From the Past To Today, Puerto Rico’s Courageous Spirit Continues To Lift The Island Up
If there’s one word to describe Puerto Rico and the people that have cultivated the land for thousands of years it is resilient. They’ve endured colonization — like most Latin and Carribean lands — natural catastrophes, economic plight, but through it all, they have persevered. Let’s dive into the turbulent history and astonishing way that Puerto Rico continues to thrive no matter what.
The first people of Puerto Rico.
Wikipedia: Arawak Indians
The indigenous group, known as the Arawak Indians (part of the Taíno population), inhabited not only Puerto Rico but also Cuba, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and other islands. They are the first to have encountered Christopher Columbus.
Christopher Columbus colonizes Puerto Rico.
In 1493, Columbus claimed Puerto Rico for Spain — as he also did with Cuba. The Roman Catholic Church also had a part in colonizing the island of Puerto Rico. In 1521, the island went from being referred to as Boricua (which the Natives called their land) to officially Puerto Rico.
Slavery in Puerto Rico.
In the 16th century, the Spanish began importing slaves from Africa to Puerto Rico to cultivate their only economic resources including sugar, tobacco, and coffee. The Spanish also captured native Puerto Ricans as slaves as well.
On September 23, 1868, between 600 to 1,000 men attempted to revolt against the Spanish for their independence. This moment is remembered as the “Grito de Lares.” That call for freedom is still celebrated in Puerto Rico today.
The Spanish-American War
During the Spanish-American war of 1898, the U.S. successfully occupied Puerto Rico at Guánica. The Spanish conceded and under the Treaty of Paris handed Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and Cuba to the United States.
The Foraker Act
In 1900, the U.S. president and other lawmakers signed the Foraker Act, which gave the U.S. more control over the island but also allowed Puerto Rico to have its government.
The Jones Act
On March 2, 1917, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act which automatically granted all people born in Puerto Rico U.S. citizens. The Act also allowed Puerto Ricans to live under the same Bill of Rights and constitution as those living in the U.S. The Jones Act also came with some tax regulations that made it more expensive to import goods from Puerto Rico to the U.S.
Puerto Rico and America, united but not.
After World War II, Puerto Rico experienced several economic and governmental changes. In 1952, Puerto Ricans voted to become a commonwealth of the U.S., which established its own governing constitution. Their new commonwealth status meant that they were still U.S. citizens but were not allowed to vote in U.S. elections.
People flee the island.
It was also around this time (between 1950 and 1970) that half a million people left the island of Puerto Rico and migrated to the U.S. People have left the island once again, after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. CNN reports that more than 130,000 Puerto Ricans relocated to the U.S. after the hurricane.
Exploring the tourism in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico has always been a popular destination for tourists. At the end of 2016, more than 10 million passengers arrived on the island. Typically, the island generates $4 billion from tourism to its economy. Despite having setbacks including the Zika outbreak and Hurricane Maria, the island has is back in business.
Catastrophes and Tragedies
The island has been hit hard by natural catastrophes including in 1985 when a landslide in Ponce killed 129 people. While Puerto Rico has experienced multiple hurricanes— the island has had only one Category 5 hurricane and that was the San Felipe Segundo hurricane in 1928. Three hundred people died during that hurricane. In 1899, a smaller hurricane killed more than 3,000 people.
In 1993, Puerto Rico declared that the official language of the island would be Spanish and English.
Puerto Rico’s economy has been volatile since Columbus first colonized the island. The tax laws that the U.S. has instilled onto the island resources has made the economy there unstable, ultimately hurting lower class Puerto Ricans. It is because of these laws that Puerto Rico generated billions of dollars in debt. Currently, the island owes the U.S. $70 billion, most of which was caused by a recession and laws that the U.S. implemented.
Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan (the capital of Puerto Rico), is one of the island’s most prominent advocates. Ever since Hurricane Maria struck the island, she has been taking to social media to show the devastation, what people needed (and still need), and has not backed down even while being intimidated by President Trump.
Obama visits the island.
You would think that because Puerto Rico is a territory of the U.S. more U.S. presidents would visit the island. They do go on tours worldwide, but not to Puerto Rico for one reason or another. However, in 2011, President Barack Obama made an official visit to the island, making it the first since John F. Kennedy.
Just weeks after Hurricane Irma grazed Puerto Rico, leaving millions without power, Hurricane Maria landed on Sept. 20 as a Category 4. The island has been in recovery mode since, and while the island is open for business, many people are still trying to rebuild their lives. An estimated 3,057 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria.
Trump vs. Puerto Rico
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, U.S. President Donald Trump did not serve the people of Puerto Rico. He downplayed the deaths, threw paper towels at survivors during his brief visit to the island, and balked at the severity of the hurricane. Relations between Trump and the island remain strained.
Famous Puerto Ricans
There’s no way in hell that we could list all of the famous Puerto Ricans that have contributed to our society past and present. Since we have to list a few famous Puerto Ricans, we can start with Jennifer Lopez, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Roberto Clemente, José Ferrer, Ricky Martin, Esmeralda Santiago, and so many more.
The Best Puerto Rican Foods
Mofongo, tostones (fried plantains) with garlic, olive oil, and chicharrones or bacon, has to be our top favorite Puerto Rican dish although we can take arroz con pollo, chicken asopao, or roasted pork any day of the week.
A Slow Recovery
Puerto Rico has made great strides over the past year and a half, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Puerto Ricans in the U.S. — both famous and unknown — have contributed to the success and perseverance of the island. While there’s still lots of work to be done, Puerto Rico continues to rise above tragedy.
Puerto Rico Today
One of the most amazing things in Puerto Rico that occurred recently, as the island is still in recovery mode, is that people —mainly Lin-Manuel Miranda — has brought arts and culture back to the island. Through his production of “Hamilton” in Puerto Rico, he will be generating millions of dollars toward arts education for children in Puerto Rico. It’s only another sign that the island will go on as it always has.