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Celebrating the Life of Maurice Ferré, Miami's First Hispanic Mayor

Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico on June 23rd, 1935, Maurice Antonio Ferré was the nephew of then-Puerto Rico governor Luis A. Ferré. Ferré's history with the city of Miami started back during a visit from his father, José Antonio Ferré, who questioned the lack of tall buildings in the area. A student of a boarding school in New Jersey, Ferré was asked to come to Miami by his mother, Florence Ferré, after having recently bought a house in the city. In 1955, Ferré married next-door neighbor María Mercedes Malaussena in Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela. Ferré graduated from the University of Miami in 1957 with a degree in architectural engineering and was honored into the Iron Arrow Honor Society during his time there. 

His career in politics started in 1966 when he became a Representative of the State of Florida. The following year, Ferré was named commissioner of the city of Miami. In 1973, his tenure as mayor of Miami started - serving as the first-ever Hispanic and Puerto Rican mayor in the history of the Magic City. During a period of time known for dramatic shifts in demographics due to the mass migration of Cubans and race riots, Ferré carried the city through transformative growth for a total of twelve years serving as mayor. Only a total of 3% of the city's registered voters were Hispanic at the time of his appointment; that number ultimately rose to 40% at the end of his administration. “While former Mayor Ferré fully grasped Miami’s rising status as the de facto capital of the Americas, he also recognized it as a city on the verge of becoming far greater than the sum of its parts—more diverse, more inclusive, and more embracing of people across the globe,” said University of Miami President Julio Frenk. Ferré was committed to seeing statehood for the island of Puerto Rico, going as far as delivering a speech to the United Nations in 1977 where he accused the United States of treating the island as a colony.

In 1985,  lost his reelection bid as mayor to rival Xavier Suarez. Since then, he has served as Vice-Chairman of the Dade County Board of Commissioners from 1993-96, continued being active in national political campaigns, and became a member of presidential advisory boards. Ferré was a leader in the "intermestic" conversation surrounding the political status of Puerto Rico from both international and domestic points of view. A Miami park was named after him in early 2019 as a tribute to his legacy. 

Ferré was diagnosed with spinal cancer. For the past two years, Ferré's treatment forced him to rely on a walker and then a wheelchair as his primary method of transportation. This did not stop him from continuously showing up to City Hall, urging local Democrats not to take Latino voters for granted in the United States 2020 presidential election. Ferré ultimately lost the battle to cancer on September 19th, 2019. Ferré is survived by his wife, five children, twelve grandchildren, sister, and brother. 

To read more on the legacy of Ferré, read and listen through the archives gathered together by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies: