Jaime Benítez Rexach

  (Redirected from Jaime Benítez)

Jaime Benítez Rexach (October 29, 1908 – May 30, 2001) was a Puerto Rican author, academic and politician. He was the longest serving chancellor and the first president of the University of Puerto Rico.

Jaime Benítez Rexach
Jaime Benítez.jpg
Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1977
Preceded byJorge Luis Córdova
Succeeded byBaltasar Corrada
Personal details
Born(1908-10-29)October 29, 1908
Vieques, Puerto Rico
DiedMay 30, 2001(2001-05-30) (aged 92)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Political partyPPD
Spouse(s)Lulu Martínez
Alma materLLB Georgetown University (1930)
LLM Georgetown University (1931)
MA University of Chicago (1938)

Early lifeEdit

Jaime Benítez Rexach was born on Vieques, a small island about twenty miles off the shore of mainland Puerto Rico, to Luis Benítez and Candida Rexach. Among his ancestors were the noted Puerto Rican poets María Bibiana Benítez, Alejandrina Benítez de Gautier, and José Gautier Benítez.[1] His mother died when he was seven years old, and his father died a year later. It fell to his older sister, who lived in San Juan, to raise him and his siblings. Benítez attended local public schools. In 1926 he left the island to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he received an LL.B. degree in 1930 and an LL.M. in 1931. That same year he passed the District of Columbia bar examination and returned to Puerto Rico. He earned an M.A. at the University of Chicago in 1938.[1][2]


In 1931 Benítez began a career in education at the University of Puerto Rico that spanned four decades: he was associate professor of social and political sciences (1931–1942), chancellor of its main campus in Río Piedras (1942–1966) for nearly 30 years.[2] In 1948, during his tenure as chancellor, the university's pro-independence student body invited nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos to the Río Piedras campus as a guest speaker. Benítez did not permit Albizu access to the campus. As a result, the students protested and went on strike. The university was temporarily shut down and the leaders of the strike expelled from the university.[3] As chancellor, Benítez also attracted many distinguished scholars and artists who had left Spain after its civil war, including Nobel Prize-winning poet Juan Ramón Jiménez and Catalan cellist Pablo Casals.[4] In 1966, Benítez became the first president of the University, position in which he served until 1971. When Benítez began teaching, the university had five thousand students; by the time he left, the number of students at the university increased to forty thousand under his leadership.[1]

Benítez published numerous articles, essays, and books. He was the author of a number of books that concern the university system, or the "house of studies" (casa de estudios) as he referred to it,[5] including Junto a la Torre—Jornadas de un programa universitario (1963); Ética y estilo de la universidad (1964); La universidad del futuro (1964); and Sobre el futuro cultural y político de Puerto Rico (1965). From 1956 to 1971 he was the director and a contributor to La Torre, the University of Puerto Rico literary review. He maintained an active role in numerous national and international organizations: he was a member of the United States National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) from 1948 to 1954, and attended the UNESCO conventions in Paris, France (1950) and Havana, Cuba (1952); he was a member of the Constitutional Convention of Puerto Rico, for which he was drafted while attending an UNESCO meeting, and the chairman of the Drafting Committee on the Bill of Rights from 1951–52.[6] In 1956, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[7] He served as president of the National Association of State Universities from 1957–58.

A close associate of the political leader Luis Muñoz Marín,[citation needed] who became Puerto Rico's first elected governor in 1949 and helped achieve a locally drafted Constitution in 1952, Benítez was part of the Constitutional Convention and collaborated in the drafting of the Bill of Human Rights included in the new Constitution, which recognized citizens' social and economic rights as well as their human rights, as well as the initial draft of the Constitution's Preamble. The two fell out in 1957, however, when Muñoz declared his "loss of confidence" in Benítez and accused him of using his university position to build a rival political movement to his own Popular Democratic Party, or PDP. Benítez won a vote of confidence in the Council on Higher Education by one vote. They were publicly reconciled before the 1960 elections, although the relationship remained rocky throughout the 1960s.[1]

In 1966, the university statutes were changed again to permit greater political activity on the campus and Benítez was effectively kicked upstairs to the new and less powerful post of university president, which he gave up in 1971 due to political pressures under the first non-PDP administration since the 1930s.[citation needed]

In 1972, he was elected Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico for a four-year term. In the U.S. House of Representatives he was assigned to the Committee on Education and Labor, an important committee assignment for a man who cared deeply about education and who had an interest in social and labor conditions in Puerto Rico. In the 94th Congress, Benítez introduced legislation to extend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to Puerto Rico. He showed interest in the affairs of U.S. territories, sponsoring legislation to allow American Samoa to elect a governor and lieutenant governor, and supporting the authorization of a loan to the Virgin Islands Government.[6]

