As promised, I shall resume my reflections. I already wrote about my close friendship with El Gallo, as my colleague and friend Orlando I. Martinez Garcia is known in his beloved hometown of Manati, P.R., and how our friendship changed the trajectory of my research agenda, in my last two reflections. Today, I will reminisce about some of the many other friends and acquaintances I made after joining the Puerto Rico legal academy. Since I began my academic career at the law school of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Puerto Rico (PUCPR), I will begin with my fellow PUCPR colleagues Jorge Cordava, Hector Cuprill, Ramon Antonio Guzman, Ruben Nigaglioni, and last but not least, Don Pedro Ortiz Alvarez. (I will pay homage to my non-PUCPR colleagues and friends in my next post.)
I previously eulogized the late Jorge Cordava in this post dated June 25, 2015. (I cannot believe it has been six years since I attended his funeral.) And as I mentioned in my 2015 post, I ended up spending countless hours in Jorge’s company in his law school office, which was right next door to mine, and we also shared many lunches together at one of our favorite local restaurants “La Casa del Chef.” His office was a treasure trove of mementos designed to make you feel at home. I can still remember his big, blue reclining chair, the over-sized picture of his sailboat, and various odds and ends from his Washington, D.C. days. His door was always open–both literally as well as figuratively–unless he had some juicy gossip to share! Suffice it to say that I admired Jorge as an academic role model, and I made good use of his sound counsel on many occasions. I will always cherish his memory in my heart.
My office at the PUCPR law school was next door to Jorge’s office (to the right). Down the hall to the left were the offices of my colleagues Hector Cuprill and Ruben Nigaglioni, two distinguished and veteran law professors who had taught at PUCPR for decades. As it happens, I met Ruben and Hector for the first time in the spring of 1998 at a screening interview, when I was first being considered for a university teaching post, and I am forever grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to launch my academic career. Hector and Ruben wanted to recruit someone with a U.S. legal education and a common law background (like myself) in order to reinvigorate the intellectual life of the law school. Little did I know at the time, however, that there was another faction of the PUCPR law school, a minority one composed of such stalwarts as Olga Soler Bonnin and others, who were opposed to my hire. At my first faculty meeting, for example, Olga openly questioned my ability to teach “civil law” courses. (Historically speaking, Puerto Rico was a crown colony of Spain for many centuries and the Island’s legal tradition was based in large part on Spanish law and the Spanish Civil Code, which in turn was inspired by the famous Napoleonic Code of 1804.) But I did not allow these parochial and small-minded civil law vipers on the faculty to dampen my spirits or slow me down. Instead, I did my best to win them over and was promoted to associate professor and awarded tenure within six years of my appointment (2004).
Next, I want to shout out two more of my PUCPR colleagues–my mentors Don Ramon Antonio Guzman and Don Pedro Ortiz Alvarez. I had met Don Pedro for the first time in the summer of 1993, when I was studying for the bar. As part of my “JTS” bar exam course, Don Pedro had lectured on the subjects of constitutional law and administrative law. In short, Don Pedro’s lectures that summer were not just lucid, clear, and to the point; they were, to this day, the best lectures on these subjects that I have ever attended, period. In short, Don Pedro set the standard, a living exemplar that I would always try to emulate. For his part, Don Ramon Antonio was a scholar’s scholar and an accomplished artist in his own right. Among other things, Don Ramon Antonio organized an annual outing in the spring, La Noche de Arte y Derecho, at the Puerto Rico Museum of Art to showcase the artistic talents of our students. In addition, he had invited me on several occasions to chaperone the students attending our law school’s summer program in Spain. Before I conclude this post, a few words about the summer program and my travels are thus in order.
The first part of the study-abroad program usually began at the end of May and consisted of several four-week courses in European and public international law at an old monastery owned by the Fundacion Ortega y Gasset in the historic city of Toledo, some 42 miles south of Madrid, while the second part of the program consisted of a week-long jaunt in the south of Spain, with overnight stays in the historic towns of Cordoba, Sevilla, and Granada, as well as a day trip to Tangiers in Morocco. These summers in Spain would launch my love affair with travel (of which I will write about in greater detail in some future posts). For now, it suffices to say that I would extend my summer sojourns in order to visit as many other places in Europe and North Africa as I could after the Toledo study-abroad program had come to a close. But of all the places I had the honor of visiting during these various summers in the late 1990s and early 2000s my favorite was and still is the medieval town of Toledo, a small walled city full of secret gardens, fountains, and courtyards. Her winding streets were too narrow to accommodate any cars or trucks. I always felt transported in time whenever I was in Toledo, as if I was living in the Golden Age of Cervantes and Lope de Vega …