Mercedes Rodrigo Bellido

* 1891 (Madrid) 1982 (San Juan, Puerto Rico) Spain
Fields of activity: Psychology and special education children
Author: Emma Pascual Gómez

Fields of influence: She is considered the first female Spanish psychologist. She worked with special education children –deaf and blinds, delinquents- and mainly, promoted the field of Psychotechnics, - evaluation and applied experimental psychology- for the purposes of orientation and selection. Pioneer of Psychology, fought for the establishment of Psychology as a scientific discipline, and contributed to the onset of the career of Psychology in Latin-America.

Biography: She grew up in an era when there were no professional psychology studies in Spain, so, in order to get her degree, she had to move to Geneva (Switzerland) with a scholarship. She attended the JJ Rousseau Institute, then under the direction of Claparede and Bouvet, being a fellow student of Jean Piaget, one of the pioneers of human development theories.  She remained single, entirely devoted to the study and practice of psychology. She lived extremely convulsive times, and although not politically engaged, her progressive positions, and relationship with republicans, determinedin two occasions, the need to flight. Therefore, her life went by in three countries –Spain, Colombia and Puerto Rico- covering the following well-defined periods

SPAIN (1981-38):

1981, She is born in Madrid

1911-1923 She graduates in the Madrid Superior School for Teachers “Escuela Normal Superior de Maestras “–  and starts working with deaf and blind children in the Madrid  National School for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind, getting interested in Psychology. Since in Spain Psychology studies did not exist, she applies for a scholarship to study in L’Ecole des Sciences de L’ Education of the J.J. Rousseau Institute of Geneva (Switzerland), obtaining a Psychology Degree from the University of Geneva.

1927-1936 Appointed Assistant to the Director of National Psychotechnological Institute and Institute Medico-Pedagógico in Madrid, Mercedes becomes the closest collaborator of José Germain, considered “the father “of spanish psychology in its modern sense. She devotes her professional practice to promote the application of scientific psychology in different areas, as Psychotechnics and Psychopedagogy, Professional Orientation, Special Education, or Scientific work Organization.

1936-39 The Civil War puts an end to the early development of the Psychology in Spain, so, Mercedes, as many other progressive intellectual and scientists, has to leave the country to seek better horizons. Her sister Maria, -a distinguished composer and pianist- and Jose García Madrid - one of her closest collaborators- and his family, exile with her.

COLOMBIA (1939-1949):

At 49 years of age, and invited by Agustin Nieto Caballero, dean of the National University, Mercedes arrives to Colombia. She organizes the Psychotechnics Services (Sección Psicotécnica), predecessor of the Institute for Applied Psychology, training school for the first psychologists in Colombia. Together with Luis Lopez Mesa founded the career of Psychology, organized international Congresses, and published-articles, and the book “Introduction to Psychology”.

After the “Bogotazo” (09/04/1948), with the widespread of violence in Colombia, a Jesuit newspaper raises a false campaign against Mercedes: Being a Spanish republican exile andhaving visited to Russia, they accuse her of being a communist who taking profit of her position, has favored communists entrance in the National University. …..The situation turns out so dangerous for Mercedes that Garcia Madrid must go to Puerto Rico to prepare their move.

PUERTO RICO (1950-1982):

Upon her arrival at 60 years, the island is a country of the third world, lacking of any psychology training. She starts working as a Professor of Education and Psychology Consulting at the University of Puerto Rico.

In 1955 she works at the Veterans Administration, and becomes a Clinical Psychologist at the Julia Clinic. Elected President of the Psychological Association of Puerto Rico, until retirement in 1972, she devotes mainly to clinical practice while continuing her psychometric research and work in Applied Psychology.

After the death of her sister Maria, semi-invalid, is taken care in the home of the Garcia Madrid family until the day of her death on the 12th September 1982.

Sources of information