While in Congress he was a strong advocate of the current status of Puerto Rico, which he felt was preferable to statehood or independence. A bill to enhance Puerto Rico's relationship with the U.S., H.R. 11200, died in committee. After an unsuccessful reelection bid, Benítez returned to Puerto Rico. He taught at the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico (IAU) from 1980 to 1986. He was a professor of government at the American College in Bayamón, Puerto Rico.[6]


Following his death, in 2002 the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico's Metro campus, where Benítez taught between 1980–86 and of which he was a Distinguished Professor for the first two years, published a compilation of his speeches under the title of Discursos (Speeches).[8]

On September 8, 2008, the IAU unveiled the publication of a biography of Benítez, edited by former San Juan mayor Héctor Luis Acevedo, at a ceremony hosted by Senate of Puerto Rico president Kenneth McClintock at the Puerto Rico Capitol Building, with Benítez's daughter, Margarita Benítez, in attendance. The activity was followed by the opening of an exhibition of photographs of Benítez, open to all Capitol visitors.[9]

The University of Puerto Rico honored him with a series of commemorative acts commencing on the one hundred anniversary of his birth, October 29, 2008, with a series of conferences lasting for three days.[4]

The road connecting the front gates of the Río Piedras campus to Highway 1, known as University Avenue, was renamed Paseo Jaime Benítez.[10][11] Additionally, the main amphitheater of the Medical Sciences campus was named after Benítez.[12]

In 2008, the Jaime Benítez National Park, at the easternmost part of the Condado Lagoon, was inaugurated in the presence of the then-governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and his wife Luisa Gándara who both arrived by kayak and sporting PPD-red-colored swimwear. The project was developed by the Puerto Rico National Parks Company and the governor took the opportunity to attack his opponent, and eventual successor, Luis Fortuño for his financial dealings as then-resident commissioner, a post previously held by Benítez under the PPD.[13][14]

The new General Studies building at the Río Piedras campus was named after Benítez in 2009.[15]

On March 3, 2010, the former Secretary of Health, Dr. Enrique Vázquez Quintana, offered a conference at the Luis Muñoz Marín Foundation, reviewing Benítez's trajectory as chancellor, his involvement in the creation of the Medical Sciences campus and the effect this had on the island's public health.[16][17]


He died on May 30, 2001. He was survived by his wife, Luz "Lulu" Martínez de Benítez (née Martínez Martínez); two daughters, Clotilde and Margarita, and a son, Jaime. Upon his death a law was passed to give his widow a life pension of $20,000,[18] which she received until her own death on July 5, 2005.[19] Jaime Benítez Rexach was interred at Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[20] Since Benítez had been crucial in creating the Medical Sciences campus, the Society of Graduate Doctors of the UPR, on the occasion of the centenary of his birth, donated $20,000 for a mausoleum designed by Javier Toro, to be built on his tomb. The mausoleum would an inscription containing "the last two lines of the Hymn to the Alma Mater or Hymn to Life composed by Francisco Arriví and Augusto Rodríguez in 1938: "To Jaime Benítez: glory to the fighter, honor to the University."[21][22][23]

