José N. Gándara

Not to be confused with Raúl Gándara-Cartagena.
Dr. José N. Gándara Cartagena
Dr. José N. Gándara
Born 26 August 1907[1]
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Died 11 October 1954[2]
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Nationality Puerto Rican
Occupation Physician, public servant

Dr. José Narciso Gándara Cartagena[note 1] (1907–1954) was a Puerto Rican physician and public servant. He is best remembered for having led teams of doctors in the medical care necessary to treat the hundreds of wounded of the infamous Ponce Massacre that occurred on Palm Sunday, 1937, in Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the hands of the Insular Police, under orders of the American colonial governor Blanton Winship. Dr. Gándara was also instrumental in providing expert witness testimony, grounded on his medical training and experience, to the effect that the wounded Puerto Rican Nationalists running away from the police were shot in the back, and that many were again wounded by the police clubs and bare fists.

Early Years

José N. Gándara Cartagena was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on 26 August 1907.[3] He was the son of Manuel Gandara and Mercedes Cartagena.[4]


Gandara graduated from Ponce High School in 1925.[5] After this, he went to college graduating from the Long Island College of Medicine in 1933 and did his intership in the Ponce Presbyterian Hospital the next year. In 1934-1936 he worked as a resident physician at the Clinica Quirurgia del Dr. Pila. He continued his medical lifelong training at the New York Policlinic Medical Hospital. In 1949, he also studied at the Instituto de Cardiología de México.[6]



As a physician he specilized in internal medicine, radiology and cardiology and practiced in Ponce from 1933 to 1942. He was a member of the Puerto Rico Medical Association, the American Medical Association and the American Society Against Diabetes, in addition to holding membership in other numerous civic and professional organizations in Puerto Rico.[7]

Public service

Dr. Gandara held over a dozen different public servant positions in Puerto Rico, not only in health field but also in public housing and other areas. He was also Deputy Commissioner of Health of the Commonwealth from 1943 to 1945.[8] He was also one of the founders of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico.[9]

He was a radiologist for the Puerto Rico Department of Health (1946–1952); consulting physician for Puerto Rico's Fondo del Seguro del Estado (1950–1952); physician for the Puerto Rico Teachers Association (1945–1952); member of the Board of Regents of the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine (1942–1950); president of the Board of Commissioners of the Puerto Rico Housing Authority 1946.[10]


In 1942, he was appointed by governor Luis Muñoz Marín as a member of Puerto Rico's Consejo Superior de Enseñanza (later, Consejo de Educacion Superior) at a time when he was public welfare director in the municipality of Ponce (1941–1943).[11]

He was one of the founders of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico, but declined various other political positions due to his various other responsibilities in his gubernamental positions.[12]


In 1954, Dr. Gandara was in the midst of a major government initiative for the creation of public housing in Puerto Rico in order to eliminate ghettos in the Island. At that time, while in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he suffered a coronary thrombosis that killed him. He died on 12 October 1954; he was 47 years old. Jaime Benítez, said this about Dr. Gandara: “The death of José Gándara leaves a void in the first row of the people of our generation dedicated to public service and particularly dedicated to harnessing science for the service of those who cannot afford medical care. He consecrated with integrity the resources of his intelligence, his education and his care in order to provide service far beyond the call of duty. He leaves us an enduring memory and example of dedication and love for his fellow men.”[13]


On 2 November 1954, the then Secretary of Education, Mariano Villaronga, stated that an intermediate school would be built in Río Piedras to honor his memory. He used these words: “Doctor Gándara dedicated his time and effort to urban renewal, to the elimination of poor housing and to the construction of public housing. In his private life he raised an examplary home. He was a man like God wants men to be: with human warmth, generous in his service to others, fully given to those things of a valuable character. He was thoroughly dedicated to those things he believed in. No one knew the existence in him of rencor, hate, or resentment. Whenever he had prejuidice it was unvariably in favor of something or someone that deserved it.” [14]

In addition, there are public housing developments in Ponce and Moca named after Dr. Gandara. There is a high school in Aibonito, Puerto Rico named in his memory. He is recognized as one of Ponce's greatest physicians at the Park of the Illustrious Ponce Citizens.[15]

Also, the once Hospital de Distrito de Ponce, since privatized and renamed Hospital San Lucas, was named Hospital de Distrito Jose N. Gandara was it first opened in May 1955. The then modern 4-story facility was built to replace the 2-story Hospital de Distrito de Ponce on Victoria and Distrito streets built in 1929.[16]

See also

Puerto Rico portal



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