Severiano de Heredia

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Severiano de Heredia
Severiano de Heredia.jpg
Paris municipal council
In office
April 1873 – 1881
Deputy of the National Assembly
In office
21 August 1881 – 11 November 1889
Personal details
Born(1836-11-08)8 November 1836
Havana, Cuba
Died9 February 1901(1901-02-09) (aged 64)
Paris, France
Resting placeBatignolles Cemetery, Paris, France
CitizenshipSpanish, French
Political partyRepublican Union (1881–1885)
Radical Left (1885–1889)

Severiano de Heredia (8 November 1836 – 9 February 1901)[1][2] was a Cuban-born biracial[3] politician, a freemason,[4] a left-wing republican,[5] naturalized as French in 1870,[6] who was president of the municipal council of Paris[7] from 1 August 1879 to 12 February 1880, making him the only native of the American continent who was appointed on relevant post of the Mayor of Paris[note 1] and the first mayor of African descent of a Western world capital.[9]

In 1880, he succeeded Victor Hugo in the presidency of the Philotechnical Association. He served in the Chamber of Deputies from 1881 to 1889 and was briefly Minister of Public Works for the cabinet of Maurice Rouvier in 1887,[10] at the time when the Eiffel Tower first started being built, where he planned and oversaw the construction of some of the finest French highways.[11] He is believed to be a cousin of the famous French poet José-Maria de Heredia.[12][13]


Personal life[edit]

Severiano de Heredia was born in Matanzas,[14] Cuba, to Henri de Heredia and mulatto Beatrice Cardenas.[15] Reportedly he was the natural son of his godfather Don Ignacio Heredia y Campuzano-Polanco[note 2] married to the French Madeleine Godefroy, who adopted him and sent him to France at the age of 10 for his education, attending the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris.[15][16] He applied for French citizenship which was granted under the Ministerial Decree of 28 September 1870.[6][1]

He married at Paris, 3 November 1868, Henriette Hanaire, by whom he had a son in 1869, Henri-Ignace, and a daughter, Marcelle, in 1873. His son died in an accident at Wimereux at the age of twelve and was buried at Cimetière des Batignolles on 4 September 1882. His daughter studied at the Paris Medical School, became a notable neurophysiologist[17] and formed a team with her husband, the neurophysiologist Louis Lapicque.[18]

Political career[edit]

Upon the death of his godfather in 1848, Severiano de Heredia inherited his wealth and embarked on a career as a poet and literary critic. In 1871, while he was assuming the role of a conciliator,[19] he published a political essay entitled "Paix et plébiscite"[note 3] in which he pleaded for a democratic end to the Franco-Prussian war.[20]

He entered politics as a radical Republican and was elected in April 1873 to be a member of the City Council of Paris,[21] for the Ternes and Plaine-de-Monceaux neighborhoods[note 4].[22] In 1879, he was elected president of the municipal council of Paris, and in August 1881 member to the Chamber of Deputies, where he stayed until he was defeated at the election of 1889 by a Boulangist opponent.[23] On 30 May 1887, he was appointed Minister of Public Works in the government of Maurice Bouvier, until 11 December 1887. On retiring from politics he devoted himself to the history of literature.[24]

Severiano de Heredia was also an active Freemason. Initiated in 1866 in the "Étoile polaire"[note 5] lodge of Paris, he became Worshipfull Master of his lodge,[25] and then Deputy of Grand Orient of France in 1875, and President of the Masonic Orphanage.[4] Within this framework, Severiano de Heredia took part to the first French Congress for Women's Rights in 1878, as a French representative of the intended Committee of Initiative, at the Masonic Grand Orient.[26][1]


Severiano de Heredia was a radical progressive and a secular-minded freethinker, having fought in favor of public school and continuing education. As a strong advocate for the separation of church and state he played a very active role in the struggle for free, secular and compulsory education, professional training and the creation of municipal libraries.[1] As an early ecologist, he devoted himself to improving the electric car.[27][28]

Some versions claim that his last years were dedicated to work in the development of the electric car, which is why some qualify him as a pioneer of environmentalism.[citation needed] They also say that in this activity he pledged up to the last weight of his fortune, dying in misery.[citation needed] There are no clear precedents in this regard.


