Puerto Rico does indeed have a long history, from its modern beginnings when Christopher Columbus landed on Puerto Rico, but even before that to the time of the Taino people when the island was called “Borinquen”.

View Larger Map

Satellite view of Puerto Rico

When Christopher Columbus on his second trip in 1493 landed in Puerto Rico and claimed the new land for Spain, he found the island inhabited by Taino Indians, who were friendly compared to the Indians in some of the more southern islands, which were cannibals. The conquest of the island didn’t take long, and the Tainos were put to work as slaves for the purpose of mining the gold that was found on the island. The gold didn’t last long and in 1511 there was a rebellion by the Taino indians which believed that the Spaniards were Gods. However, it wasn’t the Spanish settlers that killed the Taino so quickly, but the diseases that were brought from Europe and for which the Tainos had no cures.

The island remained Spanish despite many attempts by pirates and English and Dutch expeditions to conquer the island. To defend the island against these attacks, two forts, El Morro and San Cristobal, were built to guard the approaches to San Juan harbor. Defense by these forts prevented attempts by an English fleet in 1595 , another English fleet in 1598, and by a Dutch fleet in 1625 to capture Puerto Rico for their empires. Another defeat of the British fleet in 1797 finally stopped that country’s desire of the island, and the Spanish colony was kept under spanish rule. During the 16th to the 19th century Puerto Rico was primarily underpopulated and suffered poverty and neglect by Spain. Puerto Rico was mainly a port for the ships that would pass the island on their way to and from the other richer colonies. During this time many years would pass between the arrival of ships from Spain since trade with other countries was prohibited. The island turned to contraband trading with ships from England, or whomever would trade for the produce of the island which at that time, ginger was the main product. This continued until Spain’s law was changed to allow unrestricted trade with its neighboring colonies.

The 19th century in Puerto Rico was depicted by governors who stopped the independence movements in Puerto Rico. Slavery and the importation of slaves reached its peak, with the need for workers on the sugar and coffee plantations. Slavery was finally abolished in Puerto Rico in 1873. During this time there was also increased immigration from the colonies that were being lost by Spain and this increase of people and capital allowed for the creation of many towns and cities. The economy grew as a result and export became prominent, especially coffee and sugar. In 1897 home rule was established for the first time and Puerto Rico was given the status of a spanish dominion. This was short lived, the United States defeated Spain in the Spanish-American war and was ceded Puerto Rico in 1898.

Puerto Rico’s Darkest Days :