Phi Sigma Alpha commonly known as La Sigma is a Puerto Rican fraternity established originally as the Sigma Delta Alpha Fraternity (Sociedad de Amigos) on October 22, 1928 at the University of Puerto Rico by 12 students and a professor. Phi Sigma Alpha can trace its roots back to 1898 to the Union Hispano Americana, as well as to the first ever Greek letter Hispanic-oriented fraternity, Sigma Iota, established in 1912. By 1998 there were over 4,376 members.
Phi Sigma Alpha traces its origins to a number of organizations including Phi Lambda Alpha. Phi Lambda Alpha fraternity was founded at the University of California, Berkeley in 1919. The fraternity was a merger of three societies; the Unión Hispano Americana at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York founded in 1898, the first Latin-American student society in the USA; Pi Delta Phi Fraternity at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)]] founded in 1916; and Phi Lambda Alpha Fraternity founded in 1919 at the University of California, Berkeley. A group of Latin American students organized the Union Hispano Americana (UHA) as a cultural and intellectual secret society based on the ideology of Pan-Americanism.
After ΦΛΑ was organized, other societies joined it: the "Club Latino-Americano" founded in 1919 at Colorado School of Mines; the "Federación Latino-Americana" founded in 1926 at Columbia University which joined in 1928; the "Club Hispania" founded in 1929 of Cornell University which joined in 1931; the "Club Hispano-Americano" founded in 1921 of Tri-State College in Angola, Indiana which joined in 1929 and the Alfa Tenoxtitlan Militant chapter founded in 1929 made up of members of the old ΦΛΑ in Mexico City, Mexico.
Sigma Iota Fraternity was founded in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on March 2, 1912 previously known as the Sociedad Hispano Americana, which was founded in the University of Louisiana in 1904. Between 1912 and 1925, Sigma Iota expanded rapidly in the United States, South America, and Europe. As a result of this, Sigma Iota became the first international Latin American-based fraternity. Sigma Iota and Phi Lambda Alpha joined and became Phi Iota Alpha in 1931. In 1932, Phi Iota Alpha reorganized and formed the Union Latino Americana as its overall governing body, dividing their member fraternities in Latin America into zones in accordance to the country which they represented.
Sigma Delta Alpha fraternity was established by 12 students and a professor on October 22, 1928 at the University of Puerto Rico at 4:00pm at the Glorieta Fabián. The founding members included Santos P. Amadeo (professor of Law), Juan Figueroa, Fernando Jiménez, Hugo D. Storer, Joaquin Velilla, Victor M. Sánchez, Adalberto Carrasquillo, Diego Guerrero Noble, Samuel L. Rodríguez, José Laracuente, Charles H. Juliá, Gilberto del Valle and Gilberto Alemar.
Originally the name Kappa Delta Alpha was considered but it was quickly changed to Sigma Delta Alpha. By December 5, 1928 they established their Chapter House where they began celebrating their meetings.
Sigma Delta Alpha enjoyed for many years certain supremacy over the other student organizations at the University. Their membership included four of the most important student leadership positions at the university: the Yearbook editor, the senior class president, the Athletic Society President, and the ROTC Battalion Commander. Every activity sponsored by the administration was consulted with the chapter president of Río Piedras. In 1929 the Beta Chapter at the Colegio de Mayagüez (University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez) was established; thus the original chapter became known as Alpha.
Phi Sigma Alpha had its first reorganization with the merger between the Alpha Boriquen Militant Chapter of Phi Iota Alpha and Sigma Delta Alpha of the University of Puerto Rico in 1934. The Puerto Rican zone came to be when the Alpha Boriquen Militant Chapter was founded in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 4, 1934 by former members of Phi Iota Alpha.
|You may listen to the "Farola" and "Brindis Sigma" with an introduction by José Miguel Agrelot here.|
Under these conditions expressed above, a movement came about to unite Sigma Delta Alpha with the Alpha Boriquen Militant Chapter of Phi Iota Alpha. It was not an easy task, since many of the members of Sigma Delta Alpha did not want that change or to alter their history. But the decision was made and thus the Phi Sigma Alpha Zone of the Union Latino Americana came to be. A "Zone Directive" was created and a constitution was drafted, since there was no central body to control the fraternity. By 1937, the ULA had several well-established and functional zones including:
On January 7 and 8 of 1938 the last ULA Convention was held. Delegates of the United States, Cuba and the Puerto Rico zones were present. Sadly an agreement could not be reached over the ideals of the fraternity. After the convention, each zone considered the matter independently. The USA zone decided that the ideals of the ULA to be Pan-Americanism (the unification of Latin America by a system of confederacy) and demanded that the members of the fraternity be pro-independence when it came to Puerto Rico, the Cuban zone was undecided and therefore they followed the USA zone.
