Explore the Dona Fela Museum

The Dona Fela Museum in San Juan pays tribute to Felisa Rincón de Gautier (9 January 1897-16 September 1994), who was the Mayor of San Juan from 1946 through to 1968. The museum is located in the house that was once her home, and offers a fascinating glimpse into the life and personality of a woman who was known and respected for her immense compassion, strong convictions and her determination to turn her dreams into reality.

Felisa Rincón de Gautier, also fondly referred to as Dona Fela, had the distinction of being the first woman in any of The Americas to be elected as the mayor of a capital city. She firmly believed that women should be given the right to vote and was an active member of the suffragist movement, encouraging many women to register. Dona Fela was the fifth woman to officially register to vote once the law was passed. Believing in the right of Puerto Rico to be independent, she joined the Liberal Party in 1932. However, finding that she agreed with the political ideas of Luis Munoz Marin, she left the Liberal Party to help establish the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico in 1938.

Dona Fela married Genaro A. Gautier in 1940. He served as Assistant Attorney General of Puerto Rico, as well as the Secretary General of the Popular Democratic Party. Upon being elected mayor of San Juan in 1946, Dona Fela poured her endless energy into bringing about changes that benefited the city immensely. As a forward-thinking person, she put into place ground-breaking public services, modernized the public health system and initiated the establishment of the school of medicine in San Juan. Although she never had children of her own, Dona Fela established Puerto Rico’s first pre-school centers, “Las Escuelas Matemales”, which would go on to become the model used for the U.S. “Head Start” programs.

Aware of the need to safeguard the precious traditional and historical aspects of San Juan, Dona Fela joined forces with Ricardo Alegria and worked to restore and conserve Old San Juan’s historical structures. She also ensured that housing and basic services were made available to thousands of San Juan residents and often invited the public to express their concerns to her at open meetings. In acknowledgement of her achievements and commitment to the people of San Juan, Dona Fela was awarded the “All American City Award” in 1959. She has also received awards from France, Spain, Venezuela, Israel, Ecuador and New York.

The Dona Fela Museum displays a photographic history of her life, along with her honorary degrees and awards, which includes a collection of symbolic keys to a number of cities around the world. The collection also includes items from her extensive and elegant wardrobe and accessories. A tour through the Dona Fela Museum confirms that this was a woman who made a positive contribution to the lives of her fellow Puerto Ricans.