White Puerto Rican

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White Puerto Rican
José Feliciano.jpg
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Puerto Rican Governor Sila Calderon at the Pentagon, Feb 27, 2001.jpg
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Total population
2,825,100 [1]
75.8% of the total population (2010 Census)
Regions with significant populations
All regions of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rican Spanish, English
Christianity, Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
White Latin American, White Hispanic and Latino Americans, Puerto Rican American, White Mexican, White Dominican, White Haitian

White Puerto Ricans are Puerto Ricans whose ancestry is of European descent, most notably from Spain (including the Canary and Balearic Islands), but also Italy (including Sardinia), France (including Corsica), Portugal, Germany, Ireland, and Scotland.

As of 2013, people of solely European descent constituted the majority in Puerto Rico, making up 76.2% of the population. Mixed race people, who are predominantly of African and European ancestry, constitute an additional 7.3% of the population.[2]

Immigration waves[edit]


In 1899, one year after the U.S invaded and took control of the island, 61.8% of people were identified as White. In the 2010 United States Census the total of Puerto Ricans that identified as White was 75.8%.[3][4] The European heritage of Puerto Ricans comes primarily from one source: Spaniards (including Canarians, Catalans, Castilians, Galicians, Asturians, and Andalusians) and Basques.

The Canarian cultural influence in Puerto Rico is one of the most important components in that many villages were founded by these immigrants, starting in 1493 until 1890 and beyond. Many Spaniards, especially Canarians, chose Puerto Rico because of its Hispanic ties and relative proximity in comparison with other former Spanish colonies. They searched for security and stability in an environment similar to that of the Canary Islands and Puerto Rico was the most suitable. This began as a temporary exile which became a permanent relocation and the last significant wave of Spanish or European migration to Puerto Rico.[5][6]


Type of steamship in which Corsicans arrived in Puerto Rico

The island of Puerto Rico is very similar in geography to the island of Corsica and therefore appealed to the many Corsicans who wanted to start a "new" life. Hundreds of Corsicans and their families immigrated to Puerto Rico from as early as 1830, and their numbers peaked in the early 1900s. The first Spanish settlers settled and owned the land in the coastal areas, the Corsicans tended to settle the mountainous southwestern region of the island, primary in the towns of Adjuntas, Lares, Utuado, Ponce, Coamo, Yauco, Guayanilla and Guánica. However, it was Yauco whose rich agricultural area attracted the majority of the Corsican settlers. The three main crops in Yauco were coffee, sugar cane and tobacco. The new settlers dedicated themselves to the cultivation of these crops and within a short period of time some were even able to own and operate their own grocery stores. However, it was with the cultivation of the coffee bean that they would make their fortunes. The descendants of the Corsican settlers were also to become influential in the fields of education, literature, journalism and politics.[7]

Today the town of Yauco is known as both the "Corsican Town" and "The Coffee Town". There's a memorial in Yauco with the inscription, "To the memory of our citizens of Corsican origin, France, who in the C19 became rooted in our village, who have enriched our culture with their traditions and helped our progress with their dedicated work - the municipality of Yauco pays them homage." The Corsican element of Puerto Rico is very much in evidence, Corsican surnames such as Paoli, Negroni and Fraticelli are common.[8]


White population
Year Percentage
1802 42.0
1812 40.8
1820 39.4
1830 45.1
1877 52.3
1887 53.5
1897 64.3
1899 61.8
1910 64.5
1920 72.0
1930 73.3
1935 75.2
1940 76.0
1950 79.7
2000 80.5
2010 75.8
Many citizens of France fled Haiti after the Battle of Vertières and settled in Puerto Rico

The French immigration to Puerto Rico began as a result of the economic and political situations which occurred in various places such as Louisiana (USA) and Saint-Domingue (Haiti). Upon the outbreak of the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years' War (1754-1763), between the Kingdom of Great Britain and its North American Colonies against France, many of the French settlers fled to Puerto Rico.[12] French immigration from mainland France and its territories to Puerto Rico was the largest in number, second only to Spanish immigrants and today a great number of Puerto Ricans can claim French ancestry; 16 percent of the surnames on the island are either French or French-Corsican.[13]

Their influence in Puerto Rican culture is very much present and in evidence in the island's cuisine, literature and arts.[14] Their contributions can be found, but are not limited to, the fields of education, commerce, politics, science and entertainment.


