Spanish immigration to Puerto Rico

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Spanish immigration to Puerto Rico
Luis Munoz Rivera.jpg
Juan Serralles Colon.jpg
Tapia Y Rivera.jpg
Francisco Oller.jpg
Luisa Capetillo2.jpg
Ramón Power y Giralt.png
Juanita Garcia Peraza.JPG
Puerto Rican Governor Sila Calderon at the Pentagon, Feb 27, 2001.jpg
Dr Pedro Rosello.jpg
Maria de las Mercedes Barbudo, Independence Leader from Ponce, Puerto Rico, circa 1815 (6607177617).jpg
Benicio Del Toro - Guardians of the Galaxy premiere - July 2014 (cropped).jpg
Dayanara Torres 2011.jpg
Monica Puig RG13.JPG
Ricky Martin in store appearance, Sydney Australia (1).jpg
Total population
(Total Spanish ancestry unknown
83,879 - 2.1% Self-identified as Spaniard (2000)[1][2])
Regions with significant populations
 Puerto Rico 83,879[1]
Predominantly Roman Catholicism & Large minority of Protestants
Related ethnic groups
Location of       Spain and       Puerto Rico.

Spanish immigration to Puerto Rico began in 1493 (continuing until 1898 as a colony of Spain) and continues to the present day. On 25 September 1493, Christopher Columbus set sail on his second voyage with 17 ships and 1,200–1,500 men from Cádiz, Spain.[3] On 19 November 1493 he landed on the island, naming it San Juan Bautista in honor of Saint John the Baptist.

The first Spanish settlement, Caparra, was founded on 8 August 1508 by Juan Ponce de León, born in Valladolid, Spain, a lieutenant under Columbus, who later became the first governor of the island.[4] The following year the settlement was abandoned in favor of a nearby islet on the coast, named Puerto Rico (Rich Port), which had a suitable harbor. In 1511, a second settlement, San Germán, was established in the southwestern part of the island. During the 1520s the island took the name of Puerto Rico while the port became San Juan.

The Spanish heritage in Puerto Rico is palpable today in its customs and many traditions, language, and in the old and new architectural designs.

Migration history[edit]

Foreign population in Puerto Rico[5]
(Excludes those born in the United States)
Year Total  % of
Spain's percent
of foreign born
1899 13,872 1.5 55.45 7,690
1910 11,766 1.1 56.5 6,630
1920 8,167 0.6 60.9 4,975
1930 6,017 0.4 59.75 3,595
1940 5,039 0.3 50.25 2,532
1950 8,453 0.4 27.8 2,351
1960 10,224 0.4 25.0 2,558
1970 80,627 3.0 5.1 4,120
1980 70,768 2.2 7.35 5,200
1990 79,804 2.3 5.7 4,579
2000 109,581 2.9 3.5 3,800
Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León bronze statue in San Juan.[6]

The European heritage of Puerto Ricans comes primarily from one source: Spaniards (including Canarians, Asturians, Catalans, Galicians, Castilians, Andalusians, and Basques)

From the start of the conquest of Puerto Rico, Castilians ruled over the religious (Roman Catholicism) and political life. Some came to the island for just a few years and then returned to Spain. However, many stayed.

Among Puerto Rico's founding families were the Castilian Ponce de León family. Their home was built in 1521 by Ponce de Leon but he died in the same year, leaving "La Casa Blanca", or "The White House", to his young son Luis Ponce de León. The original structure didn't last long; two years after its construction a hurricane destroyed it and it was rebuilt by Ponce de León's son-in-law Juan García Troche. The descendants of Ponce de León's family lived in La Casa Blanca for more than 250 years when in 1779 the Spanish Army took control of it. Finally, the American military moved into La Casa Blanca in 1898.[7][8] The southern city of Ponce is named after Juan Ponce de León y Loayza, the great-grandson of the island's first governor.[9]

Immigration waves[edit]

Immigration to the island caused the population to grow rapidly during the 19th century. In 1800 the population was 155,426 and ended the century with almost 1,000,000 inhabitants (953,243), multiplying the population by about six times. The major impetus for the massive European immigration during the 1800s was the Spanish Crown's proclamation of the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815 (Real Cédula de Gracias), which led to the arrival of primarily Catholic immigrants from some seventy-four countries. Included were hundreds of Corsican, French, Irish, German, Scottish, Italian, Lebanese, Maltese, Dutch, English and Portuguese families moving to the island. Some countries were represented by only a few immigrants, i.e., fifty-one Chinese immigrants during this century. The country that still sent the most people was Spain.

