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Roberto Sanchez-Vilella
Puerto Rico

Gov. Roberto Sanchez-Vilella

  • January 1, 1965 - January 1, 1969
  • Popular Democratic Party
  • February 19, 1913
  • March 25, 1997
  • Puerto Rico
  • Ohio State University
  • Married, two children


ROBERTO SANCHEZ-VILELLA was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, on February 19, 1913. He graduated from Ohio State University in 1934 with a Bachelor of Arts in civil engineering. Public offices include: Representative to Constitutional Electoral Redistribution Board; Member, Status Commission to study relations between Puerto Rico and the United States; Assistant Commissioner of the Interior, 1941-42; Administrator of Transportation Authority, 1942-45; Mayor of San Juan, 1945-46; Special Assistant to the President of the Puerto Rico Senate, 1946-47; Executive Secretary of Puerto Rico, 1949-51; Secretary of Public Works, 1951-59; and Secretary of State for Puerto Rico, 1952-65. For a brief time he worked in the private sector and was responsible for the construction of a large hotel, which was initiated under a governmental program to promote tourism. As governor, Sanchez-Vilella helped transform Puerto Rico from a poor agricultural society to one of industry and commerce. In 1967, in the face of an increasingly active movement for statehood, Sánchez arranged a plebiscite in which Puerto Ricans could choose among independence, statehood, and maintenance of the commonwealth relationship. An overwhelming majority voted for no change, but Puerto Rico’s status continued to be a lively issue, with most citizens favoring either statehood (an option the U.S. Congress showed little interest in pursuing) or commonwealth; only a small percentage desired independence. After leaving office, Vilella returned to private life, becoming a professor in the School of Public Administration at the University of Puerto Rico. Governor Sanchez-Villella died of cancer on March 25, 1997.


Governors of the American States, Territories and Commonwealths, National Governors' Conference, 1968.

Puerto Rico en breve (Spanish language)

Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia

Gobernadores bajo el Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico (Spanish language)

Recent Puerto Rico Governors