Puerto Rico refused this decision because it considered the introduction of political affairs to be unnecessary and also detrimental to the fraternity. Thus on September 25, 1938, the Phi Sigma Alpha Zone withdrew from the Union Latino Americana. The ULA dissolved shortly after.
Like the members of the Sigma, a majority of the members of the Chapter of Phi Iota Alpha of the University of Louisiana disillusioned with character given to their brotherhood decided to separate, founding in April 1939 Sigma Iota Alpha fraternity composed of Latin students of this university. As it was to be expected this new grouping was received with distrust by the other Latin fraternal organizations at the university. Being that Phi Sigma Alpha was organized in Puerto Rico with ideals similar to those of the Sigma Iota Alpha in Louisiana, and being both organizations the product of almost identical preceding brotherhoods, negotiations arose immediately to fuse both brotherhoods into a single one. This was decided in a convention celebrated on September 10, 1939 in the University Puerto Rico, organizing themselves Fraternidad Sigma or (Sigma Fraternity) with its ramifications; Phi Sigma Alpha Zone in Puerto Rico and Sigma Iota Alpha Zone in Louisiana (Later the USA Zone's name was changed to Phi Sigma Beta Zone and came to include other universities of the north).
The Phi Sigma Alpha Zone was organized by a board of directors of the zone, the Militant chapter Alpha Boriquén of San Juan, and two university chapters, one at U.P.R. Río Piedras and another one in the C.A.A.M. of Mayagüez. Years later the militant chapters of Ponce and Mayagüez were organized.
The Sigma Iota Alpha Zone (Phi Sigma Beta) was composed by Alpha chapter in the University of Louisiana. In 1941, the Beta chapter in the city of Baltimore, Maryland was organized; composed of students of the nearby universities (Georgetown, University of Maryland, University of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins, George Washington, etc.).
The years demonstrated the increasing difficulty to maintain a zone in the United States and to pretend that it worked as well as the one of Puerto Rico. A reformist movement arose abroad that culminated in 1964 with the establishment of the Phi Sigma Alpha Fraternity composed of active and militant chapters that can be found in Puerto Rico, in the United States or abroad. Therefore, the zones were eliminated.
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The baby boom era of the post war years and the economic development of the island was at its peak, thus it was reflected in its universities. The Puerto Rican youth registered in great numbers, thus the Fraternity, which acted as the suppliers of the union between its young people and an escape from arduous studies, also offered student housing. The Sigma enjoyed during next the two decades extensive enrollment in the original chapters and the new ones that were beginning to develop. Approaching the 1980s, the "baby boom" began to decline drastically only to resurge at the end of same decade and continuing until the beginnings of the 1990s.
The 1990s brought an arduous persecution towards fraternities, partly motivated by the death of two young cadets of the quasi-fraternal group the "Panthers" of the ROTC in the CAAM, and also a damages lawsuit perpetrated against another island fraternity. This brought forth a law, which can be found in Article 125 of the New Puerto Rico Penal Code, to control the initiation processes or "hazing" and to protect candidates. The Sigma Brotherhood that since 1959 had prohibited in its processes the use of the "Pledge Paddle" is proud to have been the first again in prohibiting acts against the physical and mental dignity of the neophyte, even before the Article 125 was enacted.
The Sigma has continued its emphasis throughout the years on the areas of community and social work by its active and militant chapters which always take part in blood drives and fund raising activities for different organizations. The Sigma Scholarship Program or ("Beca Sigma" in Spanish) program has been re-established and promises to offer young Puerto Ricans of scarce resources the opportunity to receive University studies.
