From Wikipedia, the free ency­clo­pe­dia

From the 16th to the 19th cen­tu­ry, there was con­sid­er­able Irish immi­gra­tion to Puer­to Rico, for a num­ber of rea­sons. Dur­ing the 16th cen­tu­ry many Irish­men, who were known as “Wild Geese,” fled the Eng­lish Army and joined the Span­ish Army. Some of these men were sta­tioned in Puer­to Rico and remained there after their mil­i­tary ser­vice to Spain was com­plet­ed. Dur­ing the 18th cen­tu­ry men such as Field Mar­shal Ale­jan­dro O’Reilly and Colonel Tomas O’Daly were sent to the island to revamp the capital’s for­ti­fi­ca­tions. This led to an influx of Irish immi­gra­tion to the island. In 1797, the appoint­ed gov­er­nor of Puer­to Rico, Ramón de Cas­tro, ordered the expul­sion of the Irish from Puer­to Rico which led to protests from the local peo­ple of the island. Many Irish­men sur­vived the witch hunt cre­at­ed by Cas­tro and con­tin­ued to live in Puer­to Rico.

The Span­ish gov­ern­ment mod­i­fied the Roy­al Decree of Graces of 1815 to encour­age Euro­peans of non-Span­ish ori­gin to immi­grate and pop­u­late the last two remain­ing Span­ish pos­ses­sions in the “New World,” Puer­to Rico and Cuba. Many Irish refugees who fled Ire­land because of the Irish Pota­to Famine of the 1840s which killed over one mil­lion Irish peo­ple immi­grat­ed to Puer­to Rico. These set­tlers were instru­men­tal in the devel­op­ment of the island’s sug­ar indus­try which was vital to the island’s econ­o­my.

After Puer­to Rico was ced­ed to the Unit­ed States by Spain as a con­se­quence of the Span­ish-Amer­i­can War, many sol­diers of Irish-Amer­i­can descent sta­tioned in the island inter­mar­ried with the locals and estab­lished their homes there. The Irish influ­ence in Puer­to Rico is not lim­it­ed to their con­tri­bu­tions to the island’s agri­cul­tur­al indus­try; they have also influ­enced the fields of edu­ca­tion and pol­i­tics.

Irish in the service of Spain

Field Marshal Alejandro O'Reilly

Field Mar­shal Ale­jan­dro O’Reilly

Dur­ing the 16th Cen­tu­ry the Irish, who were most­ly Catholic, were suf­fer­ing many injus­tices from the Eng­lish author­i­ties who were Protes­tant. William Stan­ley, an Eng­lish Catholic, was giv­en a com­mis­sion by Queen Eliz­a­beth I to orga­nize an Irish reg­i­ment of native Irish sol­diers and mer­ce­nar­ies. The main idea was to get rid of these men because the Eng­lish author­i­ties want­ed them out of the coun­try. They were sent to fight on behalf of Eng­land in sup­port of the Dutch Unit­ed Provinces. How­ev­er, in 1585, moti­vat­ed by reli­gious fac­tors and bribes offered by the Spaniards, Stan­ley defect­ed to the Span­ish side with the reg­i­ment. The Irish­men who fled the Eng­lish Army to join the armies of oth­er for­eign nations became known as “Wild Geese.”

Among those con­sid­ered “Wild Geese” was Ale­jan­dro O’Reilly, an Inspec­tor-Gen­er­al of Infantry for the Span­ish Empire who as a mil­i­tary reformer became known as “The Father of the Puer­to Rican Mili­tia” and Colonel Tomas O’Daly.

18th century

Demetrio O'Daly

Demetrio O’Daly

In 1765, the King of Spain, Car­los III sent Field Mar­shal Ale­jan­dro O’Reilly to Puer­to Rico, to assess the state of the defens­es of that colony. O’Reilly, known today as the “Father of the Puer­to Rican mili­tia”, took a very com­plete cen­sus of the Island, and again rec­om­mend­ed numer­ous reforms, includ­ing the instill­ing of strict mil­i­tary dis­ci­pline in the local troops. He insist­ed that the men serv­ing the defense of the Realm receive their pay reg­u­lar­ly and direct­ly, rather than indi­rect­ly from their com­mand­ing offi­cers, a long-stand­ing prac­tice that had led to abus­es. Some of O’Reilly’s rec­om­men­da­tions result­ed in a mas­sive 20-year pro­gram of revamp­ing San Felipe del Mor­ro Cas­tle in San Juan, now a World Her­itage Site. The train­ing which he insti­tut­ed was to bring fame and glo­ry to the Puer­to Rican mili­tias 30 years lat­er dur­ing the Eng­lish inva­sion of Puer­to Rico in 1797. O’Reilly’s civil­ian mili­tias had become known as the “Dis­ci­plined Mili­tia.” O’Reilly was lat­er appoint­ed gov­er­nor of colo­nial Louisiana in 1769 where he became known as “Bloody O’Reilly.”

