Francisco Arriví: Father of the Puerto Rican Theater

Francisco Arriví became known as the Father of the Puerto Rican Theater, and was often referred to as Paco. Born on 24 July 1915 in the San Juan district of Santurce, Francisco Arriví’s fascination with literature was evident early on, reading whatever he could lay his hands on from the age of six. He found even more inspiration in the theater, and his grandmother played a vital role in this part of his life, as he would accompany her to watch theater productions every week. It wasn’t long before he created his own stage in his back garden to entertain his friends, and his love for literature and theater set him on course for greatness and fame.

Francisco Arriví
Francisco Arriví attended public schools for his education, and completed his secondary education at Escuela Superior Central, where he began to explore poetry and writing his own works. In 1938 he graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a degree in both Latin-American and Spanish literature, and also wrote the university’s official hymn, Himno al Alma Mater, which was his first attempt at composing musical pieces.

Arriví taught at the Ponce Superior School, where he established a drama club and started on his journey as a playwright, directing a production called Bachelors Club (Club de Solteros) at the school. This led to a collaboration with the Department of Education and he moved onto presenting radio-plays which were broadcast. The Rockerfeller Foundation recognized his talents and with a grant from this foundation he was able to attend Columbia University in New York and studied to be a theater and radio specialist.

On returning to Puerto Rico, he joined Areyto, the Drama Society of Popular Theater, and made use of his talents here. He wrote the very first television program, Ayer y Hoy, that was ever broadcast in Puerto Rico and in 1955 he presented Bolero y Plena, which is still seen as his best work, at the University Theater. His poetry was released in 1958, with his first book being named Isla y Nada. The contributions Francisco Arriví made to literature and theater in Puerto Rico are without comparison, as his influence is still felt today. Francisco Arriví passed away in 2007.