Iglesia Santísima Trinidad of Ponce

German immigrants arrived in Puerto Rico from Curaçao and Austria during the early 19th century. Many of these early German immigrants established warehouses and businesses in the coastal towns of Fajardo, Arroyo, Ponce, Mayaguez, Cabo Rojo and Aguadilla. One of the reasons that these businessmen established themselves in the island was that Germany depended mostly on Great Britain for such products as coffee, sugar and tobacco. By establishing businesses dedicated to the exportation and importation of these and other goods, Germany no longer had to pay the high tariffs which the English charged them. Not all of the immigrants were businessmen; some were teachers, farmers and skilled laborers.[15]

In Germany the European Revolutions of 1848 in the German states erupted, leading to the Frankfurt Parliament. Ultimately, the rather non-violent "revolution" failed. Disappointed, many Germans immigrated to the Americas, including Puerto Rico, and were dubbed the Forty-Eighters. The majority of these came from Alsace-Lorraine, Baden, Hesse, Rheinland and Württemberg.[16] German immigrants were able to settle in the coastal areas and establish their businesses in towns such as Fajardo, Arroyo, Ponce, Mayagüez, Cabo Rojo and Aguadilla. Those who expected free land under the terms of the Spanish Royal Decree, settled in the central mountainous areas of the island in towns such as Adjuntas, Aibonito and Ciales among others. They made their living in the agricultural sector and in some cases became owners of sugar cane plantations. Others dedicated themselves to the fishing industry.[17]

In 1870, the Spanish Courts passed the Acta de Culto Condicionado (Conditional Cult Act), a law granting the right of religious freedom to all those who wished to worship another religion other than the Catholic religion. The Anglican Church, the Iglesia Santísima Trinidad, was founded by German and English immigrants in Ponce in 1872.[17]

By the beginning of the 20th century, many of the descendants of the first German settlers had become successful businessmen, educators, and scientists and were among the pioneers of Puerto Rico's television industry. Among the successful businesses established by the German immigrants in Puerto Rico were Mullenhoff & Korber, Frite, Lundt & Co., Max Meyer & Co. and Feddersen Willenk & Co. Korber Group Inc., one of Puerto Rico's largest advertising agencies, was founded by the descendants of William Korber.[18]


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

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.[19] 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.[20][21] O'Reilly was later appointed governor of colonial Louisiana in 1769 where he became known as "Bloody O'Reilly".[22] Irish immigrants played an 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.[23]

The Irish element in Puerto Rico is very much in evidence. Their contributions to Puerto Rico's agricultural industry and to the field of politics and education are highly notable.[24]

Royal Decree of Graces of 1815[edit]

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.

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.

Under the Spanish Royal Decree of Graces, immigrants were granted land and initially given a "Letter of Domicile" after swearing loyalty to the Spanish Crown and allegiance to the Catholic Church. After five years they could request a "Letter of Naturalization" that would make them Spanish subjects. The Royal Decree was intended for non-Hispanic Europeans and not Asians nor people that were not Christian.

In 1897, the Spanish Cortés also granted Puerto Rico a Charter of Autonomy, which recognized the island's sovereignty and right to self-government. By April 1898, the first Puerto Rican legislature was elected and called to order.

Other immigration sources[edit]

Other sources of European populations are Basques, Portuguese (especially Azoreans), Italians, Greeks, Maltese, Scots, Dutch, English, and Danes.

Population by Municipalities in the 2010 Census[edit]

Hon. Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto is the current mayor of San Juan.

See also[edit]