Fundación Jaime Benítez-RexachEdit

The Fundación Jaime Benítez-Rexach de la Universidad de Puerto Rico en Arecibo (FJBR) is a non-profit organization and grant-making body formed in 2001 in memory of Jaime Benítez Rexach, who had died some months prior. Based in the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, the primary goals of the foundation are to "collaborate in satisfying the socio-cultural, educational and economic needs of the institution."[24]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Wasniewski, Matthew Andrew; Kowalewski, Albin; O'Hara, Laura Turner (2013). Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-2012. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. pp. 456–459. ISBN 9780160920288.
  2. ^ a b "Benítez, Jaime". US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. 1908-10-29. Retrieved 2021-05-09.
  3. ^ Biografía de Juan Mari Brás Archived 2007-06-04 at the Wayback Machine; accessed 8 July 2015. (in Spanish)
  4. ^ a b "Universidad de Puerto Rico recuerda el legado de Jaime Benítez" [University of Puerto Rico remembers the legacy of Jaime Benítez]. Primera Hora (Puerto Rico) (in Spanish). 2008-10-29. Archived from the original on 2020-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  5. ^ "UPR Río Piedras en riesgo ante incidencia criminal" [UPR Río Piedras at risk due to criminal incidence]. WAPA-TV. 2015-11-30. Archived from the original on 2015-12-12. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  6. ^ a b c   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Hispanic Americans in Congress -- Benítez". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  7. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  8. ^ Benítez, Jaime (2002). Muñoz, Natalia (ed.). Discursos. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico.
  9. ^ Cruz, Leslie (2008). "Libro dedicado a Jaime Benitez" [Book dedicated to Jaime Benitez]. WAPA-TV (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2020-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  10. ^ "Para disponer que la Avenida Universidad del Sector Río Piedras del Municipio de San Juan pueda ser conocida como Paseo Jaime Benítez y que el mismo sea rotulado de forma acorde para crear un Comité encargado de velar por la implantación de esta medida y asignar fondos" [To provide that the University Avenue of the Río Piedras Sector of the Municipality of San Juan may be known as Paseo Jaime Benítez and that it be labeled accordingly to create a Committee in charge of ensuring the implementation of this measure and allocating funds.]. Sistema Único de Trámite Legislativo (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2020-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  11. ^ Pietri, Roxette. "Atrapan sospechoso de violación en Río Piedras" [Rape Suspect Caught in Río Piedras]. WAPA-TV (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2020-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  12. ^ "Inicia el paro en el Recinto de Ciencias Médicas" [Strike begins at the Medical Sciences Campus]. WAPA-TV (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2020-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  13. ^ "Inauguran parque en trajes de baño" [Park Inaugurated in Bathing Suits]. Primera Hora (Puerto Rico) (in Spanish). 2008-09-21. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  14. ^ "Campamento para desarrollar jóvenes empresarios" [Camp to develop young entrepreneurs]. El Vocero (in Spanish). 2019-06-26. Archived from the original on 2020-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  15. ^ Antonetti Zequeira, Salvador (2009-09-21). "Certificación Número 17 2009-2010" [Certification Number 17 2009-2010] (PDF). Búsqueda de Documentos de la Junta de Gobierno UPR (in Spanish). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  16. ^ "Repasan vida y ejecutoria de Don Jaime Benítez" [Life and Performance of Don Jaime Benítez Reviewed]. Primera Hora (Puerto Rico) (in Spanish). 2010-03-01. Archived from the original on 2020-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  17. ^ "Documental en la FLMM" [Documentary at the FLMM]. Primera Hora (Puerto Rico) (in Spanish). 2010-03-01. Archived from the original on 2020-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  18. ^ "Para conceder una pensión vitalicia de veinte mil (20 000) dólares anuales efectiva al 1ro de julio de 2001 a la señora doña Luz Martínez Martínez en su condición de viuda del Ex-Rector y Ex-Presidente de la Universidad de Puerto Rico y Ex-Comisionado Residente de Puerto Rico en los Estados Unidos don Jaime Benítez Rexach para ordenar al Secretario de Hacienda que satisfaga dicha pensión y para asignar los fondos necesarios para el pago de ésta" [To grant a lifetime pension of twenty thousand (20,000) dollars per year effective as of July 1, 2001 to Mrs. Luz Martínez Martínez in her capacity as widow of the Ex-Rector and Ex-President of the University of Puerto Rico and Ex- Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico in the United States Mr. Jaime Benítez Rexach to order the Secretary of the Treasury to pay said pension and to allocate the necessary funds for the payment of said pension.]. Sistema Único de Trámite Legislativo (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2020-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  19. ^ Benítez, Margarita. "Biografía Jaime Benítez Rexach" [Jaime Benítez Rexach Biography] (PDF). University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus (in Spanish). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-08-18. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  20. ^ Lewis, Paul (June 1, 2001). "Jaime Benítez, 92, Educator And Puerto Rican Politician". The New York Times.
  21. ^ "Mausoleo en honor a Don Jaime Benítez" [Mausoleum in honor of Don Jaime Benítez]. Primera Hora (Puerto Rico) (in Spanish). 2009-03-06. Archived from the original on 2020-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  22. ^ "Mausoleo Jaime Benitez" [Jaime Benítez Mausoleum]. University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2020-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  23. ^ "Se hizo realidad y se bendijo el mausoleo de Don Jaime Benítez, a cuya construcción apoyó la Sociedad de Médicos Graduados de la Escuela de Medicina de la UPR" [The mausoleum of Don Jaime Benítez was made a reality and blessed, whose construction was supported by the Society of Graduated Physicians of the UPR School of Medicine]. Galenus (in Spanish). 21 (7): 49. 2011. Archived from the original on 2020-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
  24. ^ "Fundación Jaime Benítez" [Jaime Benítez Foundation]. University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2020-07-31. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
  25. ^ Bo Beolens; Michael Watkins; Michael Grayson (22 April 2013). The Eponym Dictionary of Amphibians. Pelagic Publishing. pp. 43–44. ISBN 978-1-907807-42-8.

External linksEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jorge Luis Córdova
Resident Commissioner to the U.S. House of Representatives
from Puerto Rico

Succeeded by
Baltasar Corrada del Río
Academic offices
Preceded by
First president
President of the University of Puerto Rico
Succeeded by
Amador Cobas