Severiano de Heredia died of meningitis at his home in Paris, on 9 February 1901.[29][2] Some one hundred and ten years after his death, historian Paul Estrade found no remaining public recognition for his career in his thoroughly researched biography.[30] The Mairie de Paris announced in 2013 that a walkway in the 17th arrondissement of Paris will be dedicated to de Heredia in the name of equality and diversity.[31] In 2015, a walkway in front of a new building was named rue Severiano de Heredia. In the naming ceremony, the then mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, spoke:[32]


  • L'appel au peuple : Paix ou guerre ? (1870)
  • Faisons la paix (1871)
  • Paix et plébiscite (1871)
  • Société des écoles laïques... Appel aux habitants du 17e arrondissement (1873)

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  • Sabine Faivre d'Arcier: Los tres Heredia [The three Heredia], La Habana : Imagen Contemporánea (2012), in Spanish. ISBN 9789592930216
  • Paul Estrade: Severiano de Heredia. Ce mulâtre cubain que Paris fit “ maire ”, et la République, ministre [Severiano de Heredia. This Cuban mulatto that Paris came to be "mayor", and the Republic Minister], series: " La boutique de l'histoire ", Les Indes savantes (15 July 2011), in French. ISBN 9782846542708


  1. ^ Although the city of Paris did not have an elected mayor between 1871 and 1977, the title of President of the municipal council during that period would be the equivalent of the actual position of Mayor. As Nicolas Theodet explained, Severiano de Heredia was elected as the head of the Council of Paris in 1879, thereby becoming the equivalent of the time of mayor.[8]
  2. ^ Don Ignacio Heredia y Campuzano-Polanco was the uncle of the poet José María Heredia
  3. ^ Peace and referendum
  4. ^ Both neighbourhoods are part of the 17th arrondissement of Paris.
  5. ^ North Star or Pole Star


