History of Puerto Rico



The history of Puerto Rico began thousands of years BC. In the years between 430 BC and around 1000 AD, it was populated by the Arawak Indians. By the time Columbus discovered the island of Boriken in 1493, most of the population where the Tainos. The Island called today Puerto Rico is the fourth in size of the Greater Antilles, besides Cuba, Hispaniola and Jamaica.


Attacks by the Dutch and the British

The Island of Puerto Rico was kept under Spanish rule despite many attempts by the British and the Dutch to gain control. On the 16th century two important forts were constructed, El Morro Puerto Rico and San Cristobal.

They were constructed to protect the entrance to the Bay of San Juan. They eventually foiled attempts by Sir Francis Drake in 1595 and by the Dutch Fleet in 1625. Despite all these attempts the Spanish Crown kept control of their precious colony. Keeping the island didn’t mean the Spaniards took well care of it. Other colonies in the Americas were much more important, like Peru, Mexico and Cuba among others. Puerto Rico was characterized by a huge poverty and under population. They were dedicated mainly to Agriculture.



The Spanish Conquest

History of Puerto Rico teaches us that the Spanish conquest was an easy one because the Tainos were friendly as compared to the Caribs on the southern islands. At first they considered the Spaniards as Gods and immortals. But the Tainos started to disappear due to hard labor and infectious diseases brought from Europe, to which they totally unprotected. In the year 1508 Spain sent its first governor to the island. His name Juan Ponce de Leon is mostly recognized for being the person that while searching for Fountain of Youth, discovered Florida and claimed for the Spanish Empire.




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Slavery Era

The import of slaves from West Africa started. They were brought mainly to work on the sugar and coffee Industries. The ratio of slaves to white men in Puerto Rico was relatively low. In the 19th century it was around 11% while in Jamaica 85% and Haiti 90%. Slavery was finally abolished in Puerto Rico in 1873. On the last decade of the 19th century only Cuba and Puerto Rico were left as part of the Spanish Empire, and Puerto Rico started to see its population grow from people coming from the old Spanish colonies in Central and South America. In 1898 during the Spanish American War, on the exact day July 25th, 1898, Puerto Rico was invaded from the southern coast of the Caribbean Sea by the Americans and became a possession of the United States. This changed the History of Puerto Rico and its destiny forever. During the years 1898 to 1917, the islanders were in a political limbo regarding their citizenship. They were Spanish Citizens of Puerto Rico, but the island was not free and therefore the Puerto Rico nationality did not exist.



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Act Jones grants US Citizenship to all Puerto Ricans

In 1917 President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act that granted to all Puerto Ricans the US Citizenship. It brought certain identify to the island as they struggled to gain more democratic powers. In the hands of its incomparable leader Luis Muñoz Marin, the constitution was drafted and the new entity emerged “Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico” or in not so literally translation the “Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The island is in other words an American territory with certain democratic privileges, like the election of a governor every four years and the election of the members of both houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives.

I have to mention that although not a “Free” country, Puerto Rico flourished during those years. The main reason is its people who are hard workers and very agreeable The other factor is the fact that they are under the American Flag, that gives investors some confidence. Today Puerto Ricans have most of the benefits of the American Citizenship, including welfare help. But Puerto Ricans may not vote for the US President and have no representation in the US Congress. Only one person called “Comisionado Residente” has a voice but no vote on the Congress. The Puerto Ricans or Boricuas (From the original name of the island Boriken or Borinquen), accept any association with the United States but regard very highly their culture, their food, their identity and their heritage.


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The never ending political status discussion

That brings me to the “solution” of the Status of Puerto Rico that is discussed on a daily basis. In my humble opinion and as shown through previous century History of Puerto Rico, the people are divided in three ideas, of which the Independentistas promoting full Independence for the Island are a mere 4% of the population. Then divide the remaining 96% into two equal parts and you get 48% for the Populares promoting the status quo of the Estado Libre Asociado and the Estadistas who want to see their island as the 51st State of the USA with full rights and duties. These numbers are constantly changing and I will be not surprised if one of these days the Puerto Rican people will vote in favor of becoming a US State and keeping all their traditions, language and heritage. After all this is what the Millions of Hispanics are doing.