In 1946, the United States appointed a native Puerto Rican, Jesus T. Pifiero, as governor.
But the first Puerto Rican to be elected to the post was Luis Munoz Marin (1898-1980).
A journalist educated in Washington, D.C., he was the son of Luis Munoz Rivera (1859-1916), a patriot who had agitated against Spanish rule.
In the late 1930s, the younger Munoz founded the Popular Democratic Party and agitated against U.S. rule. In the 1940s, he changed his views, working instead for the transformation of the island into a self-governing commonwealth.
He believed that the economic advantages of the link to the wealthy United States outweighed whatever gains might result from independence, as long as Puerto Ricans could govern themselves.
The transformation to commonwealth was completed on July 25, 1952. In that year, under a new constitution, Puerto Rico’s own elected governor and legislature were fully put in charge of the island’s internal affairs.
The United States would continue managing its foreign affairs. Munoz was elected, and three times reelected, governor (1949-1965). He was the first native-born Puerto Rican governor to be put in office by the people’s vote.
July 25, Constitution Day, remains a Puerto Rican holiday.