Colonel Tomás O’Daly joined O’Reilly in Puer­to Rico in the quest of revamp­ing the fort and was named chief engi­neer of mod­ern­iz­ing the defens­es of San Juan, which includ­ed the fortress of San Cristóbal. Lat­er he was grant­ed land in the vicin­i­ty of Guayn­abo and O’Daly devel­oped it into a thriv­ing sug­ar hacien­da. O’Daly and fel­low Irish­man Miguel Kir­wan became part­ners in the “Hacien­da San Patri­cio,” which they named after the patron saint of Ire­land, Saint Patrick. The plan­ta­tion no longer exists, how­ev­er the land in which the plan­ta­tion was locat­ed is now a sub­urb called San Patri­cio with a shop­ping mall San Patri­cio Plaza. He mar­ried a local Puer­to Rican girl, Maria Gertrud­is de la Puente and had three chil­dren, Isabel, Manuel, and Demetrio. O’Daly joined an embry­on­ic Irish immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty in Puer­to Rico that would come to be asso­ci­at­ed with the growth of com­mer­cial agri­cul­ture. Upon his untime­ly death in 1781, his broth­er Jaime took over the prop­er­ty and helped raise Tomás’s chil­dren. Jaime O’Daly was named Direc­tor of the Real Fab­ri­ca de Taba­co (Roy­al Tobac­co Fac­to­ry) in Puer­to Rico by the Span­ish Crown.

Jaime O’Daly became a suc­cess­ful sug­ar and tobac­co planter. His nephews, Julio and Arturo O’Neill, moved to Puer­to Rico in 1783 with their slaves and plan­ta­tion equip­ment and were lat­er fol­lowed by Tomás Arm­strong, a friend and planter in 1791. O’Daly ‘s con­nec­tions with the non-His­pan­ic Caribbean and Euro­pean nations helped him eco­nom­i­cal­ly, but hin­dered his nom­i­na­tion to a post on the pres­ti­gious San Juan city coun­cil. How­ev­er in 1787, the Span­ish Crown appoint­ed him direc­tor of the Roy­al Tobac­co Fac­to­ry. O’Daly remained in Puer­to Rico, where he died of nat­ur­al caus­es in 1806 and was buried in the San Juan Cathe­dral.

Plaque honoring Ramon Power y Giralt in San German, Puerto Rico

Plaque hon­or­ing Ramon Pow­er y Giralt in San Ger­man, Puer­to Rico

Joaquín Pow­er y Mor­gan came to Puer­to Rico in con­nec­tion with the Com­pañía de Asien­to de Negros which reg­u­lat­ed the slave trade in the island. He mar­ried María Jose­fa Giralt a local Puer­to Rican girl and lived in San Juan. In 1775, they had a son, whom they named Ramon Pow­er y Giralt. Ramon Pow­er y Giralt, dis­tin­guished him­self as a Cap­tain in the Span­ish Navy when he defend­ed the Span­ish colony of San­to Domin­go against an inva­sion from French forces by enforc­ing a block­ade from 1808–1809. Pow­er y Giralt, who accord­ing to Puer­to Rican his­to­ri­an Lidio Cruz Mon­clo­va, was the first native born Puer­to Rican to refer to him­self as a “Puer­to Rican,” was named Puer­to Rico’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the Span­ish Cortes in 1808 and lat­er pres­i­dent of the same leg­isla­tive assem­bly. He served in the Corte’s until his death in 1813.

Demetrio O’Daly, Tomas O’Daly’s son, was sent to Spain where he received his mil­i­tary train­ing. O’Daly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the 1809 Penin­su­lar War and was pro­mot­ed to the rank of Brigadier Gen­er­al dur­ing Spain’s war for inde­pen­dence. Defend­er of the Span­ish Con­sti­tu­tion of 1812, O’Daly was con­sid­ered a rebel and exiled from Spain by King Fer­nan­do VII in 1814. In 1820, he par­tic­i­pat­ed in the suc­cess­ful revolt against the Span­ish monar­chy which result­ed in his pro­mo­tion to Field Mar­shal. He was then appoint­ed the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Puer­to Rico before the Span­ish Cortes. One of his accom­plish­ments as rep­re­sen­ta­tive, was the cre­ation of a law which sep­a­rat­ed the civ­il author­i­ty from the mil­i­tary author­i­ty in the island. In 1823, O’Daly was exiled by the restored Span­ish Crown only to return to Puer­to Rico in 1834. He returned to Spain in 1836 where he died the fol­low­ing year.

