Rosselló confuses the history of the founding father of statehood
The rushed visit governor Ricardo Rosselló had at the convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where he received a fleeting endorsement for statehood, was not the only mishap he had in his efforts to push for the decolonization of Puerto Rico.
During his speech, Rosselló inspired himself in the memory of Jose Celso Barbosa, one of the founding fathers of the statehood movement on the island, to explain to those present the vicissitudes that the citizens of Puerto Rico have had to undergo throughout the years.
Curiously in that story, the Governor narrated how Barbosa was not accepted to the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), even though he had the capacity for it because he was a black man.
However this information is incorrect. The UPR did not exist before 1903, after the occupation of the United States of America on the island. In that sense, it is correct to state that Barbosa was the first Puerto Rican M.D. graduated from an American university, but that happened in 1870 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In facto, the UPR opened its doors 18 years before the death of Barbosa in 1921; furthermore the first version of what could be considered a formal school of medicine on the island was the Instituto de Medicina Tropical, which started operating in 1912.
Ergo, the UPR could have never been able to refuse entry to Barbosa, as Rosselló stated, because it did not exist back then.
Some biographical information points out that Barbosa confronted problems in his return to Puerto Rico so that his degree as a medical doctor would be recognized, as when he graduated the island was still occupied by the Spanish crown. He had to seek out help from the members of United States embassy on the island to assist in the validation of his credential, as the custom was to recognize academic degrees from European universities.
Another piece of information the Governor seems to enlarge or confuse about Barbosa was his roots. In his speech, he said Barbosa had emigrated to Puerto Rico, however, the man was born in Bayamón on July 27 of 1857. In fact, his house is now a Museum where multiple activities, in celebration of his birthday and the battle for statehood, have been held.
Additionally, Rosselló explained in his speech that Barbosa was convinced to seek statehood after his experience as a student in the United States. That has been debated throughout history, as the historical figure developed an interest in politics later on in his career, first as a member of the Autonomist Party championed by Román Baldorioty De Castro and later on 1899. After the Spanish-Cuban War and the invasion of the island by the United States, Barbosa founded the Republican Party in Puerto Rico which favored statehood for the island.