From the start of colonization other groups from Andalusia, Catalonia, Asturias, Galicia, and Majorca had also immigrated, although the Canarian people formed the basis. Once the 19th century came, things changed drastically. According to Puerto Rican authors such as Estela Cifre de Loubriel, who did extensive research on immigration patterns to the island, during the 19th century the greatest number of Spaniards that came to the island with large families were Catalans and Mallorcans.

The next regions with the largest number of immigrants were Galicia and Asturias, followed by the Canary Islands, the Basque Country and Andalusia. The Catalans, Galicians, Mallorcans, and Asturians typically arrived with large extended whole families. There were regions of the island that attracted some immigrants more than others which was mainly for political or economic reasons

In 2009, there were 520 Galician-born people in Puerto Rico.[10]

Canarian influence[edit]

Main article: Canarian people

The first wave of Canarian migration to Puerto Rico seems to be in 1695, followed by others in 1714, 1720, 1731, and 1797. The number of Canarians that immigrated to Puerto Rico in the first three centuries of Iberian rule is not known to any degree of precision. Still and all, Dr. Estela Cifre de Loubriel and other scholars of the Canarian migration to America, such as Dr. Manuel González Hernández of the University of La Laguna, Tenerife, agree that they formed the bulk of the Jíbaro or white peasant stock of the mountainous interior of the island.[11]

Business ownership in Puerto Rico
during the late 19th Century[12]
Region San Juan
Asturian 26%
Basque 24%
Galician 17%
Majorcan 12%
Catalan 9/10%

All five total 10%

Other 1%
Total 100%

Region Ponce/Mayagüez
Catalan Majority
French, Corsican,
Italian, German

The Isleños increased their commercial traffic and immigration to the two remaining Spanish colonies in America, Puerto Rico and Cuba. Even after the Spanish–American War of 1898, Canarian immigration to the Americas continued. Successive waves of Canarian immigration continued to arrive in Puerto Rico, where entire villages were founded by relocated islanders.[13]

In the 1860s, Canarian immigration to America took place at the rate of over 2,000 per year, at a time when the total island population was 237,036. In the two-year period 1885-1886, more than 4,500 Canarians emigrated to Spanish possessions, with only 150 to Puerto Rico. Between 1891 and 1895 Canarian immigrants to Puerto Rico numbered 600. These are official figures; when illegal or concealed emigration is taken into account, the numbers would be much larger.[14]

Areas of settlement[edit]

Many Catalans, Mallorcans and Galicians joined the populations of the interior, the west and the southern coast of the island (along with large numbers of Corsicans) because of their independent personalities and wanted to stay away from the San Juan area since San Juan was dominated by the Spanish and felt more comfortable by being away. However, Asturians, Basques, Galicians and Castilians stayed in the capital San Juan and owned several businesses in the surrounding area. In the case of Ponce and Mayagüez the business ownership was dominated by Catalans, with other immigrant groups such as French, Italians and Germans (see table).[12][15][16][17]


Main article: Puerto Rican Spanish

Spanish is the predominant language inherited from the Spaniards among Puerto Ricans residing in the island; however, its vocabulary has expanded with many words and phrases coming from the Taíno and African influences of the island. Since 1901, the English language is taught in both public and private schools.

The linguistic contributions of Canary Islanders are difficult to separate from those of Andalusia, given considerable similarities as well as the close linguistic and cultural contacts between Andalusia and the Canaries. For example, the endings -ado, -ido, -edo often drop intervocalic /d/ in both Seville and San Juan: hablado > hablao, vendido > vendío, dedo > deo (intervocalic /d/ dropping is quite widespread in coastal American dialects). Sevillan Spanish is also the source of the merger of phonemes /s/ (coSer) and /θ/ (coCer) that are both pronounced /s/ in much of Andalusia and generally in all Latin American dialects. This merger is called 'seseo' and makes pairs like cocer/coser, abrazar/abrasar, has/haz, vez/ves homophonous. Another Andalusian trait is the tendency to weaken postvocalic consonants, particularly /-s/: 'los dos > lo do, 'buscar' > buhcá(l). Pronouncing "l" instead of "r" at the ends of words ending in "r" is also a trait of Puerto Rican Spanish that has its origin in southern Spain.