Miguel Con­way, Patri­cio Fitz­patrick, Felipe Doran, Jaime Kier­nan, and Anto­nio Sker­ret, were also com­mer­cial farm­ers around north­ern Puer­to Rico. Their prop­er­ties cov­ered areas from Toa Baja in the north­east to Luquil­lo in the east. Kier­nan man­aged to acquire 400 acres (1.6 km2) of land in Hato Rey, which increased his total area to 800 acres (3.2 km2).

Irish influence in Puerto Rico’s sugar and tobacco industry

Irish immi­grants played in instru­men­tal role in the island’s econ­o­my. One of the most impor­tant indus­tries of the island was the sug­ar indus­try. Besides Tomás O’Daly whose plan­ta­tion was a suc­cess, oth­er Irish­men became suc­cess­ful busi­ness­men in this indus­try, among them Miguel Con­way, who owned a plan­ta­tion in the town of Hatil­lo and Juan Nagle whose plan­ta­tion was locat­ed in Río Piedras. Puer­to Ricans of Irish descent also played an instru­men­tal role in the devel­op­ment of the island’s tobac­co indus­try. Miguel Con­boy is cred­it­ed with being the founder of the tobac­co trade in Puer­to Rico and the Quin­lan fam­i­ly estab­lished two tobac­co plan­ta­tions, one in the town of Toa Baja and the oth­er in Loíza.

Expulsion of the Irish from Puerto Rico

On Feb­ru­ary 17, 1797, the appoint­ed gov­er­nor of Puer­to Rico, Brigadier Ramón de Cas­tro, received the news that Great Britain had invad­ed the island of Trinidad. Believ­ing that Puer­to Rico would be the next British objec­tive, he decid­ed to put the local mili­tia on alert and to pre­pare the island’s forts against any mil­i­tary action. After the Puer­to Rican and Span­ish vic­to­ry against Great Britain in what is known as the Bat­tle of San Juan of 1797, Cas­tro became sus­pi­cious of all Eng­lish-speak­ing Euro­pean for­eign­ers believ­ing that they sup­port­ed the anti-Span­ish mil­i­tary cam­paign and ordered some of the local res­i­dents and for­eign­ers, espe­cial­ly those of Eng­lish and Irish descent, to be placed under sur­veil­lance. Many were giv­en eight days to leave the island and those who did not leave were impris­oned.

Many of the peo­ple in Puer­to Rico, among them Trea­sury offi­cial Felipe Anto­nio Mejía, were out­raged at Castro’s actions and came to the defense of the Irish. Soon their views became known to the Span­ish Crown where they con­demned Castro’s pro­nounce­ment as legal­ly unjus­ti­fied and eco­nom­i­cal­ly counter-pro­duc­tive. Even­tu­al­ly, the major­i­ty returned to the island includ­ing the O’Dalys, Dorans, Kier­nans, Quin­lans and Sker­rets. In 1823, broth­ers Robert and Josi­ah Arch­bald, import­ed and intro­duced to Puer­to Rico the island’s first steam oper­at­ed mill, which they used in their Ponce sug­ar plan­ta­tion.

19th century

Roy­al Decree of Graces of 1815

Royal Decree of Graces, 1815

Roy­al Decree of Graces, 1815

By 1825, the Span­ish Empire had lost all of its ter­ri­to­ries in the Amer­i­c­as with the excep­tion of Cuba and Puer­to Rico. These two pos­ses­sions, how­ev­er, had been demand­ing more auton­o­my since the for­ma­tion of pro-inde­pen­dence move­ments in 1808. Real­iz­ing that it was in dan­ger of los­ing its two remain­ing Caribbean ter­ri­to­ries, the Span­ish Crown revived the Roy­al Decree of Graces of 1815. This time the decree was print­ed in three lan­guages — Span­ish, Eng­lish and French — intend­ing to attract Euro­peans of non-Span­ish ori­gin, with the hope that the inde­pen­dence move­ments would lose their pop­u­lar­i­ty and strength with the arrival of new set­tlers. Free land was offered to those who want­ed to pop­u­late the islands on the con­di­tion that they swear their loy­al­ty to the Span­ish Crown and alle­giance to the Roman Catholic Church.

