Eugenio Maria de Hostos, a lifelong Puerto Rican patriot and advocate for democracy throughout Latin America, put together and led the public school system in the Dominican Republic. He was also an advocate of equal education opportunity for women.
Born January 11, 1839, in Rio Canas, Puerto Rico, de Hostos attended the University of Bilbao and the Central University in Spain before studying law at the University of Madrid. He was disappointed that neither Puerto Rico nor Cuba were granted independence when the Spanish monarchy was overthrown in 1868. In 1869, he moved to New York City and became editor of La Revolution, the paper of the Cuban independence movement. He also served as a writer for the newspaper Puerto Rico.
The following year, he began a four-year tour of Latin America to gain popular support for Cuban independence. At the same time, he engaged in a variety of educational, philosophical, and political activities. In 1873, while in Chile, de Hostos published The Scientific Education of Women, which called for women to receive education on the same level as men. At the same time, he authored a widely respected essay on Hamlet, which included an analysis of the need to fight for freedom. In 1875, he participated in a failed revolutionary attempt to sail to Cuba to fight for independence.
By 1877, de Hostos had moved to Venezuela, where he taught at a college in Caracas and worked as a school principal. The following year, he was asked to lead national education reform in the Dominican Republic. He established the first public elementary schools in that country, helped prepare teachers at the National University, and crafted the Dominican Republic’s laws regarding public education. Such was his success that Chile invited him to redesign their national education system, and so he moved to Santiago, Chile, in 1888 to undertake this endeavor.
When the Cuban Revolution began in 1898, de Hostos went to New York and then to Puerto Rico to advocate for independence for that colony. In January 1899, he and other Puerto Rican patriots presented a proposal for independence to President McKinley.
When it became clear that Puerto Rico would become a U.S. territory, de Hostos returned to the Dominican Republic, where he became Inspector General of Education, a post he held until his death. He was a prolific author, writing at least fifty books in his lifetime, many of which were only published posthumously. He is often compared to John Dewey, and his writing is thought to have influenced Paulo Freire, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky.
- De Sainz, J. B. (1989). Eugenio Maria de Hostos: Philosophical system and methodology. New York: Senda Nueva de Ediciones.
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