Canarian Spanish also made a contribution to Puerto Rican Spanish as many Canarios came in hopes of establishing a better life in the Americas. Most Puerto Rican immigration in the early 19th century involved Canary Islands natives who, like Puerto Ricans, had inherited most of their linguistic traits from Andalusia. Canarian influence is most present in the language of those Puerto Ricans who live in the central mountain region, who blended it with the remnant vocabulary of the Taíno. Canarian and Caribbean dialects share a similar intonation which, in general terms, means that stressed vowels are usually quite long. Puerto Rican and Canarian Spanish are strikingly similar. When visiting Tenerife or Gran Canaria, Puerto Ricans are usually taken at first hearing for fellow Canarians from a distant part of the Canarian archipelago.


The Catholic Church has been historically the dominant religious institution in Puerto Rico. The first diocese in the Americas was erected in Puerto Rico in 1511.[18] All municipalities in Puerto Rico have at least one Catholic church (building), most of which are located at the town center or "plaza". Protestantism, which was suppressed under the Spanish regime, has been encouraged under American rule, making modern Puerto Rico interconfessional.

On 8 August 1511, Pope Julius II created two dioceses in La Española (Santo Domingo and Concepción de la Vega) and a third in the principal city of Puerto Rico, the bishops of which were all suffragans of the archbishopric of Seville. The Canon of Salamanca, Alonso Manso, born in Palencia, was appointed bishop of the Puerto Rican diocese and took possession in 1513 — the first bishop to arrive in America. The Island at that time had two Spanish settlements with 200 white inhabitants and 500 Christian aborigines.

The Roman Catholic Church in Puerto Rico is part of the world-wide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope in Rome.


Presently, Roman Catholics constitute 85% of the island's total population while adherents of Protestant Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and animists make up the remaining 15%.

Cultural festivities[edit]

Cockfighting club in Puerto Rico, 1937.

In the cultural practices of Puerto Rico, one finds an admixture of those that came from Spanish origins and those introduced since 1898.


Bullfighting was performed although it never became popular on the island. It was mainly performed in larger cities such as San Juan and Ponce. Be that as it may, it did have a short-lived rebirth in the 1950s and 1960s with bullfighting events performed in the Parque Francisco Montaner as late as 1967, with others held in the Hiram Bithorn Stadium and Estadio Sixto Escobar in San Juan.[19] The only Puerto Rican bullfighter until today was Ernesto Pastor, who died performing in Madrid. Another (Torera) female bullfighter that had links to Puerto Rico was Conchita Cintrón, whose father was a Puerto Rican of Spanish descent.


Cockfighting is a tradition dating from Spain's colonization of the island more than five centuries ago. There is a cockfighting arena in every major town or city. Cockfighting has been legal in Puerto Rico since 1933.[20] Today, it is also legal in the Canary Islands, a major influence on Puerto Rico.[21][22][23]


Main article: Puerto Rican cuisine

Arguably considered to be the Puerto Rican unofficial national dish, arroz con pollo, or "chicken with rice", is supposedly native to Puerto Rico. The dish has roots in the motherland of Spain. Arroz con pollo dates back to the eighth century when the Moors occupied Spain and influenced the way they imported and exported goods along with the way they ate. Among the other foodstuffs introduced by the Spaniards were beef, pork (chorizo), rice, wheat, and olive oil. Caldo gallego is a dish imported from Spain's northwestern province of Galicia.[24]

Rum producers[edit]

Sebastián Serrallés was a wealthy Spaniard from Girona, Catalonia, who settled in Ponce in the mid-1830s and bought a small plot of land known as Hacienda "La Teresa".[25] Eventually, Sebastián Serrallés left Puerto Rico for Barcelona and turned over the management of the growing estate to his Puerto Rico-born son Don Juan Serrallés Colón. Juan Serrallés Colón (1845–1921) was the founder of Destilería Serrallés in 1865, a rum producer located in Ponce, Puerto Rico, known for its Don Q (from Don Quixote) rum brand.[26] Don Q is one of several rums made in the island archipelago. Others are Ron Llave and Ron El Barrilito.

Official beverage[edit]

The world-famous piña colada is the official beverage of Puerto Rico since 1978. According to Puerto Rico, the piña colada was created in 1963 by Spanish-born Don Ramón Portas Mingot, with a plaque in San Juan commemorating his creation of the beverage in La Barrachina, a restaurant bar.[27]

Puerto Rican peso[edit]

Puerto Rico began producing banknotes in 1766, becoming the first colony to print 8 real banknotes in the Spanish Empire. Subsequent issues of banknotes met with the approval of the Spanish government.

