Puerto Rican people: Wikis


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Puerto Rican
Puertorriqueño · Boricua
Puerto Rican people.jpg
Notable Puerto Ricans:
Lola Rodriguez · Ramón Rivero · Graciela Rivera
Arturo Alfonso Schomburg · Luis Munoz Rivera
Angel Rivero Mendez · Roberto Clemente · Alicia Bibiloni · Ricky Martin · Melina Leon
Benicio del Toro · Lymari Nadal
Total population
Puerto Rican
(92% Born in Puerto Rico) [1]
(97.3% identifed as native)
Regions with significant populations
 Puerto Rico (2008 est.) 3,846,054 [1]
 United States (2008 est.) 4,216,533 [2]
 U.S. Virgin Islands (2000) 8,558 [3]
 Dominican Republic (2002) 2,897 [4]
 Canada (2006) 2,020 [5]
 Mexico (2000) 1,970 [6]
 Brazil 800 [7]
 Venezuela (2001) 528 [8]
 United Kingdom 300 [7]
 Costa Rica (2000) 268 [9]
 Argentina (2001) 179 [10]
 Cuba (2001) 121 [11]

Spanish, English


Predominantly Roman Catholic
Large minority Protestantism

Related ethnic groups

Africans · Amerindians · Chinese · Corsican · French · German · Irish · Italian · Jewish · Mestizos · Mulattos · Spanish · Zambos

A Puerto Rican (Spanish: puertorriqueño) (Taíno term: boricua) is a person who was born or raised in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Ricans born and raised in the United States are also referred to as Puerto Ricans, although they are not native Puerto Ricans, but descendants of Puerto Ricans. Rarely are Puerto Ricans born in the diaspora called Puerto Rican Americans, or simply Americans.

Puerto Ricans, who also commonly refer to themselves as "boricuas," are largely the descendants of Europeans, Taíno, Africans or a blend of these groups which has produced a very diversified population. The population of Puerto Ricans and descendants is estimated to be between 8 to 10 million worldwide, with most living within the islands of Puerto Rico, Central Florida, Chicago Metropolitan Area and in New York City, where there is a large Nuyorican community.

For 2008, the American Community Survey estimates give a total of 3,846,054 Puerto Ricans classified as "Native" Puerto Ricans. It also gives a total of 3,638,484 (92%) of the population being born in Puerto Rico and 195,506 (4.9%) born in the United States. The total population born outside Puerto Rico is 315,553 (8%).

Of the 107,983 who were foreign born outside the United States (2.7% of Puerto Rico), 5.2% were born in Europe, 92.7% in Latin America, 2.0% in Asia, 0.2% in Northern America, and 0.0% in Africa and Oceania each.[1]



The original inhabitants of Puerto Rico are the Taíno, who called the island Borikén; however, as in other parts of the Americas, the native people soon diminished in number after the arrival of European settlers. The negative impact on the numbers of indigenous peoples was almost entirely the result of Old World diseases that the Amerindians had no natural/bodily defenses against, including measles, chicken pox, mumps, influenza, and even the common cold. In fact, it was estimated that the majority of all the indigenous inhabitants of the New World perished due to contact and contamination with those Old World diseases, while those that survived were killed by warfare with each other and with Europeans.

Both run-away and freed African slaves (the Spanish, upon establishing a foothold, quickly began to import Sub-Saharan African slaves to work in expanding their colonies in the Caribbean) were in Puerto Rico. This interbreeding was far more common in Latin America because of those Spanish and Portuguese mercantile colonial policies exemplified by the oft-romanticized male conquistadors (e.g. Hernán Cortés). Aside from the presence of slaves, some indication for why the native population was so diluted was the tendency for conquistadors to bring with them scores of single men hoping to serve God, country, or their own interests. All of these factors would indeed prove detrimental for the Taínos in Puerto Rico and surrounding Caribbean islands.

Royal Decree of Graces, 1815

In the 16th century, a significant depth of Puerto Rican culture began to develop with the import of Sub-Saharan African slaves by the Spanish, as well as by the French, the British, the Dutch and the Portuguese. Thousands of Spanish settlers also immigrated to Puerto Rico from the Canary Islands during the 18th and 19th centuries, so many so that whole Puerto Rican villages and towns were founded by Canarian immigrants, and their descendants would later form a majority of the Spanish population on the island.

In 1791, the slaves in Saint-Domingue (Haiti), revolted against their French masters. Many of the French escaped to Puerto Rico via what is now the Dominican Republic and settled in the west coast of the island, especially in Mayagüez. Puerto Rico has some British ancestry, notably Scots came to reside there in the 17th and 18th centuries.

When Spain revived the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815 with the intention of attracting non-Hispanics to settle in the island hundreds of French (especially Corsicans), Germans and Irish immigrants who were affected by Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s immigrated to Puerto Rico. They were followed by smaller waves of Dutch, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Maltese and Portuguese (especially Azoreans).

