First Puerto Rican governor of the island. He was appointed by United States President Harry Truman. Previously, he had served as resident commissioner in Washington under the Popular Democratic Party, of which he was a founding member.
He was born in Carolina on April 16, 1897. After finishing his secondary education, he moved to San Juan to study at the University of Puerto Rico and, later, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he earned a degree in engineering in 1914.
He returned to Puerto Rico and in 1920 he began managing the family lands dedicated to growing sugar cane and raising livestock. At that time, he was a member of the Republican Union Party, under which he was elected to the Carolina Municipal Assembly in 1928, a post he held until 1932. That year, he assumed the post of substitute member of the Central Territorial Committee of the Republican Socialist Coalition, representing Humacao. Beginning in 1928, he also took on the task of informing the rural public about health issues and other aspects of modern times through cinematic educational campaigns.
During the debate over the implementation of the Costigan-Jones Act in Puerto Rico, which imposed a maximum quota on the importation of sugar into the United States, he took part in founding the Sugar Cane Farmers Association of Puerto Rico, of which he was president from 1933 to 1937. He argued against implementation of the law, which would adversely affect the Puerto Rican farmers who grew sugar cane and sold it to the large central sugar mills. He argued that if the law was approved, the growers should be offered a subsidy.
It was during this era, while he was lobbying in Washington on behalf of the association, that he came to know Luis Muñoz Marín. After supporting the Chardón Plan and the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Agency (PRRA), for which he worked beginning in 1935, he distanced himself from the Republican Union Party. In 1934, he joined the Liberal Party and in 1936 he ran unsuccessfully for the Humacao Senate district seat.
In 1937, he joined the Clear, Authentic and Complete Liberal Party, an organization founded after Muñoz and his followers left the Liberal Party. In 1940, he was a founding member of the Popular Democratic Party, and that year he was elected to represent Carolina in the House of Representatives. During the four years of his incumbency, he participated in various committees related to the health, education, economy and housing of the island.
In 1944, the Popular Democratic Party selected him as the candidate for resident commissioner, a post he won. As commissioner, he sought more funds for the socio-economic development of the island and argued for the need to resolve the political future of Puerto Rico and its relationship with the United States.
On September 3, 1946, President Harry S. Truman named him governor of Puerto Rico, making him the first Puerto Rican to occupy that important post. During his government, he implemented a series of projects for the purpose of encouraging industrialization of the island and improving the living conditions of the population, such as creating electric and water infrastructure, offering tax breaks to businesses that established on the island and construction of health centers, schools and low-cost housing.
It was also during his incumbency that the United States Navy expropriated a large part of the island municipality of Vieques to build a base that was used as a firing range.
In January of 1948, Luis Muñoz Marín became the first governor elected by the people of Puerto Rico through a popular vote. Piñero retired from public service and went to work for the company Long Construction.
Piñero died in his home town on November 19, 1952. In May of 2002, members of the Piñero family donated to the University of the East his personal papers, as well as photographs and film productions by the former governor. The Jesús T. Piñero Collection is located in the Reference Room of the Carolina campus of the university.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 11, 2014.
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