by Efrain Nieves
Dr. Ricardo E. Alegría Gallardo was born on April 14, 1921 in San Juan Puerto Rico. His father, José S. Alegría, was vice president and co-founder of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and taught him to love his history and culture.
Alegría first studied at the University of Puerto Rico and found Alpha Beta Chi fraternity in 1941. After earning his Bachelors of Science degree in archeology in 1942, he went to the University of Chicago where he earned his Masters in anthropology and history in 1947. Alegría then went on to Harvard University earning his PhD in anthropology in 1954.
Luis Muñoz Marín selected Alegría as the first director of the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña where he created an understanding of Puerto Rico’s Taíno cultural history before and after Columbus. He also found the Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe which trains “professionals committed to Puerto Rico and its culture.”
Alegría is credited with renovating and restoring Old San Juan, Caparra and Fortín San Jerónimo. “Throughout his career, he has sponsored numerous research projects on different aspects of Afro-Caribbean traditions, music and folklore and organized exhibitions on the subject, the latest being a gallery dedicated to “African Heritage” at The Museum of the Americas” (lehman.edu). He authored over 20 books and received awards and recommendations for his work. Alegría died on July 7, 2011 at San Juan’s Centro Medico of heart failure.
Alegría is one of the most important figures of our history. If not for his work, our pride would have fallen no shorter than ignorance.
“If we know ourselves better, then we will be prouder of who we are, what we have, and what we want to preserve.” ~ Dr. Ricardo E. Alegría
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