Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-1995
Carlos Romero-Barceló is the first former Governor of Puerto Rico to serve in Congress. As Resident Commissioner, the Island's sole seat in Congress under territorial status, he represents 3.7 million U.S. citizens. Romero-Barceló was born on September 4, 1932 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His family has long been involved in Puerto Rican politics; his maternal grandfather, Antonio R. Barceló, was one of the founders of the Liberal Party and the first president of the Puerto Rican Senate.
Romero-Barceló graduated from the Phillips Exeter Academy in 1949. In 1953 he earned a B.A. degree in political science and economics from Yale University, and in 1956 he earned an LL.B. from the University of Puerto Rico. The same year he was admitted to the bar and began to practice law.
In 1968 Romero-Barceló was elected mayor of San Juan and was reelected four years later. During his terms in office he modernized and improved local government; he implemented many of the same modern methods used by other more experienced mayors, that he learned while attending meetings as a member of the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. A strong supporter of statehood for Puerto Rico, Romero-Barceló served as president of Citizens for State 51 from 1965 to 1967. He emerged as a leader among statehood advocates during his service as mayor, and in 1974 he was elected president of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, serving in this position until 1986.
In 1976, Romero-Barceló became the first Hispanic American to be elected president of the National League of Cities. That same year he was elected Governor of Puerto Rico, and was reelected four years later, serving from 1977 to 1985, becoming the fifth elected governor of Puerto Rico to occupy La Fortaleza, the oldest continuously lived-in executive mansion in the Western Hemisphere. During his first term he concentrated on reviving the Island's economy and building its infrastructure. During his second term, the Romero-Barceló administration concentrated on bringing tax relief to the Island's middle and working classes by placing some taxes on previously tax-exempt corporations. He also initiated major improvements in the physical facilities of the Island's schools, hospitals, and recreation and sports facilities.
Romero-Barceló led the successful fight to gain extension of the federal minimum wage to include all workers in Puerto Rico. As a member of the National Governors Association, he struck up a friendship with his then-fellow Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton. In 1981, Romero-Barceló was elected chairman of the nineteen-member Southern Governors Association.
In 1985 he returned to the private practice of law. However, he maintained an active presence in various national and Puerto Rican political circles and in 1989 he was once again elected president of the New Progressive Party. He led the party's delegation before Congress whenever it considered legislation affecting the political status of the Island from 1989 to 1990.
In 1992 Romero-Barceló was elected to a four-year term as Resident Commissioner to the U.S. House of Representatives. During the 103rd Congress he served on the Committee on Education and Labor, and the Natural Resources Committee. He was elected by colleagues to the Executive Council of the Democratic Study Group. He was the only freshman elected by both his Democratic and Republican colleagues to the Executive Committee of the Environmental and Energy Study Conference. He was also a member of the Congressional Arts Caucus.
In the 103rd Congress Romero-Barceló supported President Clinton's budget plan which reduced the federal corporate tax credits of multinationals doing business in Puerto Rico.
He has always advocated equal rights and responsibilities for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico. He denounces special tax breaks because he believes they limit public participation in the nation's socio-economic programs.
In the 104th Congress, he serves on the Committee on Educational and Economic Opportunities, and on the Committee on Natural Resources, and was elected as First Vice-Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for the 104th Congress.
Publications by Carlos Romero-Barceló:
"Puerto Rico, U.S.A.: The Case for Statehood." Foreign Affairs 59 (Fall 1980): pp. 58-81.
Statehood Is For the Poor. N.P.: Master Typesetting of P.R. Inc., 1978. Originally published as "La Estatidad es para los Pobres." 1973.