The fraternity's highest administrative body is the "Junta de Directores", or Board of Directors. This body is composed of two groups, the first being the "Comité Ejecutivo Central", or Central Executive Committee, which includes the fraternity president, vice president and others. The second group is composed by the regional presidents, and by the presidents and secretaries of all the fraternity chapters, alumni and active. All members have an equal vote. The Board of Directors meets several times a year when it is convened by the fraternity president. As of 2010 there are six regions, with the ones in Puerto Rico named after their main city: San Juan Region, Guayama Region, Ponce Region, Arecibo Region, Mayagüez Region, and the USA Region, based in Florida.
Phi Sigma Alpha's main headquarters are located in Mexico Street, Chile corner in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. The offices are located in the Alpha Boriquen Chapter's clubhouse, called the Casa Club Sigma. Its restaurant has operated since 1968. Its activity halls can be rented for meetings and events and are used by many organizations. The clubhouse has two main activity halls and two smaller ones, which can all be opened up to create one big room, or used individually.
There is also a bar and restaurant area reserved for fraternity members and their guests, Vales Place. A combination on a digital door lock is needed to enter that area. In the back of the Casa Club Sigma is a basketball court. There used to be a swimming pool there, but it has been paved over. The main offices of the fraternity are on the second floor of the building. On the back is the Pub Sigma, which is used by the Alfa Omega Activo chapter for their meetings and social events.
The Sigma Foundation or "Fundación Sigma" is a non profit organization, established to offer to the Puerto Rican youth of limited resources or those who have academically excellent records, the opportunity to cover part of their university studies expense and others costs. Through different fraternity activities, planned in order to raise funds, the organization looks to always maintain a healthful economical level, thus to be able to fulfill their philanthropic intentions.
The fraternity collaborates and contributes to different organizations, mainly to the "Fondita de Jesus", the American Red Cross, American Cancer Society and "Centro Espibi" in Mayagüez. Different golf tournaments have been held to raise fund for charity. The Beta Boriquen chapter coordinates one such tournament with the Mayagüez Rotary Club.
The fraternity has both university and alumni chapters. The university chapters are named by a Greek letter (depending on their order of founding), followed by the word "activo", which means "active" in Spanish. The alumni chapters follow the same concept except instead of the word "activo" they are called "boriquén". Brothers in active chapters are called "activos" and alumni Brothers are called "militantes", or "militants". Yet all Brothers call each other "Sigmas".
|Alfa-Omega Activo [Notes]||University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras|
|Alfa Boriquén||San Juan|
|Beta Activo||University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez|
|Delta Activo||Inter American University at San Germán|
|Epsilon Activo [Notes]||Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico|
|Omicrón Activo||University of Puerto Rico at Aguadilla|
|Gamma Activo||Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico|
|Zeta Activo||University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo / UIPR Arecibo Campus|
|Omega Boriquén||San Germán|
|United States and Mexico
|Alpha Columbia Boriquen||Washington, D.C.|
|Epsilon Columbia Activo||Miami, Florida|
|Epsilon Columbia Boriquén||Miami, Florida|
|Omega Columbia Activo||Orlando, Florida|
|Omega Columbia Boriquén||Orlando, Florida|
|Alfa Azteca Activo||Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara|
The group has had among its members many respected Puerto Ricans and Latin Americans.
