Alejandro Tapia y Rivera (1826-1882): Tapia was born in San Juan, the son of a Spanish officer and a Puerto Rican mother, and has been hailed as "the father of Puerto Rican theater." Although family problems did not allow him to pursue a formal education, he did study in Spain between 1849 and 1852. The colonial authorities frequently censored Tapia's ideas and writings, although he was reformer and never advocated revolution. Facing constant censorship and financial hardship, Tapia decided to settle in Cuba, where he remained until 1869. While there he wrote one of his better known plays, La cuarterona, one of the few works of Puerto Rican 19th century literature to deal with the issue of slavery and race relations. Tapia would also express his antislavery views in the memoirs that he was writing when death surprised him in 1882, just a year after Puerto Rico's recently freed slaves were granted political rights.
Julio Vizcarrondo y Coronado (1830-1889): Little has been written about the life of this exceptional Puerto Rican, who devoted most of his life to combat slavery. He was educated in the United States, where he met his future wife, Harriet Brewster, also an abolitionist. A Mason and a publicist, Vizcarrondo used his Masonic connections and his writing to draw the attention of the Spanish Cortes to the issue of slavery in the Antilles. He was thus very influential in reinitiating discussion in the Cortes on issues related to slavery and its immediate abolition. This was an important achievement, since Spanish governments had been skirting the issue since the debates on slavery and the slave trade that had characterized the Cortes of 1811. Not content with that, he helped organize the Spanish Abolitionist Society, as we have already seen. Together with his friend Jose Julian Acosta he denounced the condition of slaves in Puerto Rico and Cuba by writing such influential figures as French novelist and poet Victor Hugo, whom Vizcarrondo convinced to join the abolitionist society. He died in Madrid in 1889.
The final blow to Puerto Rican slavery would come on March 22, 1873 when the Cortes of the First Spanish Republic decreed the abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico. Although many abolitionists were not satisfied with the final version of this law, slavery was dead as an institution. Other problems lay ahead, such as redressing the social and racial inequities resulting from some 400 years of slavery, but that would be another fight, which like abolition, would engage Puerto Rican's of all colors and social classes well into the present.