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Don Luis Ferré: 1904-2003


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On October 21, 2003, just five months short of his 100th birthday, Puerto Rico’s Renaissance man, Luis Antonio Ferre Aguayo, "Don Luis" as he was popularly known, died in San Juan. This man, in his long lifetime, was Puerto Rico’s Governor, the founder of the New Progressive Party, a leading industrialist, a generous philanthropist and a patron of the arts. He accomplished much in his long lifetime but his abiding dream -- U.S. statehood for Puerto Rico – eluded him, though he did much to advance its cause.

This new Herald video presents scenes of his two-day funeral, one of the most impressive outpourings of respect and affection that the island had ever seen. His remains lay in state in the Capitol Building where he had served as both a New Progressive Party Representative and Senator, once as President of that body. Then, after a requiem mass in the Church of the Sacred Heart, his cortège traveled to his home town of Ponce for a final wake in the edifice he loved most in life, The Ponce Museum of Art, an institution that he built to enclose his extensive collection of fine art.

Luis Ferre is rightly regarded as a man who helped to shape the Puerto Rican agenda in the 20th century. He spent his political life knitting together the Latin and Anglo-Saxon elements in the politics of Puerto Rico. He was immensely proud of his American citizenship, and became active in mainland politics as a member of the Republican Party and an advocate of its political vision. In 1991, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H.W. Bush, the highest recognition an American civilian can receive from his country.

The occasion of his funeral evoked expressions of praise and gratitude by Puerto Ricans of every level, but perhaps the best way to characterize his life is in the words he used to describe himself: "I am," he said, "revolutionary in my ideas, liberal in my objectives, and conservative in my methods."

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