Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-1995
Santiago Polanco-Abreu was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico on October 30, 1920, and attended primary and secondary schools in Isabela, Puerto Rico. He received a B.A. degree (1941) and an LL.B. (1943) from the University of Puerto Rico. After graduation he was admitted to the bar and practiced law in Isabela and San Juan. From 1943 to 1944, he served as legal advisor to the Tax Court of Puerto Rico and was one of the founders of the Institute for Democratic Studies in San José, Costa Rica.
Polanco-Abreu began his political career in 1949 when he was elected to the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, where he served until 1964. He was Speaker of the House from 1962 to 1964. During 1951 and 1952 he participated in the Constitutional Convention of Puerto Rico.
In 1964 Polanco-Abreu was elected to a four-year term as Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner. In the U.S. House of Representatives he was elected to the Committees on Agriculture, Armed Services, and Interior and Insular Affairs. A strong advocate of education, Polanco-Abreu introduced and supported numerous pieces of legislation on education, including bills aimed at strengthening educational quality and opportunities in the U.S. and improving education resources for international studies and research. He also supported aid for the establishment of bilingual education programs, and proposed a study on the possibility of establishing a University of the Americas. An advocate of workers' rights, Polanco-Abreu spoke to the House on the effect of the Fair Labor Standards Act on Puerto Rico, and introduced a bill to amend the act to extend protection to additional employees and raise the minimum wage.
In 1968, Polanco-Abreu was unsuccessful in his bid for reelection. He returned to San Juan, Puerto Rico where he practiced law until his death on January 18, 1988.