During the early 20th century Jews began to settle in Puerto Rico. The first large group of Jews to settle in Puerto Rico were European refugees fleeing German–occupied Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. The second influx of Jews to the island came in the 1950s, when thousands of Cuban Jews fled after Fidel Castro came to power, thus making Puerto Rico the Caribbean island with the largest and richest Jewish community.[12] In recent times, Puerto Rico has been the destination for immigrants from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, South America and Spain, as well from islands of the West Indies.

Puerto Rican heritage

Racial groups - Puerto Rico [13][14][15]
Year White % Non-White
1802 48.0 52.0
1812 46.8 53.2
1820 44.4 55.6
1830 50.1 49.9
1877 56.3 43.7
1887 59.5 40.5
1897 64.3 35.7
1899 61.8 38.2
1910 65.5 34.5
1920 73.0 27.0
1930 74.3 25.7
1935 76.2 23.8
1940 76.5 23.5
1950 79.7 20.3
2000 80.5 19.5
2007 76.2 23.8
Racial composition of the Puerto Rican
population, by the census, 1802-2000.

2007 estimates from CIA Factbook.

Ethnic descent

The original inhabitants of Puerto Rico

The European heritage of Puerto Ricans comes primarily from one source:

The Canarian cultural influence in Puerto Rico is one of the most important componants in which many villages were founded from these immigrants, which started from 1493 to 1890 and beyond. Many Spanish, 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.[16][17]

Other sources of European populations:

African Heritage:

People from Asia:

  • Palestinian territories Palestinians

Modern Puerto Rican identity and heritage

Until 1950 the U.S. Bureau of the Census attempted to quantify the racial composition of the island's population, while experimenting with various racial taxonomies. In 1960 the census dropped the racial identification question for Puerto Rico but included it again in the year 2000. The only category that remained constant over time was white, even as other racial labels shifted greatly—from "colored" to "Black," "mulatto," and "other". Regardless of the precise terminology, the census reported that the bulk of the Puerto Rican population was white from 1899 to 2000.[14]

The Puerto Rico of today has come to form some of its own social customs, cultural matrix, historically-rooted traditions, and its own unique pronunciation, vocabulary, and idiomatic expressions within the Spanish language. Even after the attempted assimilation of Puerto Rico into the United States in the early 20th century, the majority of the people of Puerto Rico feel pride in their nationality as "Puerto Ricans", regardless of the individual's particular racial, ethnic, political, or economic background. Many Puerto Ricans are consciously aware of the rich contribution of all cultures represented on the island. This diversity can be seen in the everyday lifestyle of many Puerto Ricans such as the profound European influences in Puerto Rico regarding food, music, dance, and architecture.

In the 2000 U.S. Census Puerto Ricans were asked to identify which racial category with which they personally identify. The breakdown is as follows: white (mostly Spanish origin) 80.5%, black 8%, Amerindian 0.4%, Asian 0.2%, mixed and other 10.9%.

Puerto Ricans and the United States

U.S. residents have also migrated from the U.S. mainland to different parts of Puerto Rico, especially to the San Juan metro area and the southern portion of the island, mainly for tourism purposes and for business ventures, including in the financial, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries.


Spanish is the predominant language 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 and spoken throughout the island.

As of 2007, the American Community Survey states that 95.1% of island residents speak Spanish and 81.5% of Puerto Ricans speak English less than "very well". 4.7% of people on the island speak English only.[19]

Language has been influenced by Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States by adding English words, pronunciation, and phrases to their vocabulary adding to the mixture of both languages known and recognized as Spanglish. There is a wide use of English language loans (English spelled and pronounced words, yet have a Spanish accent when utilized) for example: parking, chilling, truck, weekend etc. (among many others). Puerto Rican people feel that the Spanish language is part of their culture and therefore cultivate its use in the island as well as in the mainland having been instrumental in the use of Spanish in government documentation.


The great majority of Puerto Ricans are Christians, though there are certain Islamic and Jewish sectors in the island. Roman Catholicism has been the main religion among Puerto Ricans since the arrival of the Spanish in the 15th century, although the increasing presence of Protestant, Latter-day Saint (Mormon), Pentecostal and Jehovah's Witnesses denominations has increased under U.S. sovereignty, making modern Puerto Rico an inter-denominational, multireligious community. The island is also home to small Jewish and Muslim communities.


