|Salvador Brau y Asencio|
Puerto Rican journalist, poet, writer, historian
January 11, 1842|
Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, Spain
|Died||November 5, 1912
San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
Salvador Brau y Asencio [note 1] (January 11, 1842 – November 5, 1912) was a Puerto Rican journalist, poet, writer. He was designated the official historian of Puerto Rico by the first American-appointed governor of the island.
Brau was born in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, into a well-to-do family. His father was Bartolomé Brau, a Catalan teacher of German descent and his mother was Luisa Asencio, a native of Venezuela. Brau received his primary and secondary education in private schools. Forced to work to care for his family after the death of his father about 1855, he began to teach himself. By the age of 16 he was composing various literary works, and with his friends started a theatrical society. He wished to continue his education in an institute of higher learning, and thus went to mainland Spain in 1861, where he attended the University of Barcelona, earning a degree in Letters. During his stay in the mother country, he came into contact with the autonomist movement of Puerto Rico and became involved. Eventually, Brau earned his Doctorate in Letters.
In 1870, Brau returned to Puerto Rico and became a journalist. He joined the Autonomist Party of Puerto Rico and became politically active, believing that Puerto Rico should be granted more powers by the Spanish Crown. He expressed his beliefs in his novels and plays, including one of his most acclaimed plays, "La Vuelta al Hogar" (Once on This Island).
In 1894, Brau was named Commissioner for the Provincial Deputation. He then moved back to Spain where he investigated the historical documents pertaining to Puerto Rico's past. These documents were stored and continue to be stored in the Indias Archives of Seville. In 1897, after three years of investigating the historical documents, Brau returned to Puerto Rico.
His findings in Seville included documents written by Fray Antonio de Montesinos, Fray Iñigo Abbad and others. He uncovered important information about how the Taínos lived and how they were treated harshly by the Spanish settlers. During his investigation he found an interesting reference to the Puerto Rican danza. According to a document written by Fray Iñgo Abad Lasierra, Bishop of Puerto Rico (1772–1778), there was a typical, fast and noisy shoe-stomping dance in the island which he called "Puerto Rican danza". Brau, however, claims that the authentic Puerto Rican danza was a popular creation that emerged in the 19th century.
Official Historian of Puerto Rico
In 1898, Puerto Rico became a colonial possession of the United States after the Spanish-American War in accordance with the Treaty of Paris. Brau continued to be politically active and on 1903 was named Official Historian of Puerto Rico by the American-appointed governor William Henry Hunt. He held this position until his death on November 5, 1912 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was interred in Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery in Old San Juan.
A partial list of Braus written works:
- Puerto Rico and its History
- The History of Puerto Rico
- The Colonization of Puerto Rico
- The Founding of Ponce
- ¿Pecadora? (a novel)
The town of San Juan honored him with a park and a statue. The town of Cabo Rojo has honored his memory with a monument and by naming a hall in its amphitheater after him. The town of Aguada has a bust of Brau in its plaza. Brau was one of the few Puerto Ricans to be honored by the United States Maritime Commission when they named a World War II Liberty Ship after him, the SS Salvador Brau, USMC Hull Number 1543. The ship was built in 1944 and was scrapped in 1966.