Ernesto Ramos Antonini

Ernesto Ramos Antonini

Lawyer, politician, legislator and labor leader. He was co-founder of the Popular Democratic Party, as well as the author of various laws that created the three public schools on the island that specialize in music, the symphonic orchestra of Puerto Rico, and the Conservatory of Music.

He was born in Mayagüez on April 24, 1898, the son of Federico Ramos Escalera and Rosa Antonini Danseau. He attended high school in Ponce and went to college at the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras. To pay for his studies, he worked playing the piano at the Rívoli Cinema and directed the Reserve Office Training Corps (ROTC) band. After earning a law degree in 1922, he began to work as a criminal defense lawyer.

Ramos Antonini was a member of the central board of the Union Party of Puerto Rico, a diverse group consisting of former autonomists, republicans, labor unionists and other groups that rejected the existing colonial regime. Its members were part of the Puerto Rican Alliance, of which Ramos Antonini was vice president. From 1924 to 1928, he also served as president of the Ponce Municipal Assembly, representing his party.

He later joined the Liberal Party, created by Antonio R. Barceló, which favored independence for Puerto Rico. In 1932, under that party’s banner, he was elected legislator and minority leader in the House of Representatives. His counterpart in the Senate was Luis Muñoz Marín. As a criminal lawyer, he successfully defended the nationalists arrested after the Ponce Massacre, which occurred on March 21, 1937.

After the breakup of the Liberal Party, he created the Popular Democratic Party along with Muñoz Marín in 1938. In the first elections in which the newly created party participated, Ramos Antonini was elected at-large representative and majority leader in the House of Representatives. In 1945, he was named vice president of the House and in 1948, after the Popular Democratic Party’s victory in the elections, he became president of the House, a post he held until his death.

As president of the House, he ceased working as a criminal defense lawyer. He also publicly reported his possessions with the plan of doing the same when he retired, as a way of demonstrating that he did not enrich himself through the position he held.

In 1950, the United States approved the Federal Relations Law, which granted Puerto Ricans, among other things, the right to write their own constitution, which led to the creation of the Commonwealth, later approved by the United States Congress. A Constitutional Convention was created for the purpose of writing the constitution and Ramos Antonini was a member of the convention and the chairman of the committee that wrote the section on the judicial branch.

As a legislator, his achievements included the creation of the Institute of Labor Relations at the University of Puerto Rico, which was created to educate and train labor leaders. He was the author of the law that prohibited the seizure of funds and property belonging to labor unions and he intervened in the law that prohibited judicial bans on unions. He also supported workers in litigation and developed the Labor Bank, whose owners and shareholders were workers.

He also promoted laws supporting musical culture and studies on the island. Under his leadership, the San Juan Free School of Music was created, along with like-named institutions in Ponce and Mayagüez, the Symphonic Orchestra was formed and the Conservatory of Music was created. He also supported legislation that created the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, as well as the public radio and television stations WIPR. Meanwhile, he oversaw the government distribution of footwear to children who attended school and did not have shoes.

In the economic sphere, he vehemently fought against corporate monopolies, particularly those linked to absentee corporations. In 1960 and 1961, based on his belief that large chains from the United States were suffocating small and medium-sized businesses, he established the Commerce Department to develop and protect the Puerto Rican commercial class.

He died at his home on January 9, 1963.

By the PROE Editorial Group

Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 11, 2014.

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