  1. ^ a b c d Mayeur, Jean-Marie; Schweitz, Arlette (2001). Les parlementaires de la Seine sous la Troisième République [Deputies and senators of the Seine under the Third Republic] (in French). 2. Dictionnaire biographique. Paris, F: Publications de la Sorbonne. p. 308–309. ISBN 9782859444327. ISSN 1243-0269. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  2. ^ a b Luquiens, Corinne, ed. (15 April 2014). "Severiano DE HÉRÉDIA". Base de données historique des anciens députés – Assemblée nationale (in French). Paris, France: Secrétariat générale de l'Assemblée nationale. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  3. ^ National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (November 1915). Burghardt Du Bois, William Edward (ed.). The Crisis (PDF). 11. New York, USA: Crisis Publishing Company. p. 22. Retrieved 31 July 2015. Jose Maria Heredia, the king of sonnets crowned by the French Academy, was a white man but Severiano de Heredia, who held high post under the French government, was of Negroid descent and this is amply verified not only by LaRousse, encyclopaedia but by his family, some of whom still survive him.
  4. ^ a b Kupferman, Laurent; Pierrat, Emmanuel (4 October 2012). Ce que la France doit aux francs-maçons… et ce qu'elle ne leur doit pas [What France does and does not owe to Freemasons…]. Actualités Enquêtes (in French). Paris, F: Éditions First & First Interactive. ISBN 978-2-7540-3221-6.
  5. ^ Raitt, Alan William (1981). The Life of Villiers De I'Isle-Adam. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-1981-5771-7. Retrieved 31 July 2015. He had two opponents, the sitting councillor Severiano de Heredia, a Cuban-born left-wing republican who later became a minister, and a fringe 'collectivist' called Couturat.
  6. ^ a b Adolphe Crémieux, Minister of Justice (June 1871). Bulletin des lois de la République française [Bulletin of acts of the French Republic] (in French). Paris, F: Imprimerie nationale. p. 35. Retrieved 18 October 2015 – via Gallica. N° 48. – DÉCRET (signé par le membre et délégué du Gouvernement de la défense nationale, garde des sceaux, ministre de la justice) qui admet à jouir des droits de citoyen français le sieur de Heredia (Severiano), né le 8 novembre 1836, à la Havane (île espagnole de Cuba), sans profession, demeurant à Paris. (Tours, 28 Septembre 1870.)CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  7. ^ Piñeyro, Enrique (1907). "José María Heredia". Bulletin Hispanique (in Spanish). Bordeaux, France: Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux. 9 (2): 187. doi:10.3406/hispa.1907.1527. ISSN 0007-4640. Retrieved 6 February 2017 – via Persée. … niño que fué adoptado como hijo por su viuda, dama de origen francés, y llamado Severiano de Heredia; que recibió su educación en Francia y llegó á ser primero Concejal de París, luego miembro de la Cámara de Diputados y por último Ministro de Obras Públicas de la República francesa.
  8. ^ Theodet, Nicolas (28 April 2013). "En 1879, le maire de Paris était noir" [In 1879, the Mayor of Paris was black]. Le Figaro (in French). Retrieved 6 February 2017. Il est ensuite élu à la tête du Conseil de Paris en 1879, devenant ainsi l'équivalent du maire de l'époque.
  9. ^ Triay, Philippe (10 December 2012). "L'incroyable destin de Severiano de Heredia" [The incredible fate of Severiano de Heredia]. France Info (in French). Paris, F: France Télévisions. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  10. ^ Lloyd, Reginald; Plá Cárceles, José (1913). Twentieth century impressions of Cuba, its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources. Twentieth Century Impressions. London, UK: Lloyds Greater Britain publishing company, ltd. p. 158. OCLC 1864681. Retrieved 6 January 2018. A Cuban quadroon, Severiano Heredia, also a naturalised Frenchman, became through his unusual ability Minister of Public Works in France.
  11. ^ Ribbe, Claude (2016). "18 Severiano de Heredia". Une autre histoire [An alternative history] (in French). Paris, F: Le Cherche midi. ISBN 9782749113975. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  12. ^ de Heredia, José María; Zerolo, Elías (1893). "Prólogo" [Foreword]. Poesías líricas [Lyric poems] (in Spanish). Paris, F: Garnier Hermanos. p. xvi. OCLC 431794473. Retrieved 6 January 2018. Del mismo don Pedro de Heredia son sucesores don Severiano de Heredia, importante político radical naturalizado en Francia, donde ha sido ministro y muchas veces diputado, y don José María de Heredia, poeta de alto vuelo que escribe en lengua francesa.
  13. ^ de Santa Cruz y Mallén, Francisco Xavier (1944). Historia de familias cubanas [History of Cuban families] (in Spanish). Tomo V. La Habana, CU: Editorial Hércules. p. 141. OCLC 835638000. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  14. ^ Ureña, Max Henríquez (May 1941). Revista Iberoamericana (ed.). Poetas cubanos de expresión francesa. Instituto Internacional de Lituratura Iberoamericana (in Spanish). III. pp. 301–344. doi:10.5195/reviberoamer.1941.1031. Se ha dicho que su padre, Ignacio de Heredia (nacido en Santo Domingo en 1794 y muerto en Cuba en 1848) , era hermano de José Francisco y de Domingo y, por lo tanto, tío carnal de los dos poetas, y que "dió su nombre — asienta Miodrag Ibrovac — , a un niño de raza mestiza, Severiano de Heredia, que había nacido en una propiedad suya de Matanzas en 1836"
  15. ^ a b Agapé, Sélène (7 August 2015). "Paris 1879: Severiano de Heredia, le mulâtre dans les hautes sphères de la République" [Paris 1879, Severiano de Heredia: the mulatto at the highest level of the Republic]. The Huffington Post (in French). Paris, F. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  16. ^ Noiriel, Gérard (13 January 2016). Chocolat, la véritable histoire de l'homme sans nom [The true story of Chocolat, the man without name] (in French). Paris, F: Bayard Presse. ISBN 978-2-227-48617-1. Retrieved 8 February 2016. À Paris, Severiano de Heredia, fils d'un aristocrate de La Havane, devint un membre actif du parti radical, après des études au lycée Louis-le-Grand, ce qui lui permit d'être élu conseiller municipal, puis député..
