Museum of Rafael Cordeo
Backstory and Context
mesuRafael Cordero was born on October 24th, 1790 in San Juan Puerto Rico, to two free African American parents who were both Artisans. Rafael Cordero also had two sister's whose names are Gregoria and Celesina Cordero. His older sister Celesina was also a self-educator and later followed in her brother's footsteps and began teaching as well. Unfortunately, even though his parents were free, African Americans were still unable to attend school, where at the time blacks were not even allowed to be enrolled.
Nevertheless, Cordero took his love to read, learn, and most importantly teach to help mainly poor black children receive an education. Rafael taught subjects including mathematics, reading, calligraphy and religious instructions. Bishop Juan Alejo de Arizmendi presented Cordero with the Sacrament of Confirmation at the age of fourteen where he dedicated his life to being Catholic, which makes sense why religious instruction would be a part of his teaching curriculum. Before Cordero helped teach the poor black families he was surrounded by but in 1810 he officially opened his home to children of all races and ethnicities who could not afford an education elsewhere.
Rafael Cordero being the hard-working man he was, worked as a cigar maker and shoemaker to support himself and his love of teaching the children. In fact, Cordero was presented with an award some-time between 1810-1867 which granted him one hundred pesos for his outstanding job of teaching the less fortunate. He took those one hundred pesos to buy clothes and books for his students instead of using it for himself. He cared for everyone which shows in his actions and as well as the different children he taught who were white, black, Spanish and from different cultures and from different social statuses. He proved they could learn together with no problems or hatred to get in the way. In the 1800s this was a great accomplishment to have so many divergent people learning in a room together especially from a black man.
The school on Luna Street was maintained and thrived for fifty-eight years teaching any child who needed assistance. Rafael Cordero passed away on July 5th, 1868 in his hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Also known as the "Father of Public Education" in Puerto Rico the well respected and devoted self-educator had more than 2,000 people attend his funeral which shows the magnitude of his presence and the loyalty people from around the world had for him and his committed work. There are several schools named after Rafael Cordero to honor him as well as poems, books, paintings, and awards given to teachers in Puerto Rico, called the National Medal Rafael Cordero. The house on 315 Luna Street is still available to visit in San Juan today where you will find a famous painting of Cordero teaching, as well as leftover materials in his home that he used to teach with. Although nowhere listed does it specifically say when the home was transformed into a museum, there is a plaque outside the home explaining the importance of the home and it's correlation to Rafael Cordero. The location can be found on google maps where you can see a picture of the home and its surrounding area as well.
Enciclopedia De Puerto Rico. April 16, 2009. https://enciclopediapr.org/en/encyclopedia/cordero-rafael/.
Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing Press. http://self.gutenberg.org/articles/eng/Rafael_Cordero_(educator).
Moral, Solsiree Del. Negotiating empire: the cultural politics of schools in Puerto Rico, 1898-1952. Madison: The University of Wisconsin press, 2013.
Tuck, Jay N. Gonzalez-Paz, Elisie E. Heroes of Puerto Rico. Fleet Pr Corp, March 1, 1970.