post­ed by lis­apar­avisi­ni | April 8, 2013 |

The 200-year-old remains of a Puer­to Rican hero arrived on the island Sat­ur­day after an exhaus­tive quest to iden­ti­fy his body and bring it home, the Asso­ci­at­ed Press reports.

powerHun­dreds of Puer­to Ricans cheered as Span­ish navy offi­cers wear­ing white uni­forms and bear­ing swords walked past the crowd hold­ing a large wood­en box that con­tained the bones of Ramon Pow­er y Giralt.

Pow­er fought for admin­is­tra­tive and eco­nom­ic reforms in Puer­to Rico dur­ing Span­ish rule, and over­saw abo­li­tion of a law that gave Spain absolute pow­er over Puer­to Rican laws and officials.

Spain paid to trans­port Power’s body across the Atlantic Ocean on a 29-day trip aboard one of the largest tall ships in the world so he could be buried in the Cathe­dral of San Juan, where the body of Span­ish explor­er Juan Ponce de Leon also is buried.

“Viva Ramon Pow­er! Viva Puer­to Rico!” the crowd yelled as offi­cers dis­em­barked with the remains from the 370-foot-long (113-meter-long) ship Juan Sebas­t­ian de Elcano, which was built in 1927.

“We have to remem­ber our his­to­ry, because if we don’t embrace it and remem­ber it, we lose our iden­ti­ty as a nation,” said Julio Ayala, a 70-year-old retired engi­neer who arrived with his wife from the near­by munic­i­pal­i­ty of Carolina.


Nuns and priests were among those who greet­ed Power’s remains, clutch­ing Puer­to Rican flags.

“He returns home once again,” said Mon­sign­or Ivan Huer­tas. “It’s an hon­our to have had a Puer­to Rican rep­re­sen­ta­tive like him back in the day.”

Pow­er, the son of an Irish immi­grant and a Puer­to Rican woman, grew up to join the Span­ish navy and helped seize what is now the Domini­can Repub­lic back from French forces led by Napoleon Bonaparte.

In 1809, he was appoint­ed Puer­to Rico’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive before the Courts of Cadiz despite objec­tions from offi­cials who thought a Spaniard should occu­py the posi­tion. The court served as the Span­ish Empire’s con­gress at the time, and Pow­er became its first vice-president.

In 1811, the Courts of Cadiz approved a law named after Pow­er that allowed con­struc­tion of sev­er­al ports and loos­er import and export reg­u­la­tions in Puer­to Rico, among oth­er measures.

Pow­er died in 1813 at age 37 from yel­low fever, and he was buried with sev­er­al oth­er offi­cials in a com­mon grave in Spain.

The push to iden­ti­fy his body began in 1931, when the city of Cadiz ordered that his remains and those of oth­er offi­cials be trans­ferred from the local ceme­tery to the church. Experts from Puer­to Rico and Spain even­tu­al­ly iden­ti­fied his body with help from the Smith­son­ian Insti­tu­tion in Washington.