Puerto Ricans often proudly identify themselves as Boricua (formerly also spelled Boriquén, Borinquén, or Borinqueño), derived from the Taíno word Boriken, to illustrate their recognition of the island's original Taíno heritage. The word Boriken, some believe to translate to "the great land of the valiant and noble Lord." Borikén was used by the original Taíno population to refer to the island of Puerto Rico before the arrival of the Spanish. The use of the word Boricua has been popularized in the island and abroad by descendents of Puerto Rico heritage, commonly using the phrase, "Yo soy Boricua" ("I am Boricua", or "I am Puerto Rican") to identify themselves as Puerto Ricans. Another variations which are also widely used are Borinqueño and Borincano which translated means "from Borinquen." The first recorded use of the word Boricua comes from Christopher Columbus in his Letter to the Sovereigns from 4 March 1493.[20]

Political and international status

The federal Naturalization Act, signed into law on March 26, 1790 by George Washington, explicitly barred anyone not of the White "race" from applying for U.S. citizenship. This law remained in effect until the 1950s, although its enforcement was tightened in the late nineteenth century regarding Asian immigrants, and by the Johnson-Reed act of 1924 imposing immigration quotas. In short, until late in the twentieth century, only immigrants of the White "race" could hope to become naturalized citizens. The people of Puerto Rico were declared as U.S citizens in 1917.[21][22]

Puerto Ricans became citizens of the United States as a result of the passage of the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917. Since the act was approved by Congress and not the result of an amendment of the United States Constitution, privileges, such the right to presidential vote, and immunities provided and guaranteed by the Constitution were not provided and said citizenship can be revoked by Congress. The act established that Puerto Ricans born prior to 1899 were considered naturalized citizens of Puerto Rico, and anyone born after 1898 were U.S. citizens, unless the Puerto Rican expressed his/her intentions to remain a Spanish Subject. Since 1948, it was decided by Congress that all Puerto Ricans, whether born within the United States or in Puerto Rico, were naturally born United States citizens.

Puerto Ricans and other U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections and do not elect U.S. Representatives or Senators. However, Puerto Rico is represented in the House of Representatives by a Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, who acts as a Representative in every respect except the final disposition of legislation on the House floor. The Resident Commissioner is elected by Puerto Ricans to a four-year term and does serve on congressional committee. Puerto Ricans residing in the U.S. states have all rights and privileges of other U.S. citizens living in the states.

As statutory U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans born in Puerto Rico may enlist in the U.S. military and have been included in the compulsory draft when it has been in effect. Puerto Ricans have fully participated in all U.S. wars and military conflicts since 1898, such as World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

See also


  1. ^ a b c U.S ACS Puerto Rico 2008
  2. ^ U.S. Census, The Hispanic Population in the United States: 2008 Detailed Tables, Section I, Table 1.2
  3. ^ Multiculturalism Mexico: United States Virgin Islands statistics
  4. ^ Multiculturalism Mexico: Dominican Republic statistics
  5. ^ Census Canada 2006
  6. ^ Los Extranjeros en Mexico
  7. ^ a b OECD Data Sheet
  8. ^ Estadisticas Venezuela
  9. ^ Estadisticas Costa Rica
  10. ^ Censo Argentina 2001
  12. ^ The Virtual Jewish History Tour Puerto Rico
  13. ^ Puerto Rico's History on race
  14. ^ a b Representation of racial identity among puerto ricans and in the u.s. mainland
  15. ^ CIA World Factbook Retrieved June 8, 2009.
  16. ^ Canarian immigration: canarios en Puerto Rico (Islas Canarias)
  17. ^ Canarian Settlement in the Americas
  18. ^ a b Lipski, John M. (2005). A History of Afro-Hispanic Language: Five Centuries, Five Continents. middle of second paragraph under 'Africans in Puerto Rico': by Cambridge University Press. p. 115. ISBN 0-521-82265-3. http://books.google.com/books?id=U0xyRU7QoK4C&pg=PA115. 
  19. ^ U.S. Census Annual Population Estimates 2007
  20. ^ "Between the islands of Cardo and Española there is another island they call Borinque, all of it is short distance form the other region of the island of Juana that they call Cuba" (Letter to the Sovereigns, trans. Margarita Zamora, New World Encounters, University of California Press, 1993). Another early reference can be found in Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés' 1535 Historia general y natural de las Indias. The full text of Gonzalo's book, including references to Boriquen, may be read in Spanish online at a page maintained by University College London. http://www.ems.kcl.ac.uk/content/etext/e026.html
  21. ^ Vision of America
  22. ^ History: The Racialisation of Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans

4. U of PR Taíno DNA study- http://www.taino-tribe.org/pr-taino-dna.htm

Further reading

  • "Adiós, Borinquen querida": The Puerto Rican Diaspora, Its History, and Contributions, by Edna Acosta-Belen, et al. (Albany, NY: Center for Latino, Latin American, and Caribbean Studies, SUNY-Albany, 2000)
  • Boricua Hawaiiana: Puerto Ricans of Hawaii --- Reflections of the Past and Mirrors of the Future, by Blase Camacho Souza (Honolulu: Puerto Rican Heritage Society of Hawaii, 1982)
  • Boricua Literature: A Literary History of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, by Lisa Sénchez González (New York: New York University Press, 2001)
  • Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture, by Frances Negrón-Muntaner (New York: New York University Press, 2004)
  • Boricuas: Influential Puerto Rican Writings, by Roberto Santiago (New York: One World, 1995)
  • Boricuas in Gotham: Puerto Ricans in the Making of Modern New York City, edited by Gabriel Haslip-Viera, Angelo Falcón and Félix Matos Rodríguez (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2004)

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