>> Tuesday, November 4, 2014
In 1870, fourteen-year-old Manuel Pontón Fernández migrated from Spain to Puerto Rico seeking a better life. Mentored by a nobleman, Manuel quickly adapted to a new culture infused with Spanish, African and Taíno Indian influences. He lived through hurricanes, rampant disease, and the Spanish-American War of 1898, becoming one of the top tobacco planters in the island. He married into the family of Luis Muñoz Rivera, Puerto Rico’s First Delegate to the United States Congress and the force behind United States citizenship for Puerto Ricans. After much sacrifice, Manuel achieved his dream: A successful business, a beautiful family, money and powerful relationships.
All the power and influence in the world could not prepare Manuel for the dreadful fate of his troubled son Antonio, who in 1911 he sent away to study at the prestigious Albany Law School in New York.
On January 7, 1916, Antonio Pontón became the first Puerto Rican and Hispanic person executed on the electric chair in the United States.
But he was wrongfully executed.
Antonio's Will is a valuable reading for those interested in learning about Puerto Rico's history, as well as the subjects of law, justice and death penalty at the turn of the 20th Century in the United States.
The novel is the result of many years of research that began with the study of one of the author's paternal ancestors. The century-old events of Antonio Pontón's crime and his execution were not passed down to the author's family, although the event made front page and newspaper headlines in the early 1900’s, both in the United States and in Puerto Rico.
The book walks the reader through the historical and cultural journey of the making of one of the most prominent Puerto Rican families at the turn of the 20th century. The reader will learn historical details about Manuel Pontón, his tobacco business, his family, as well as about his son Antonio's life in New York, his crime, the trial injustices, his life at the Sing Sing Prison, and the legal and social environment leading to his wrongful execution, including details of the execution and aftermath.
The novel also brings to light the unprecedented call by the Puerto Rican people, community leaders, U.S. and Puerto Rican government officials and even prison wardens who tried in vain to persuade New York's Governor Charles S. Whitman to commute Antonio Pontón's death sentence.
Yasmin Tirado-Chiodini is an attorney, biomedical engineer and family historian. She is a former Space Shuttle engineer and adjunct professor of legal ethics and negotiations for the Executive M.B.A. program at Rollins College, Crummer Graduate School of Business in Winter Park, Florida. She is also a start-up founder and entrepreneur. In addition to authoring “Antonio’s Will,” exposing the story of injustice of the first Hispanic executed on the electric chair in the United States, she is the author of “Does Your Compass Work? A Legal Guide for Florida Businesses” and frequently publishes in various media. Recognized for her community leadership and contributions, she has a solo business and intellectual property law practice and lives in Florida with her husband, daughter and their four Labradors. For more information, visit www.tirado-chiodini.com.
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