Felisa Rincon de Gautier Museum
Whether you are a woman's rights activist or not, a trip to the Felisa Rincon de Gautier Museum is a must for any traveler. This inspirational woman’s fight transcended the boundaries of gender and echoed the ideals of equality in a way that resonated through the minds and hearts of thousands across the globe. Her inspirational journey is now recorded at the Felisa Rincon de Gautier Museum and her memory lives on in both this 300-year old building and a school in Brooklyn, New York, that is named in her honor. There are also several small public structures and avenues in Puerto Rico that bear her name.
Felisa Rincon de Gautier was born in Puerto Rico in 1897, the first of nine children. Her mother died when she was just eleven years old and so her strongest childhood influence was that of her father who was actively involved in Puerto Rico’s politics. Felisa, also known as Doña Fela, received a good education in Humacao and she became a qualified pharmacist shortly after finishing high school. She later moved to New York, learnt how to design fashion and then returned to open a fashion boutique and a flower shop in San Juan. Doña Fela was doing well for herself but she was concerned about the limits imposed on woman with regards to politics. An active participant in the suffragist movement, she motivated many women to register to vote. In 1932 she became more intimately involved in politics by joining the ‘Liberal Party’. A few years later she left the Liberal Party and instead helped to form the Popular Democratic Party (PDP). Here she met Genaro A. Gautier who served as the Secretary General and Assistant Attorney General of the PDP. The two married in 1940. Just six years later, Doña Fela was elected as mayor of San Juan – the first woman to enjoy this position in a capital city of the Americas. Thus, she attained international fame and under her guidance, San Juan became one of Latin America’s great urban centers. Doña Fela also established pre-schools, re-organized and improved the public health system and established a medical school in San Juan. She approved the renovation and conservation of a number of historical structures in the city and worked hard to provide housing and basic services for as many people as possible. In short, she was a heroin to her people.
During her 22 years as mayor of San Juan, Felisa accomplished much good for her people and for women in general. After her retirement from this position, she went on to act as an American Good Will Ambassador for the United States. Today the Felisa Rincon de Gautier Museum can be found in her home in San Juan. It provides an interesting glimpse into the life of this extraordinary woman who begun the Three Kings Day tradition that is still very much a part of Puerto Rico’s Christmas celebrations.