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”.

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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 :