Salvador Meléndez Bruna, the colonial governor in office, ordered the issue of provincial banknotes, creating the Puerto Rican peso. However, printing of these banknotes ceased after 1815. During the following decades, foreign coins became the widespread currency. In the 1860s and 1870s, banknotes reemerged. On 1 February 1890, the Banco Español de Puerto Rico was inaugurated and began issuing banknotes. The bank designed four series and placed three in circulation under Spanish rule. In 1895, a Royal Decree ordered the production of provincial peso coins.

On 13 August 1898, the Banco Español de Puerto Rico was renamed Bank of Porto Rico and issued bills equivalent to the United States dollar, creating the Puerto Rican dollar. The peso and dollar have been followed by other issues, including commemorative banknotes, private currency, and a quarter coin designed with Fort San Felipe del Morro on the face.

National Anthem[edit]

Manuel Fernández Juncos wrote the official lyrics to Puerto Rico's official anthem.
Main article: La Borinqueña

La Borinqueña, a danza, is the national anthem of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Two Spaniards, Félix Astol Artés (a native of Catalonia) and Manuel Fernández Juncos (born in Tresmonte, a section of Ribadesella, Asturias), wrote the official music and lyrics to the anthem. Astol Artés adapted the music of an earlier tune, "Bellísima Trigueña", while Fernández Juncos changed the lyrics to the piece in the early years of the 20th century, supposedly to suppress any zeal for political independence among the Puerto Rican people. This change in the anthem's lyrics was in reaction to the revolutionary lyrics penned by Lola Rodríguez de Tió, patriot and poet, at the time of El Grito de Lares in September 1868, the most important uprising against Spanish colonial rule in the history of Puerto Rico.


The first person to officially occupy the position was Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León in 1509. Between 1509 and 1898 all Governors were appointed by the King of Spain, all born in Spain or of Spanish descent, such as native born Juan Ponce de León II, as interim governor in 1597. Most governors to the present day were raised as Roman Catholic. La Fortaleza, an example of Spanish Colonial architecture, was constructed between 1533 and 1540 and is the oldest governor's mansion in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. In 1846, it was remodeled and converted for full-time use as the governor’s house. The building, which is also known as El Palacio de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina Palace), has housed no less than 170 governors of Puerto Rico, the most recent being Alejandro García Padilla.

Appointed by the United States[edit]

The Governor of Puerto Rico was appointed by the President of the United States from 1898 to 1946. Until 1921 all governors were American.

  1. José E. Benedicto, 1921-1921 (interim governor);
  2. José E. Colón, 1939-1939 (interim governor);
  3. José Miguel Gallardo, 1940–1941 and 1941-1941 (twice interim governor);
  4. Jesús T. Piñero, 1946–1949.

Governors of the Commonwealth[edit]

Felipe VI of Spain & Fortuño with his wife in 2006.

The Governor of Puerto Rico is the head of government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Since 1948, the Governor has been elected by the people of Puerto Rico.

  1. Luis Muñoz Marín, 1st Governor 1949–1965 (His great-grandfather, Luis Muñoz Iglesias, was born in 1797 in Palencia, Spain[28][29]);
  2. Roberto Sánchez Vilella, 2nd Governor 1965–1969;
  3. Luis Alberto Ferré Aguayo, 3rd Governor 1969–1973 (His mother, Maria Aguayo Casals, was a cousin of Pablo Casals, of Catalan descent[30][31]);
  4. Rafael Hernández Colón, 4th Governor (two terms) 1973–1977 and 1985–1993;
  5. Carlos Romero Barceló, 5th Governor 1977–1985;
  6. Pedro Rosselló González, 6th Governor 1993–2001 (Family roots from Majorca, Balearic Islands, Spain[32]);
  7. Sila María Calderón, 7th Governor 2001–2005;
  8. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, 8th Governor 2005–2009;
  9. Luis Fortuño Burset, 9th Governor 2009–2012 (Catalan roots from Mataró, Barcelona and Girona, Cataluña via Marín, Pontevedra, Galicia[33][34][35]);
  10. Alejandro García Padilla, 10th Governor 2013–present.

