Santiago Iglesias was Spanish-born labor and organizer leader. He was one of the founders of the first Puerto Rican Socialist Party. Because of his annexationist convictions, he worked for union between Puerto Rico and the United States. He was elected to the Puerto Rico Senate while he was a member of the Socialist Party and later as a member of the coalition between the Socialists and the Republicans. He also served as the resident commissioner in Washington.
Santiago Iglesias Pantín was born in La Coruña, Spain, on February 22, 1872. He began his studies there and trained as a carpenter. At a young age, he came into contact with the anarchist movement in his home country and participated in protests. At 14 years of age, he went to Cuba, where he joined labor unions. He served as secretary of the Havana Circle of Workers. He was persecuted for his activities on behalf of workers and he left the country.
In 1896 he arrived in Puerto Rico, where he worked as a carpenter. The following year, Iglesias Pantín, along with typographers Ramón Romero Rosa and José Ferrer y Ferrer, carpenter Fernando Gómez Acosta and artisans Norberto Quiñones, José Rivera, Eduardo Conde and Eusebio Félix, founded the weekly Ensayo Obrero, which supported the unionization of workers under the theme “No place is more of a homeland than the workshop, and nothing is more religious than work.”
Because of his participation in the unionization of workers and the periodical, the Spanish government jailed him for seven months in 1898. After the invasion by the United States, he was freed by the military government as part of a general amnesty.
On October 20, 1898, Iglesias Pantín, along with other labor leaders, founded the Regional Federation of Workers and its official newspaper, Porvenir Social. It lobbied for better salaries, reduced taxes and reforms in the public education system. However, the leadership of the Federation debated whether the organization should join one of the organized political parties or remain unaffiliated with the established parties.
Because of this dispute, Iglesias Pantín and other dissidents left the organization and created the Free Federation of Workers (FLT for its Spanish acronym) in 1899. Simultaneously, they founded the Workers Socialist Party of Puerto Rico. In 1900, after a visit to the United States, where he met with Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) – the conservative labor union – he was able to get the AFL to incorporate the FLT.
He became a non-salaried employee of the AFL in 1901, when Gompers designated him general organizer of the AFL in Puerto Rico and Cuba. In 1903, he founded the newspaper Unión Obrera, which was published until 1906. In 1904, the Free Federation of Workers supported the Puerto Rico Union Party, a heterogeneous organization that united former autonomists, republicans, labor union leaders and other groups under a platform that rejected the colonial regime established by the Foraker Act. Once in the government, the party debated the possibility of becoming a state of the United States or creating an independent nation under the protection of the United States. In 1908, while affiliated with the Union Party, Iglesias Pantín was a candidate for resident commissioner in Washington, but he was defeated by Tulio Larrinaga.
When the Union Party eliminated statehood from its platform in 1913, he left the organization. He believed in statehood for Puerto Rico because he considered it the best alternative for the workers of the island. To promote his ideals, he founded the newspaper Justicia Social (1914-1925). Later, in 1915, he was one of the founders of the Socialist Party, whose objective was to organize workers into a political party. It also had a pro-statehood platform. This party was affiliated with the Socialist Party of the United States, led at the time by Gompers.
As a member of the Socialist Party, he was elected senator in 1917, and was re-elected in 1920. In 1924, the Socialist Party reached an agreement with the Pure Republican Party, led by Rafael Martínez Nadal. They created the Coalition, which consisted of an association of parties without becoming an independent party. Under the coalition, Iglesias Pantín was elected senator in 1928. During this era, he also served as secretary of the Pan-American Organization of the Worker (1925-1933).
In 1932, the Republican Socialist Coalition was officially founded between the Republican Union and the Socialist Party. In the elections of that same year, he was elected resident commissioner in Washington, a position he occupied until his death on December 5, 1939. During his incumbency, he was able to get some federal benefits extended to Puerto Rico, such as the Federal Highway Act and the Bankhead-Jones Act, which sponsored agricultural research, among others.
“Iglesias, Santiago, (1872-1939)”. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States House of Representatives, s. f. Web. 14 junio 2009.
Roche Velázquez, Mario. “Santiago Iglesias Pantín: datos biográficos”. Centro de documentación obrera Santiago Iglesias Pantín. Biblioteca del Colegio Universitario de Humacao de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, s. f. Web. 14 junio 2009. Archivo en PDF.
“Santiago Iglesias”. Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-1995. Library of Congress, s. f. Web. 14 junio 2009.
“Santiago Iglesias Pantín 1870-1939”. Santiago Iglesias.com. Santiago Iglesias Educational Society, s. f. Web. 14 junio 2009.
“Santiago Iglesias Pantín: líder obrero, socialista, anexionista, Comisionado Residente en Washington”. La Voz del Centro, 2004. MP3.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 11, 2014.
This post is also available in: Español