. He was forced to join the United States Army.
While he was stationed at La Puntilla, he worked in the office of a warehouse for military construction materials and later in the Civil Censor office. In 1943, Pilar Barbosa, director of the History Department at the University of Puerto Rico gave him the opportunity to work as an interim instructor at the institution, replacing a professor who was working on his doctoral studies in Mexico. In 1946, he was promoted to assistant professor.
When the war ended in 1945, he returned to Louisiana to complete his master’s degree in History (1947) and a doctoral degree in Philosphy (1950). The same year, the University of Puerto Rico Press published his doctoral dissertation, which was titled La historia de la esclavitud negra en Puerto Rico (1493-1890). In 1953, his work won the first literature prize awarded by the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature.
Upon returning to Puerto Rico, after completing his studies, he returned to teaching at the University of Puerto Rico as an associate professor. In 1953, he was named a full professor. From 1952 to 1963, he was chairman of the History Department at the University and from 1963 to 1966 he was dean of the Humanities Faculty. He was also the director of the Center for Historical Research (1968 to 1970).
In 1970, he became director and dean of the Puerto Rico School of Hospitality Management, which was affiliated with Cornell University. From 1977 to 1999, he taught classes at the Center for Advanced Studies in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean and from 1982 to 1987 he held the post of dean of the Humanities Studies Division of the Metropolitan Campus of the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico.
Among his extensive historiography work are: editing and annotating Proyecto para la abolición de la esclavitud en Puerto Rico presentado a la Junta de Información de 1866-1867 (1959), a document that collects Puerto Rican abolitionist writings by authors such as José Julián Acosta, Segundo Ruiz Belvis and Francisco Mariano Quiñones; the biographical study Rosendo Matienzo Cintrón: orientador y guardián de una cultura, a two-volume work published by the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature in 1960; Puerto Rico: desde sus orígenes hasta el cese de la soberanía española published in 1994, a history of Puerto Rico in two volumes, and Puerto Rico: sus luchas por alcanzar estabilidad económica, definición política y afirmación cultural (1898-1996), published in 1998. He has also published articles and essays on the history of Puerto Rico in various publications and has presented a large number of speeches, some of which are collected in the book La esclavitud negra en Puerto Rico (1957).
Luis M. Díaz Soler is a member of various organizations, including the Puerto Rican Academy of the Spanish Language, the Puerto Rico Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Puerto Rican Academy of History, of which he was president from 1956 to 1961, the Pan-American Institute of Geography and History, the American Historical Association, the Southern Historical Association and the Royal Academy of History.
In 2000, the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities awarded him the Humanist of the Year award, which is granted to a Puerto Rican who has significantly contributed to knowledge of the humanities.
Díaz Soler passed away November 17, 2009.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 11, 2014.
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