The high school boy stood, arms folded, as classmates saluted for the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. "Why should I pledge allegiance to any flag other than that of Puerto Rico, my native land?" questioned Antonio Morales Ramírez.
"Soon you will have to face the realities of life," the principal had admonished him. But he never wavered in his loyalty to the Puerto Rican flag. He took pride in his heritage. Ancestors on his mother's side, the Ramírez family, had participated in the Grito de Lares of 1868, for liberation from Spain.
From those early beginnings, Morales held fast to his nationalism. He was one of the founders of the Nationalist Party in 1923, which later, in 1930, came under the inspired leadership of Pedro Albizu Campos.
He had left high school seeking work in a sewing machine factory. Being too young for the job, he was shunted into a restaurant job at La Cafetería in Old San Juan. There he added up bills for the princely sum of $30 a month.
The restaurant experience led him, eventually, to the Mallorquin, the oldest restaurant in San Juan, established under the Spanish regime in 1848. There, amid tables draped with white linen, waiters in white jackets, and murals of Spanish scenes, Morales, manager since 1959, presided, his quiet dignity and courtliness of manner reminiscent of an age of gallantry long past. Generous hospitality awaited his friends as he sat with them. We were hosted several times to a meal of superbly prepared Spanish and Puerto Rican-style cooking, along with a glass of wine.
And now we mourn the recent passing of our generous friend. He had remained for sixty- two years a loyal member of the Nationalist Party. He envisioned a free Puerto Rico liberated from United States domination, free from political antagonisms, one family under the Puerto Rican flag. Then he would no longer be an American, but a Puerto Rican citizen. Alas, that he did not live to realize this dream.