Puerto Rico History During Colonization

By | November 17, 2021

The Spanish arrived on the island of Puerto Rico on November 19, 1493, guided by Christopher Columbus, on his second voyage of exploration. Some historians are of the opinion that Puerto Rico was discovered by Martín Alonso Yáñez Pinzón in 1492 during the time he was separated from Columbus. The native Taínos, original residents of the Island, called it “Boriquén” or “Borinquén”, a term that bears some acoustic similarity to the original name, and which has provided the still existing “Boricua”, with which Puerto Ricans use they refer to themselves, a name with which the rest of Latin Americans know them.

It is said that the Taínos constituted a peaceful and hospitable culture. They gave the Spaniards gifts of gold, a metal that for them had a merely decorative value, such as a necklace of snails, while for the residents of Europe, Asia and Africa it was and continues to be very precious.

There is a theory that this behavior was due to the belief that the Spanish were gods because of the color of their skin; but modern opinion dismisses it as a myth. In reality, what emerges from the writings of the colonizers is the reference that they were treated as gods by the Taínos, which is an approach of the colonizer, but it is not an objective indicator of what the Taínos really thought about them. It must be remembered that at that time there were no good Spanish translators capable of deepening a conversation with the Tainos and that those who did exist were carried away by their impressions.

Another incident worth examining is the death of Diego Salcedo, a colonizer who kept a group of Taínos enslaved. They rebelled against him for his cruel treatment and drowned him in a river. Many people believe that the act was carried out to verify his status as god, but scholars differ. A fact used to refute this presumption is that in 1492 the Fortín de Navidad was built in the current Dominican Republic with the remains of the Santa María ship. When the Spanish returned in 1493 they found that the fort had been destroyed by fire and that the Tainos had killed all the colonizers residing in it. Experts on the subject are of the opinion that Salcedo’s death was a premeditated act of Cacique Agüeybaná.

In 1508 Juan Ponce de León colonized the island and founded the town of Caparra. Ponce de León was received by Cacique Agüeybaná and quickly took control of the Island, in contrast to the failed attempt of Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, who was declared Captain General and Corregidor and limited himself to landing domestic animals in the west of the Island. After the death of Christopher Columbus, who had been declared “Governor of the Indies”, this title was denied to his son Diego Colón and the Spanish Crown appointed Juan Ponce de León as the island’s first official governor.

Under the encomienda system the Spanish forced many Taínos to leave their villages to live on the haciendas in exchange for a Christian education. Many Taínos died because they lacked immunity against diseases brought by Europeans, such as Measles, Smallpox, and possibly Syphilis. However, countless indigenous people died in the many battles against the Spanish. The surviving Tainos were freed when Bartolomé de las Casas convinced the Catholic Monarchs to eliminate the encomienda. To fill the void left by freed slaves, the Spanish began bringing black African slaves to Puerto Rico, located in Central America according to mysteryaround.com. Most of the Africans were established in the eastern part of the island, in towns such as Vieques, Loíza and Ponce. Due to this mixture of ethnic groups, modern Puerto Ricans describe Puerto Rico as a country with citizens with a mixture of races produced by three sources (Taino, Spanish and African).

For centuries, the Spanish Empire and the British Empire fought each other for possession of this island. Puerto Rico was a colonial possession of Spain for more than 400 years, as was Cuba. The movement, called the Grito de Lares, was an armed insurrection that occurred on September 23, 1868, however, it was quickly controlled by the Spanish. After the Grito de Lares, which coincided with the Revolution of 1868 in Spain, political and social reforms followed towards the end of the 19th century. The struggle for autonomy almost reached its purpose on November 25, 1897, when the Autonomous Charter, which granted political and administrative autonomy to the island, was approved in Spain.

The United States entered Puerto Rican history by invading the Island on July 25, 1898 during the Spanish-Cuban-American War. On December 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed without the presence of representatives of the territories in question, by which Puerto Rico and the rest of the colonies (Cuba and the Philippines) of the Spanish Empire were ceded to the United States, the April 11, 1899, who invented the name “Porto Rico”, an incorrect name that today the Americans themselves consider archaic and in disuse. Most Puerto Ricans are aware that through this transaction they did not obtain freedom, but only a change of settlers.

Puerto Rico History During Colonization