Historia, Cultura Y Futuro del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico

Flag of Puerto RicoAlthough Puerto Rico (”rich port“), with a current population of 4 million and comprising the main island and several smaller islands, has a complex and “rich” history, very little is known about it prior to Columbus’s arrival. It’s not surprising since the history of North America, as taught by schools in the United States, “began with Columbus.”

The island has been known by several names before it was called Puerto Rico. When Columbus arrived on his second expedition to the New World in 1493, he named it San Juan Bautista in honor of John the Baptist. The Tainos called the island “Boriken (Boriquen)“. It’s unclear where its current name came from, but it was known as Puerto Rico soon after Ponce de Leon became its first governor in 1508.

TainoAccording to Wikipedia, the first attempt to uncover Puerto Rico’s origins is described by Fray Inigo Abbad y Lasierra in 1786, three hundred years after the first Spaniards arrived. The first settlers are believed to have originated from the Oronico valley in South America who migrated through the Caribbean, inhabiting the Antilles from Trinidad and Tobago to Puerto Rico. Recent archaeological expeditions found evidence of their existence on the island of Vieques (1990), dating approximately to 2000 BC. Among the early tribes that were believed to descend from the Taino was the Arawak Indian Culture. They were the dominant society until the Spanish arrival in 1493.

The Spanish brought with them diseases which spread throughout the indigenous population, affecting the labor force, necessitating the Spanish to bring African Slaves for replacements to transform Puerto Rico into the entry port of the Caribbean on its way to South America, Mexico and parts of what is now the United States. Although the French, English and Dutch occupied the island at various times, they were not there long enough to affect the culture or language until the United States invaded Guanica in 1898 at the beginning of the Spanish American War. Subsequently, Spain was forced to secede Puerto Rico to the United States in the treaty of Paris (1898).

Under US occupation, in the early Twentieth century, Puerto Rico was treated as a conquered adversary, controlled by the American military, with its governor as a political appointee of the US President. It wasn’t until 1917 when the Jones-Shafroth Act granted US citizenship to Puerto Ricans under “commonwealth status” that free elections established its ability to choose its cultural path and the first gubernatorial election was held in 1948. However full and equal voting representation in the US Congress afforded by statehood still eludes Puerto Rico.

Puerto RicoPart of the problem Puerto Ricans faced under US occupation had been from the PHARMACEUTICAL industry and other businesses which established a strong foothold on the island, due to the tax breaks afforded by their commonwealth status. Vast areas of the island were “cultivated” for its natural resources, forests destroyed to build factories to support commercial interests of the mainland while doing little to enrich the economic life of the population other than provide low paying jobs. Puerto Rico also acutely suffered from the great depression and natural disasters such as hurricanes by losing jobs from those companies. Many migrated to the mainland, primarily New York City, where they and the second and third generation comprise a large percentage of the Latino population while maintaining ties with the island, and wanting a vote in the future status of the island. As time passes, fewer inhabitants remain that were born before citizenship between 1898 and 1917. In many respects, it remains “a Third World country” with areas of poverty and high unemployment and less financial benefits afforded states or foreign countries receiving aid from the US government.

Over the years, Puerto Rico has been presented with three choices, independence, statehood or commonwealth, each time they choose commonwealth, however, protectorates, territories or commonwealth are fast disappearing in the Twenty-First century, as more subtle economic and cultural imperialism increases by advancing technology. Puerto Rico will not be able to retain its current status indefinitely. They will be faced with choosing the future extent of its cultural uniqueness by relinquishing American citizenship with all the benefits and protections it provides in an increasingly uncertain world. The future for Puerto Rico will be either independence or statehood.

authors note: More detailed information on “la historia y cultura de Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico” can be found in Wikipedia.

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