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N.Y. Encyclopedia of Famous Puerto Ricans    

Rafael "Churumba" Cordero

Date of birth: October 24, 1942  Place of birth: La Playa Ponce, Puerto Rico  Date of death: January 17, 2004 (brain hemorrhage) Place of death: Río Piedras, Puerto Rico Occupation:Mayor of Ponce. Education: Bachelor's degree in Arts Political history: Mayor from 1989 to 2004 (death).Member of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico (PPD). Special aide of Rafael Hernández Colón (1969).  Remarks: Arrested and imprisoned after practicing civil disobedience in the Navy-Vieques protests


Churumba Cordero was born in the township of La Playa in Ponce, Puerto Rico. From 1960 to 1964 he studied in the Pontiff Catholic University, receiving a bachellor's degree in Arts with a concentration in Political Sciences, Economy, and Social Sciences. Cordero was involved in Puerto Rican politics since 1969, when he began working as a special aide to the former Governor of Puerto Rico Rafael Hernández Colón; then president of the Puerto Rican senate. A member of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) Cordero went on to work in the departments of finance and workers' rights. In 1988, Cordero received the support of Hernández Colón and won the elections of the municipality of Ponce for the PPD by 1,617 votes against his opponent Helcías Bermúdez of the New Progressive Party. He repeated the triumph for the 1992, 1996 and 2000 elections. Cordero was pivotal for the celebration of the XVII Central American and Caribbean Games held in Ponce on 1993. In 2001, Cordero was arrested and imprisoned for 30 days after practicing civil disobedience during the Navy-Vieques protests by ilegally trespassing the restricted grounds of the United States Navy on Vieques. Weeks prior to his death, Cordero signed a contract that allows Ponce to build a multi-millionare Mega Puerto complex; a maritime facility that promises Ponce to get $150 million dollars until 2076, as well as generating jobs for Ponce residents, benefitting the local Mercedita Airport and the hotel industry in Ponce. Cordero was a respected politician among Puerto Ricans, including those who didn't follow his ideology. Many of them considered him as a synonym of Ponce, being baptized as the Greatest Lion (or León Mayor in Spanish) in reference to the city's nickname of The Lion City of Ponce. “Churumba” —a nickname given in reference to Cordero's height— is a Puerto Rican Spanish name given to small spinning tops.


The former Mayor of Ponce died at the age of 61 on January 17, 2004 at 9:00 AM AST in the Medical Center of Río Piedras after slipping into a coma and suffering a brain hemorrhage. His posthomous wish of donating his organs was fulfilled. The funeral guard was held on the Juan 'Pachin' Vicens auditorium with a rotatory guard of politicians, public servicemen and the different sport teams of Ponce. Many visitors cheered “Long live Churumba!” and “We love you!” The electronic board of the auditorium held the message “The Greatest Lion rests in peace”. The coffin was later returned to a local funeral for a familiar veil guard. The day after, on Monday 19, a prayer was given in the Nuestra Señora de la Guadalupe Cathedral after exposing the mortal remains in the Mayor's House. Cordero's burial was held in the La Piedad Cemetary in the northwest of Ponce. Rafael Hernández Colón and his brother were in charge of the oratory mourning. Churumba left two daughters, fraternal twin sisters Solange Marie and Maria Bianca, and his widow Madeline Velasco whom during her funeral speech finished with Cordero's famous phrase of “Ponce is Ponce, everything else is parking”.

References :

  1. El Nuevo Dia. Muere 'Churumba' Cordero. San Juan, Puerto Rico. January 17, 2004.

  2. Periodico El  Vocero de Puerto Rico

  3. Boricuas Hall Of fame Home Page.

  4. Boricuas Hall of Fame


                  Thursday July 08, 2004