Businessman Demetrio Pérez Jr, founder of the Lincoln-Martí schools, dies in Miami

Pérez had a prominent role in the Miami community as a promoter of bilingual education and as editor of the weekly LIBRE.

Demetrio Pérez Jr (izq.) junto al comentarista y locutor Armando Pérez Roura durante una celebración del Día del Matancero Ausente en Miami © Demetrio Pérez Jr
Demetrio Pérez Jr (left) with commentator and announcer Armando Pérez Roura during a celebration of Matancero Absent Day in Miami Photo © Demetrio Pérez Jr

This article is from 1 year ago

HeCuban American businessman, politician and educator Demetrio Perez Jr, founder of the Lincoln-Martí schools, died in Miami at the age of 77, they reportedfamily sources.

Pérez died early Friday morning after a prolonged illness, which was not disclosed.

He had a prominent role in the Miami community aspromoter of bilingual education and opportunities for minorities, He led political efforts for the democratization of Cuba and promoted Hispanic journalism through his newspaperFREE, but he also turned out to be a controversial figure, even marked by an accusation and guilt of a federal crime.

Pérez was born in the town of Ceiba Mocha, province of Matanzas, on August 7, 1945, and at the age of 15 he emigrated without his parents to the United States as part of theOperation Pedro Pan, the child exodus of 14,048 Cuban children who fled the communist regime.

The family separation did not last long, as his parents arrived in Miami in 1964. Four years after reunifying with his parents, the family founded the first Lincoln-Martí school, which would be the embryo of a chain of schools from preschool to twelfth grade. throughout the state of Florida.

The focus of the Lincoln-Martí educational project, which today totals 46 educational centers and daycare centers from Miami to the Orlando area, has been bilingual education, special programs for low-income students and the exaltation of patriotic values.

In these years, the Lincoln-Martí schools promoted the initiative of the Martí parades in the Miami area, dedicated to the figure of the Cuban independence hero José Martí (1853-1895).

Pérez also entered the political arena and obtained a seat asMiami City Commissioner between 1981 and 1985. At that stage his name gained national notoriety for his opposition to the filming of the filmScarface (1983), starring Al Pacino and directed by Brian de Palma, because it was considered to denigrate the Miami community.

Pérez's role was decisive in demanding that the city deny producers the use of municipal properties and public roads.

In 1996 he was elected to theMiami-Dade School Board, in which he held the chair for five years and served as its vice president.

When the arrival ofrafter boy Elián González, Pérez was at the center of the controversy after offering him a scholarship for his studies and promoting Lincoln-Martí as “Elián's school.”

In 2002, he pleaded guilty in federal court after being accused of overcharging his low-income Plan 8 tenants. He was sentenced to six months of house arrest and two years of supervised release.

Pérez's work spread widely in journalism. He was the founding owner of the weeklyFREE, established in 1966 as a bilingual publication that is still distributed free of charge in print in the United States, and served as a commentator on educational and community issues on the Radio Mambí station.

ButFREE It has not been without controversy either. In 2020, a scandal broke out over alleged anti-Semitic and racist content on its pages. The controversy arose after readers ofThe New Herald, which distributedFREE as a paid insertion, they will complain about the content of certain articles.

Pérez is survived by his son Demetrio J. Pérez, three grandchildren, and his partner, María Rodríguez.

Funeral services will take place on March 17, at the Caballero Rivero Woodlawn Funeral Home, in Miami, from 6 to 11 p.m. There will be a memorial mass on Saturday, March 18, at 11 a.m., at Trinity Cathedral in Miami, followed by the burial.

What do you think?


Filed in:

Do you have something to report?
Write to CiberCuba:

 +1 786 3965 689