  17. ^ Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey; Harvey, Joy Dorothy (2000). "Lapicque, Marcelle (de Heredia) (1873–ca.1962)". The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: L-Z. New York (New York), USA: Taylor & Francis. pp. 745–746. ISBN 978-0-4159-2040-7. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  18. ^ Lykknes, Annette; Opitz, Donald L.; Van Tiggelen, Brigitte, eds. (2012). For Better or For Worse? Collaborative Couples in the Sciences. Science Networks Historical Studies. 44. Basel, D: Birkhäuser. pp. 66–67. doi:10.1007/978-3-0348-0286-4. ISBN 978-3-0348-0750-0. Retrieved 19 October 2015..
  19. ^ Vercken, Christian (April 1979). du Puy de Clinchamps, Philippe; de Villeneuve, Gérard (eds.). "Severiano de Heredia". L'Intermédiaire des chercheurs et curieux (in French). No. 337. Paris. p. 371. ISSN 0994-4532. Retrieved 18 October 2015. D'origine cubaine, propriétaire de plantations de canne à sucre, naturalisé français en 1870, il fut conciliateur en 1871, conseiller municipal de Paris (1873–1885), député de la Seine (1881- 1889), ministre des Travaux publics (1887).
  20. ^ de Heredia, Severiano (1871). Paix et plébiscite [Peace and referendum]. Tours, F: Imprimerie Mame. p. 24. OCLC 457863038. Retrieved 18 October 2015 – via Gallica. Il est temps d'en finir avec les guerres périodiques et les boucheries humaines.
  21. ^ Estrade, Paul (1994). Instituto Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo (eds.). Pasando revista a los periódicos cubanos publicados en Paris en la segunda mitad del siglo XIX [Critical analysis and synopsis of Cuban newspapers published in Paris in the second half of the 19th century]. Revista de Indias (in Spanish). 54. Instituto de Historia, Departamento de Historia de América. Madrid, ES: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. pp. 191–209. ISSN 0034-8341. Retrieved 17 October 2015. …y elección como concejal del Ayuntamiento de París de un cubano nacimiento, Severiano de Heredia (n° 86 de 20 abril de 1873).CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  22. ^ Chamouard, Patrick; Weill, Georges J.; Girard-Busson, Blandine (1985). Députés et sénateurs de la région parisienne de 1848 à 1984 [Deputies and senators of the Paris region from 1848 to 1984] (in French). Nanterre, F: Archives départementales des Hauts-de-Seine. p. 139. ISBN 2-86092-003-X. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  23. ^ McCloy, Shelby Thomas (5 February 2015) [first published 1966]. The Negro in the French West Indies. University Press of Kentucky. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-8131-6396-3. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  24. ^ Kanyarwunga, Jean (16 December 2013). "France: Severiano de Heredia, First Black Mayor of Paris and current racial prejudice in the West". History of Africa Otherwise. Geneva, CH: Blogger. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  25. ^ Bouyer, Jean-Pierre, ed. (2 April 2011). "L'Etoile Polaire" [The North Star]. Musée virtuel de la musique maçonnique (in French). Paris, F. Retrieved 7 December 2015. L'Etoile Polaire compta parmi ses membres le sculpteur Paul Lecreux (1826-1894) dit Jacques France, Severiano de Heredia (1836-1901), maire de Paris en 1879 et député, qui en fut Vénérable…
  26. ^ Bidelman, Patrick Kay (26 May 1982). Pariahs Stand Up!: The Founding of the Liberal Feminist Movement in France, 1858–1889 (Contributions in Women's Studies). Music Reference Collection. Book 31. Westport (Connecticut), USA: Greenwood Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-313-23006-6. Retrieved 11 October 2015. The nineteen French members included two senators (Victor Schoelcher and Eugene Pelletan), five deputies (Louis Codet, Tiersot, Charles Boudeville, Emile Deschanel, and Charles Laisant), three municipal councilors from Paris (Antide Martin, Georges Martin, and Severiano de Herédia)…
  27. ^ Laux, James Michael (1976). In first gear: the French automobile industry to 1914. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press. p. 91. ISBN 9780773502642. Retrieved 3 February 2018. An 1891 graduate of the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufacturers, Krieger and Severiano de Heredia formed a company to make electric cars in 1895, the Societé Civil des Voitures Electriques, Systeme Krieger.
  28. ^ Baldwin, Nick (1987). The world guide to automobile manufacturers. New York, USA: Facts on File Publications. p. 268. ISBN 9780816018444. Retrieved 3 February 2018. In 1895 he formed the Societe Civile des Voitures Electriques, Systeme Krieger, in partnership with Severiano de Heredia, a wealthy Cuban- born, French-naturalized politician.
  29. ^ de Villemessant, Hippolyte; Jouvin, Benoît, eds. (10 February 1901). "Échos" [Echos]. Le Figaro (in French) (41): 1. ISSN 0182-5852. Retrieved 6 February 2018 – via Gallica. Nous apprenons la mort de M. S. de Hérédia, emporté hier soir presque subitement par une méningite.
  30. ^ Triay, Philippe (29 April 2013). "Quand le maire de Paris était noir" (in French). Réseau Outre-Mer 1re. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  31. ^ "La Ville de Paris poursuit ses objectifs de parité et de diversité, en distinguant une cinquantaine de personnalités remarquables dans l'espace public" (Press release) (in French). Mairie de Paris. 9 September 2013. Archived from the original on 11 October 2014.
  32. ^ Triay, Philippe (5 October 2015). "L'hommage de Paris à Severiano de Heredia, maire noir de la capitale et ministre de la République au XIXe siècle" (in French). Réseau Outre-Mer 1re. Retrieved 6 February 2017. Le premier maire noir de Paris puis ministre de la République française a pourtant été renié et relégué pendant longtemps parmi les oubliés de l’histoire. Nous sommes là pour sortir de cet oubli coupable.