Julio Enrique Monagas was born in Ponce. As a youth, he became interested in sports and competed in several track and field events, particularly the shot put and pole vaulting. After finishing elementary and high school, he continued his education at the Polytechnic Institute in San Germán, the educational institution that later became the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico.
In 1929, he was the founder of one of the first athletic clubs on the island, the Ponce Athletic Club, which along with the San Juan Olympic Club, was the first sports organization that was not affiliated with a school or university. They were also the first to hold competitions using the metric system.
He continued promoting the development of sports in the southern part of the island. In 1938, he was part of the Puerto Rican delegation that participated in the Sixth Central American Games in Panama, both as an athlete delegate and as a journalist. In 1941, he became director of the Public Sports and Recreation Commission, whose role was to regulate sports on the island.
During this era, to give island sports more exposure abroad, he sent Puerto Rican teams to play exhibition games in other countries. One such case came in 1944 when he sent Germán Rieckehoff and a team of basketball players to Spain for games held to celebrate the centennial of the Real Madrid soccer team. Again in 1949, he sent Rieckehoff as the coach of Puerto Rico’s championship basketball team, the San Germán Athletics, to participate in a series.
In 1947, the Public Sports and Recreation Commission became the Public Recreation and Parks Commission under the direction of Julio E. Monagas. He was in charge of managing and controlling the public recreational sites and parks, as well as establishing a general program for developing public recreation and sports, both amateur and professional.
In 1947, Julio Enrique Monagas created the Puerto Rico Amateur Athletics Federation, of which he was president until 1965. It was fundamental in the development of track and field on the island. Later, the organization affiliated with the International Amateur Athletics Federation.
In 1950, the commission became the Public Recreation and Parks Administration. During the years that Monagas served as director of the recreation and sports offices, he took on the task of developing sports and recreation areas on the island. Under his administration, baseball leagues were created for children; the Golden Gloves Association was formed to organize amateur boxing; and parks were established at various sites on the island. Since 1980, this government agency has been called the Department of Recreation and Sports.
Julio Enrique Monagas is considered the father of Puerto Rican Olympic sports because thanks to his efforts, along with those of other sports enthusiasts, Puerto Rico was able to achieve recognition from the International Olympic Committee. The island’s sporting sovereignty was accepted internationally. Monagas continued the work he began in the 1930s to bring Puerto Rico into international sports competition.
In 1946, Monagas asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to recognize the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee, which consisted of Governor Jesús T. Piñero as chairman, Monagas as vice chairman, Roberto Sánchez Vilella as secretary and Rafael Buscaglia, Jorge Jiménez and Luis Torres Ros as members. The IOC said Puerto Rico first had to join the international sports organizations, which was done promptly. On September 17, 1947, Monagas presented his request again. In January of 1948, the ICO officially recognized the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee. The committee was in charge of promoting Olympic principles on the island, as well as choosing, certifying and sponsoring the national Olympic delegation.
That year, Puerto Rico participated in three sports in the Olympic Games held in London: track and field, marksmanship and boxing. In the last one Puerto Rico win a medal bronze thanks to Juan Evangelista Venegas. The delegation joined the parade carrying a white flag with the seal of Puerto Rico. In 1952, a Puerto Rican delegation was sent to the Olympic Games in Helsinki. That time, they used the United States flag at first, but after July 25, they carried the official flag of the recently constituted Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
In 1956, some members of the Puerto Rico Shooting Federation challenged the island Olympic Committee because it consisted of government officials, which violated Rule 25 of the Olympic Charter, which stipulated that national Olympic committees should be "completely independent and autonomous and completely free of political, religious and commercial influence."
A new Olympic Committee was formed with members of the five Puerto Rican federations that had international affiliations – athletics, boxing, cycling, weightlifting and shooting – but it was challenged again because it included Monagas, who was both the president of the Puerto Rico Athletics Association and the director of the Public Recreation and Parks Administration. Finally, a new committee was formed under the direction of businessman Jaime Annexy and other members of the federations. The IOC granted provisional recognition to the Puerto Rican committee, which allowed Puerto Rico to participate in the Olympic Games held in Melbourne, Australia (1956).
In 1958, after Annexy’s death, the committee was challenged again. A new committee was formed, headed by Julio E. Monagas, and it was officially recognized as the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee. Monagas served as president until 1965.
From 1962 to 1965, Monagas served as the first president of the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organization, an entity formed in 1962 to take charge of organizing the Central American and Caribbean Games.
Monagas retired in 1965. On April 4, 1984, he was awarded the Olympic Order, the highest honor granted by the International Olympic Committee to those who have contributed to the development of Olympic sports. He died July 14 that same year.
"Luto en el deporte con muerte de Monagas". El Mundo 15 julio 1984. Impreso.
Mayo Santana, Raúl. El juguete sagrado: Germán Rieckehoff Sampayo: vida y leyenda. San Juan, P. R.: Plaza Mayor, 2000. Impreso.
Torres Rivera, Johnny. "Antigua Administración de Parques y Recreo Públicos". Puerta de Tierra, San Juan, Puerto Rico, s. f. Web. 18 abril 2010.
Autor: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 08, 2014.