Among the Irish­man who received free land was Angus McBean. McBean became involved in the cul­ti­va­tion of the sug­ar cane and had a plan­ta­tion in the city of Baya­mon. In 1821, the slaves owned by McBean were involved in a failed slave revolt planned and orga­nized by Mar­cos Xior­ro, a bozal slave.

The O’Neills arrived in Puer­to Rico from Spain and oth­er loca­tions in the Caribbean, among them the islands of Tor­to­la and St. Croix. How­ev­er, many Puer­to Ricans with the O’Neill sur­name can trace their ances­try to Colonel Arturo O’Neill O’Keffe. O’Neill O’Keffe was the son of Tulio O’Neill O’Kelly and Cather­ine O’Keffe y Whalen. On August 8, 1828, O’Neill O’Keffe, a Knight of the Roy­al Order of King Car­los the 3rd of Spain and 2nd Mar­ques del Norte, served as a Lieu­tenant Colonel in the Span­ish gar­ri­son of the City of Bayamón. He was mar­ried to Joan­na Chabert Heyliger. The descen­dants of Arturo and Joan­na O’Neill were Tulio Luis, Arturo, Micaela Ulpi­ana and Gon­za­lo O’Neill y Chabert. All, with the excep­tion of Tulio Luis, were born in Puer­to Rico where they estab­lished their fam­i­lies.

Irish Potato Famine

Early Irish settlers, such as the ones pictured, immigrated to the Americas, including Puerto Rico.

Ear­ly Irish set­tlers, such as the ones pic­tured, immi­grat­ed to the Amer­i­c­as, includ­ing Puer­to Rico.

Many eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal changes occurred in Europe dur­ing the lat­ter part of the 18th cen­tu­ry and the begin­ning of the 19th cen­tu­ry. Hun­dreds of farm work­ers aban­doned their work in agri­cul­ture and moved to the larg­er cities with the advent of the Sec­ond Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion in search of bet­ter pay­ing jobs. Those who stayed behind and attend­ed their farm­lands suf­fered the con­se­quences of the wide­spread crop fail­ure brought upon as a result of long peri­ods of drought and dis­eases such as the cholera epi­dem­ic and the pota­to fun­gus which caused the Great Irish Famine of 1840. Star­va­tion was wide­spread in Europe.

In Ire­land, the Irish Pota­to Famine killed over one mil­lion Irish peo­ple and cre­at­ed near­ly two mil­lion refugees. These refugees went to Britain, the Unit­ed States, Aus­tralia, Cana­da, New Zealand, and, among oth­er places, the Caribbean. One of the islands that many Irish emi­grat­ed to in large num­bers was Puer­to Rico. Being a Span­ish colony, the island had a pri­mar­i­ly Roman Catholic pop­u­la­tion, as opposed to the Protes­tant majori­ties of most of the colonies of the British Empire and the Unit­ed States at the time.

20th century

After Puer­to Rico was ced­ed by Spain to the Unit­ed States at the end of the Spanish–American War in 1898, many Irish-Amer­i­can sol­diers who were assigned to the mil­i­tary bases in Puer­to Rico chose to stay and live in the island. Unlike their coun­ter­parts who set­tled in the Unit­ed States in close knit com­mu­ni­ties, both the Irish immi­grants and migrants in Puer­to Rico inter­mar­ried with Puer­to Ricans and adopt­ed the lan­guage and cus­toms of the island, there­by com­plete­ly inte­grat­ing them­selves into the soci­ety of their new home­land.

The Irish influ­ence in Puer­to Rican pol­i­tics is also notable. After Pedro Albizu Cam­pos was hon­or­ably dis­charged from the Unit­ed States Army, he attend­ed Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty in Boston, Mass. While in Boston he estab­lished clubs and cen­ters where young Irish peo­ple con­gre­gat­ed and dis­cussed the inde­pen­dence of their home­land. Albizu was invit­ed by Éamon de Valera to assist as a con­sul­tant in the draft­ing of the Irish Free State con­sti­tu­tion. After Albizu returned to Puer­to Rico, he joined the Puer­to Rican Nation­al­ist Par­ty and soon after became the party’s pres­i­dent. Albizu adopt­ed the Irish Repub­li­can Move­ment as the mod­el for the Nation­al­ist Par­ty to fol­low.

Irish influence in Puerto Rican and popular culture

Kenneth McClintock, the Puerto Rico Secretary of State

Ken­neth McClin­tock, the Puer­to Rico Sec­re­tary of State

Besides hav­ing dis­tin­guished careers in agri­cul­ture and the mil­i­tary, Puer­to Ricans of Irish descent have made many oth­er con­tri­bu­tions to the Puer­to Rican way of life. Their con­tri­bu­tions can be found, but are not lim­it­ed to, the fields of edu­ca­tion, com­merce, pol­i­tics, sci­ence and enter­tain­ment.

