Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In twenty-one chronological chapters, Ruth Gruber’s Felisa Rincón de Gautier: The Mayor of San Juan documents the challenges for the oldest daughter in a family loyal to Spanish traditions, including machísmo, the belief in double standards of acceptable conduct for men and women. Over the course of her life, Rincón de Gautier gathered internal strength that was sufficient to confront both her father, Don Enrique, and her husband, Jenaro Gautier, over the matter of her voting and holding office. In 1932, she was fifth in line to register to vote, escorted by her reluctant father. Her political career began immediately, when she was asked to supervise registration. Declining to accept her party’s nomination for mayor in 1944, out of deference to her husband, she accepted the appointment two years later and remained in office for more than twenty years.

Gruber describes how the Popular Democratic Party, headed by Carlos Muñoz Marín, sought to find a way out of poverty for Puerto Rico, taking as a slogan, “Pan, Tierra y Libertad” (bread, land, and liberty). A straw hat worn by rural workers, the pava, became the party’s symbol, and Rincón de Gautier was one of the founders of the party. Taking only one day for a honeymoon, she and Jenaro returned to their registration work for the election. After the Populares won, her attention shifted to the delicate art of governing, to cleaning up the slums, and to...

(The entire section is 434 words.)