|Raúl Juliá||Professional actor|
|Luis A. Ferré||Governor of Puerto Rico, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Puerto Rico state senator|
|Eudaldo Báez Galib||Senator in the Puerto Rico legislature|
|Noel Estrada||Composer of "En mi viejo San Juan"|
|Carlos Irizarry Yunque||Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico|
|Ramón Torres Braschi||Superintendent of the Puerto Rico Police Department|
|José Miguel Agrelot||Comedian and Guinness record holder|
|Miguel Limeres Grau||President of the Ponce Municipal Legislature|
|Hector R. Cuprill||President of the Ponce Municipal Legislature|
|William Navas||Sub-Secretary of the United States Navy; General|
|Ruy Delgado Zayas||Former Secretary of Labor and Human Resources of Puerto Rico|
|Manuel Abreu Castillo||President of the Puerto Rico Bar Association; writer|
|Luis Somoza Debayle||President of Nicaragua|
|Marco Rigau Gaztambide||Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico|
|Marco Rigau Jiménez||Puerto Rican senator for the Popular Democratic Party|
|Juan A. Rivero||Biologist, author, founder of Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo; has discovered previously unidentified animals|
|Charles Cuprill Oppenheimer||Major General, Puerto Rico National Guard; Dean of the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico School of Law|
|Hiram Rafael Cancio||District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico|
|Luis Stefani||Long time Chancellor of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez|
|Carlos Contreras||Current Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Transportation and Public Works|
|Santos P. Amadeo||Senator in the Puerto Rico legislature; constitutional law scholar; first president of the fraternity|
|José L. Purcell||Judge in the Superior Court of Puerto Rico; founded the Puerto Rico Volleyball Federation|
|Rafael Pont Flores||Well known radio (WKAQ) sports commentator in the 1950s; sports columnist for the El Mundo newspaper|
|César Benito Cabrera||Former US Ambassador to the island nations of Mauritius and the Seychelles|
|Mario Rubén García Palmieri||Secretary of Health of Puerto Rico|
|Manuel Rodríguez Ramos||Puerto Rican writer, law professor and Secretary of Justice of Puerto Rico|
|William Riefkohl||Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association|
|Adán Nigaglioni Loyola||Dean of UPRCM School of Medicine|
|Enrique Pérez Santiago||Secretary of Health of Puerto Rico|
|José M. Saldaña||President of the University of Puerto Rico|
|Bartolomé Bonet Fussá||Senator in the Puerto Rico legislature|
|Jaime Frontera||Olympic basketball player, flag bearer for Puerto Rico in the 1968 Summer Olympics|
|Eugenio Fernández Cerra||Senator in the Puerto Rico legislature|
|David Cruz Vélez||Senator in the Puerto Rico legislature|
|José Izquierdo Stella||Senator in the Puerto Rico legislature|
|José Victor Oliver Ledesma||Owner of P.R. Distillers, makers of many famous rums|
|Herminio Brau del Toro||Lawyer, engineer, professor, writer, president of P.R. Distillers|
|Reinaldo Rampolla-Selles||Co-director of the Lung Transplants Services and transplant pulmonologist at Oschner Medical Center in New Orleans|
|Miguel Márquez Muñoz||Owner of Camuy Distillery, makers of Palo Viejo Rum|
|Justo A. Méndez Rodriguez||Senator in the Puerto Rico legislature; ex-Secretary of Agriculture of Puerto Rico|
|José Menéndez Monroig||Senator in the Puerto Rico legislature|
|Enrique A. Vicéns||Senator in the Puerto Rico legislature|
|Lionel Fernández Méndez||Senator in the Puerto Rico legislature|
|Gaspar Rivera Cestero||Member of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico|
|Ubaldino Ramírez de Arellano||Member of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico|
|Eduardo Zavála Vázquez||Member of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico|
|Eduardo Bhatia Gautier||Current Speaker of the Senate of Puerto Rico|
|Oscar A. San Antonio Mendoza||Member of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico|
|Fernando Bauermeister||Member of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico|
|Hugo David Storer Tavarez||Director of Promotion of the Puerto Rico Economic Development Administration, also known as "Fomento"|
|Eugenio S. Belaval||Member of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico|
|Hernán Padilla||Member of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico; two-term Mayor of San Juan|
|Santiago Polanco Abreu||Speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives; Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico|
|Julio A. Santos||Member of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico|
|Adolfo L. Monserrate Anselmi||Member of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico|
|Isidro A. Negrón Irizarry||Mayor of the city of San German|
|Luis E. Baco||Past Chief of Staff to Congressman Luis G. Fortuno at US House of Representatives; Deputy Executive Director at Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration|
|Charles H. Juliá||Three-time member of the Senate of Puerto Rico|
|Antonio Santos Cabrera||Chancellor of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez|
|Lester Martínez López||Physician; Major General; first Hispanic to head the US Army Medical and Research Command|
|Antonio Colorado||Secretary of State of Puerto Rico; Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico|
|José Rodríguez Quiles||Current member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives|
|Guillermo A. Baralt||Author, historian|
|Jorge Sánchez||President of the Board of Government of the University of Puerto Rico|
|Agustín F. Carbó Lugo||Former executive director of the Puerto Rico Solid Waste Management Authority; Chairman of PR Energy Commission|
|Arturo Carrion||Former executive vice president of the Puerto Rico Bankers Association|
|Pablo Cruz||Former Forest Supervisor of the El Yunque National Forest|