Naming customs[edit]

There are approximately 1,700 surnames in existence in Puerto Rico. Of these, 76% are of Spanish origin. After these, the most common ones are French and Corsican (Italian origin) with 16%. The remainder are of various origins. Thus, most surnames in Puerto Rico originated in Spain, with Puerto Ricans following the Spanish tradition of using two. The first surname is inherited from the father's first surname and the second is inherited from the mother's first surname(maiden name). The two most common surnames on the island are Rodríguez and Rivera, which represent 10% of the population. Some common Spanish surnames in Puerto Rico are Arroyo, Ayala, Colón, Delgado, Díaz, Flores, González, Guzmán, López, Martínez, Morales, Ortiz, Quiñones, Quintana, Ramírez, Ramos, Rivera, Rodríguez, Román, Sánchez, Santiago, Torres, Vega, and Vélez.

Spanish place names in Puerto Rico[edit]

Barceloneta, Puerto Rico
La Barceloneta, Barcelona, Spain
Barceloneta, Puerto Rico was founded by Catalan Bonocio Llenza Feliú and is named after Barcelona, Spain.

There are many places in Puerto Rico named after places in Spain or have Spanish names due to the centuries of Spanish colonialism, Spanish settlers and explorers.

These include but are not limited to:

Coat of arms[edit]

First granted by the Spanish Crown on 8 November 1511.
Puerto Rico's Seal.

The coat of arms of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was first granted by the Spanish Crown on 8 November 1511 and is the oldest such emblem still in use in the New World.

The major symbolism of the coat of arms relates to the dominance of Spain, the strong Catholic influence in the region, and the integrity of Puerto Rico as a colony of Spain.[36]

On the shield:

  • The crown on top symbolizes "Royalty";
  • The green background represents the island's vegetation;
  • The Lamb of God and flag on the shield are those of St. John the Baptist, while the book with the seven seals on which the lamb sits represents the Book of Revelation, generally attributed to John the Evangelist.

The border is made up of 16 different elements:

Royal initials and motto:

It was officially re-adopted by the Commonwealth government in 1976.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b page 6, Puerto Rican ancestry
  2. ^ Puerto Rican identity
  3. ^ "The second voyage of Columbus". World Book, Inc. Retrieved 11 February 2006. 
  4. ^ Vicente Yáñez Pinzón is considered the first appointed governor of Puerto Rico, but he never arrived on the island.
  5. ^ Foreign-born population in Puerto Rico
  6. ^ Statue of Ponce de Leon
  7. ^ Ponce de Leon Lives's Casa Blanca
  8. ^ Juan Ponce de Leon Discovery
  9. ^ Founding and History of Ponce
  10. ^ Censo electoral de gallegos residentes en el extranjero a 1 de enero de 2009, según país de residencia y provincia de inscripción.
  11. ^ Canarian Migration to Spanish America
  12. ^ a b Los comerciantes españoles ante la invasión estadounidense en 1898. with comments from: Dr. Luis Alberto Lugo Amador
  13. ^
  14. ^ The Spanish of the Canary Islands
  15. ^ La Formación del Pueblo Puertorriqueño: Contribución de Los Gallegos, Asturianos y Santanderinos by Estela Cifre de Loubriel.
  16. ^ La Contribución de los Catalanes, Baleáricos, valencianos a la formación del pueblo puertorriqueño by Estela Cifre de Loubriel..
  17. ^ La formación del pueblo puertorriqueño. La contribución de los Vascongados, Navarros y Aragoneses by Estela Cifre de Loubriel.
  18. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Porto Rico". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  19. ^ Un torero de casta pura y vocación Por Carmen Cila Rodríguez
  20. ^ Cockfighting Still Popular in Puerto Rico
  21. ^ ¿Tradición o salvajismo? La Opinión de Tenerife (Spanish)
  22. ^ Los Verdes solicitan al Parlamento europeo que prohíba las peleas de gallo 21/07/2005 La Voz de Lanzarote (Spanish)
  23. ^ Las peleas de gallos, entre la tradición y la polémica 27/06/2006 La Voz de Lanzarote (Spanish)
  24. ^
  26. ^ Destilería Serralles history
  27. ^ "Celebrate Two of Mankind's Greatest Inventions". Retrieved 19 June 2007. 
  28. ^ Luis Muñoz Marín By A. W. Maldonado
  29. ^ Luis Muñoz Iglesias (Spanish)
  31. ^ Luis Ferré, former governor and Corporation member
  32. ^ A new prescription for Puerto Rico
  33. ^ Luis Guillermo Fortuño-Burset (son of Luis Fortuño Moscoso and Shirley Joyce Burset de Mari).
  34. ^ Children of MARTÍN BURSET and MARÍA MASFERRER are: 3rd Generation
  35. ^ Great-Grandfather: José Burset Masferrer
  36. ^ Coat of Arms of Puerto Rico

External links[edit]