Ken­neth McClin­tock is the Sec­re­tary of State of Puer­to Rico. Mr. McClin­tock served as co-chair of Hillary Clin­ton pres­i­den­tial campaign’s Nation­al His­pan­ic Lead­er­ship Coun­cil in 2008, co-chaired Clinton’s suc­cess­ful Puer­to Rico pri­ma­ry cam­paign that year and served as the Thir­teenth Pres­i­dent of the Sen­ate of Puer­to Rico until his term end­ed on Decem­ber 31, 2008. In late 2008, he served as Pres­i­dent of then-Gov­er­nor-Elect Luis Fortuño’s Tran­si­tion Com­mit­tee. He was sworn into office as Sec­re­tary of State on Jan­u­ary 2, 2009 by Chief Jus­tice Fed­eri­co Hernán­dez Den­ton, ful­fill­ing the role of Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor (first-in-line of suc­ces­sion) in the islands.

The Coll fam­i­ly played an impor­tant role in shap­ing Puer­to Rico’s pol­i­tics and lit­er­a­ture. Dr. Cayetano Coll y Toste was a his­to­ri­an and writer. He was the patri­arch of a promi­nent fam­i­ly of Puer­to Rican, edu­ca­tors, politi­cians and writ­ers. Both Coll y Toste’s sons were notable politi­cians. José Coll y Cuchí was the founder of the Puer­to Rican Nation­al­ist Par­ty and Cayetano Coll y Cuchí, was a Pres­i­dent of Puer­to Rico House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. His grand daugh­ter, Isabel Cuchí Coll, was a jour­nal­ist, author and the Direc­tor of the “Sociedad de Autores Puer­tor­riqueño” (Soci­ety of Puer­to Rican Authors), his oth­er grand daugh­ter, Edna Coll, was a notable edu­ca­tor and author. She was one of the founders of the Acad­e­my of Fine Arts in Puer­to Rico.

Among the mem­bers of the O’Neill fam­i­ly whose con­tri­bu­tions to Puer­to Rican cul­ture are evi­dent today are Hec­tor O’Neill, politi­cian and May­or Ana María O’Neill an edu­ca­tor, author and advo­cate of women’s rights. and María de Mater O’Neill an artist, lith­o­g­ra­ph­er, and pro­fes­sor.

Puer­to Rican beau­ty queens of Irish descent who rep­re­sent­ed their island in the Miss Uni­verse beau­ty pageant are the fol­low­ing: Ada Perkins — Miss Puer­to Rico (1978); Deb­o­rah Carthy Deu — Miss Uni­verse 1985 and Lau­rie Tama­ra Simp­son — Miss Puer­to Rico (1987).

The Irish ele­ment of Puer­to Rico is very much in evi­dence. Their con­tri­bu­tions in Puer­to Rico’s agri­cul­tur­al indus­try and in the field of pol­i­tics and edu­ca­tion are high­ly notable. In the city of Bayamón, there is an urban­iza­tion called Irlan­da Heights (Ire­land Heights). For the last sev­er­al years, the town of Luquil­lo has host­ed a day-long Saint Patrick’s Day fes­ti­val which includes a Para­da de San Patri­cio (St. Patrick’s Parade) hon­or­ing Ireland’s patron saint. There are var­i­ous Irish pubs around the island which also cel­e­brate the hol­i­day and serve the typ­i­cal green col­ored beer on the occa­sion. Amongst them are Shannon’s Irish Pub in San Juan, and Logan’s Irish Pub in Río Piedras.

Common Irish surnames in Puerto Rico

The fol­low­ing are com­mon sur­names in Puer­to Rico of the first Irish set­tlers:

Sur­names of the first Irish fam­i­lies in Puer­to Rico

Ander­son, Arm­strong, Kir­wan, Cole, Coll, Cole­man, Con­way, Coop­er, Davis, Dar­by, Doran, Fin­lay, Fitz­patrick, Gilbert, Hayes, Hen­na, Kel­ly, Kennedy, Kier­nan, Mar­tin, McConnie, McClin­tock, McCormick, McDougall, Mon­roe, Mor­gan, Mur­phy (Mor­fi), Mur­ray, Nagle, O’Daly, O’Ferral (O’Farrell), O’Fray, O’Neill, O’Reilly, Perkins, Pow­er, Quin­lan, Richard­son, Roberts, Sker­ret, Simp­son, Sul­li­van (Sóli­van), Todd, Walk­er, Williams and Wil­son.