Alejandro Tapia y Rivera

Alejandro Tapia y Rivera bigraphy, stories - Puerto Rican poet

Alejandro Tapia y Rivera : biography

November 12, 1826 – July 19, 1882

Alejandro Tapia y Rivera (November 12, 1826 – July 19, 1882) was a Puerto Rican poet, dramaturg, essayist and writer. Tapia is considered to be the father of Puerto Rican literature and as the person who has contributed the most to the cultural advancement of Puerto Rico’s literature. In addition to his writing, he was also a fervent abolitionist and a women’s rights advocate.


Alejandro Tapia y Rivera died in the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 19, 1882, while giving a conference at the Ateneo Puertorriqueño.

Written works

  • El heliotropo (1848)
  • The Palm of the Chief (1852)
  • Guarionex (libretto, premiered in 1854)
  • José Campeche: biography by Alejandro Tapia y Rivera (1854)
  • Roberto D’Evreux (1856)
  • Bernardo de Palyssy o El heroísmo del trabajo (1857)
  • La antigua sirena (1862)
  • La cuarterona (1867)
  • Camoens (Alejandro Tapia y Rivera) (1868)
  • Póstumo el transmigrado (1872)
  • Vasco Núñez de Balboa: biography by Alejandro Tapia y Rivera (1872)
  • Ramón Power: biography by Alejandro Tapia y Rivera (1873)
  • La leyenda de los veinte años (1874)
  • La Sataniada (1874)
  • Roberto Cofresí (1876)
  • Misceláneas de Alejandro Tapia y Rivera (1880)
  • Póstumo el envirginado (1882)
  • Mis memorias por Alejandro Tapia y Rivera

Literary career

While in Spain he completed his studies in literature in Madrid (1850–1852) and joined the Society of the Recollection of Historical Documents Relating to Puerto Rico (Sociedad Recolectora de Documentos Históricos de San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico). Tapia filed and organized important 16th and 17th century documents of Puerto Rico. He published his first important work called The Historical Library of Puerto Rico (Biblioteca Histórica de Puerto Rico) relating to those documents and his findings on them.

In 1852, the Spanish-appointed governor of Puerto Rico, Fernando de Norzagaray, pardoned Tapia and returned to Puerto Rico, establishing his residence in the city of Ponce on the southern coast of the island. He was a member of the Progressive Action Political Party. Among his cultural positions was his membership in the Puerto Rican Intellectual Protective Society. He was also the director of the Youth Museum in Ponce and the founder and first president of the Ateneo Puertorriqueño. He moved from Ponce to San Juan around 1874, Ramon Marin. Page 187. Retrieved 19 November 2011. after founding Puerto Rico’s first Gabinete de Lectura in 1870.Lawrence S. Thompson and Jorge Rivera Ruiz. The Libraries of Puerto Rico. The Library Quarterly. Volume 16, Issue 3. Page 227. July–September, 1946.Emilio del Toro Cuevas. Influencia de la biblioteca publica moderna en la familia y en la cultura social. Conferencias Dominicales dadas en la Biblioteca Insular de Puerto Rico. Volume I (1913) page 52.Luis O’Neill de Milan. Bibliotecas Publicas de Puerto Rico. In, Eugenio Fernandez Garcia and Eugenio Astol (editors), El Libro de puerto Rico. San Juan, Puerto Rico: El Libro Azul Publishing Co., 1923. Page 451. The Gabinete de Lectura was the precursor of the Ponce Municipal Library.


Among Tapia’s many awards and honours were:

  • The Medal of the Royal Knight (Medalla de la Orden del Caballero Real) and
  • The Royal and Distinguished Order of Carlos III from Spain.

Posthumous honors

His memory has been honoured in Puerto Rico. There are several schools and avenues named after Tapia. The Teatro Tapia, the premier drama stage, in old San Juan is also named after him. In July 2008, Roberto Ramos Perea, general director of the Archivo Nacional de Teatro y Cine del Ateneo Puertorriqueño, amn archive dedicated to conserve documents and memorabilia from the theatre industry in Puerto Rico, announced that a documentary covering Tapia y Rivera’s life is planned. The filmation is part of a series of events honoring his life, titled Jornadas en Honor y Memoria de Alejandro Tapia y Rivera.

Early years

Tapia was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. There he received his primary education under the guidance of the renowned educator Rafael Cordero while studying his primary years in a school in Luna Street (Calle Luna) in Old San Juan, who was an early inspiration in his life. There he met his lifelong friend Jose Julian Acosta.

Tapia worked for the State Department. A Spanish Army artillery officer challenged him to a duel when Tapia refused to yield the sidewalk to him, a challenge which he accepted; as a result, Tapia suffered a non-lethal injury in the arm and subsequently exiled to Spain, where he remained with his father for a period of time.