Pablo Morales Otero was born September 28, 1896, in Río Piedras, the son of Carmen Otero Cuyar and Pablo Morales Cabrera. He grew up in a family of writers. His father had been a writer of short stories and educational books and his grandfather, José Pablo Morales, was a politician and a journalist who wrote about politics, economics, history and literature. Morales Otero began his primary education in Toa Alta and Bayamón and continued his secondary education in San Juan. He enrolled at the University of Maryland, where he completed his medical degree in 1919.
He returned to the island and began his career in the municipality of Fajardo. Later, in 1923, he accepted the post of bacteriologist in the Biological Laboratory of the Puerto Rico Health Department. In 1928, he was one of the first six students to obtain the Certificate of Tropical Medicine granted by the School of Tropical Medicine, which was attached to the University of Puerto Rico. He immediately joined the faculty of the school as a professor of bacteriology and parasitology. In 1934, he was president of the Puerto Rico Medical Association and, over the course of several years, he edited the organization's official journal, El Heraldo Médico.
In 1936, Morales Otero was named director of the Public Health Division of the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration (PRRA), one of the socio-economic reform projects that was part of the United States' New Deal programs in Puerto Rico and had been implemented because of the acute crisis that prevailed on the island. He served as director of the School of Tropical Medicine from 1940 to 1946.
Pablo Morales Otero was an active member of the Popular Democratic Party. He participated in Puerto Rico's Constituent Convention, which took place between September 17, 1951 and July 25, 1952 and created a new system of government for Puerto Rico: the commonwealth. In 1952, he was elected as an at-large representative in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives for the Popular Democratic Party. He held the seat until 1964.
In the scientific field, Morales Otero contributed academic articles to various medical journals: "Antigenic and Biochemical Studies of Shigella Paradysenteriae in Puerto Rico" (the magazine Immunol, 1932), which he wrote along with Luis M. González, and "The effect of sulfanilamide on experimental leprosy" (Journal of Infectious Diseases, 1943), which he co-authored with Cecil Krakower and Joseph Axtmayer. Along with Manuel A. Pérez, he created a collection of five monographs, written between 1937 and 1939, collectively titled "Health and Socio-economic Studies in Puerto Rico". These were published in 1940 in the Puerto Rico Journal of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, the official journal of the School of Tropical Medicine. His interest in health as a social welfare issue and the island's socio-economic situation reflects the era in which he lived.
Morales Otero, along with other writers from the 1930s Generation, demonstrated a concern for the development of Puerto Rican culture and identity. The book, Nuestros Problemas (1943), is a compilation of essays and articles he had published in various periodicals and magazines. It included writings in which he analyzed the social and moral problems of Puerto Ricans. One of his most palpable concerns was the condition of the rural people in Puerto Rico, an idea he addressed in "Homo sapiens" and "El jíbaro Americano," both of which were included in the volume.
Because he wanted his knowledge to be accessible to the public, he wrote his books in plain and simple language. In Recorriendo el camino (1957), he wrote about the "psycho-biological" development of man and the factors that cause mental and physical disorders. Part of this book is a series of educational stories about Puerto Rican rural people, including "Cosas de mi tierra" and "Pico de oro." These stories not only address the topics mentioned above, but also provide advice on maintaining good mental health.
Other works of his include Vivir soñando (1959), in which he addressed the social problem of drug addiction, including its psychological and sociological effects; Bebiendo espero (1959), about alcoholism; Puerto Rico, grande y rico (1960), in which he described the social and economic transformation Puerto Rico experienced in the years following the publication of Nuestros problemas.
Along different lines, he produced Hombres de mi tierra (1965), in which he compiled biographies of distinguished Puerto Ricans; José Pablo Morales – Apuntes biográficos (1828-1882), the biography of his grandfather, and Ensaladilla de recuerdos (1966).
On medical topics, he wrote the books El arte de curar (1951); Enfermedades de los animales que se propagan al hombre (1952); Enemigos del hombre (1955), about microbes, and Cosas de la mente (1961), a short work on psychology and psychiatry.
Pablo Morales Otero died on November 16, 1971, in San Juan.
Rivera de álvarez, Josefina. Diccionario de literatura puertorriqueña. 2a ed. Vol 2. San Juan, P. R.: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 1974. Impreso.
García Cabrera, Manuel. "Pablo Morales Otero y la literatura de divulgación médica en Puerto Rico". Folios 1.2 (1957): 9-20. Impreso.
Web page of the Medical Association of Puerto Rico
Autor: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 09, 2010.