The History of Puerto Rico Timeline
To know the history and origin of Puerto Rico you must first know what it is like and its geographical location. Puerto Rico is a small island in Central America located between the island of Hispaniola and the Virgin Islands. Of mountainous character, it presents a tropical climate tempered by the maritime influence. Since 1952 it has been a commonwealth of the United States whose official languages are Spanish and English.
Origin of Puerto Rico History Timeline
Puerto Rico is the smallest of the Greater Antilles and the largest of the Lesser Antilles, in the Caribbean Sea. It was a Spanish colony for four centuries and since 1898 it has been a colony of the United States.
Early History Of Puerto Rico Timeline
The first inhabitants, called archaics, came from the Orinoco River Delta in northern South America thousands of years ago. Archaeology has documented human presence in these lands since 4,000 (in Angostura, Barceloneta), and 3,000 BC, (in Maruca in Ponce). When the Spaniards arrived in Boriquén (the name given to the island by its native inhabitants) during the second voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1493, they impacted the Tainos, descendants of the Arawak ethnic group from northern Venezuela. The Tainos were the product of the fusion of various previous cultures.
They had developed a very productive agriculture, where they applied knowledge of astronomy and meteorology. They believed in many gods. Their society was governed by a pyramidal structure directed by a cacique to whom they paid tribute. The chiefdom was an intermediate social, economic and political state, whose next stage was represented in America by the city-states exemplified by the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas. The Indigenous Taino heritage left a significant imprint on Puerto Rican culture.
Discovery of Puerto Rico
If you wonder, who discovered Puerto Rico and in what year?, the answer is Christopher Columbus, in the year 1493. At the time of the discovery the island was called Borinquén and was inhabited by Taino Indians. He discovered it on his second voyage by Christopher Columbus, who named it St. John the Baptist.
Colonization of Puerto Rico
Captain Juan Ponce de León, was appointed the first governor of Puerto Rico (1508-1513), began its colonization and founded several cities, including San Juan de Puerto Rico (1509). The population decreased considerably as a result of the harshness of the regime to which the Indians were subjected.
When the scarce gold of the island was exhausted, the colonization, which advanced slowly, suffered frequent attacks from the Caribs. The introduction of sugar cane meant the importation of black slaves from 1510 to work on the plantations.
In the mid-seventeenth century, the Portuguese, who held the exclusive seat of slaves, constituted an important nucleus of population. The capital, San Juan, became a port of call for fleets and the center of an active smuggling; it was therefore the object of frequent corsair attacks.
Before The Spanish Colony of Puerto Rico
The first inhabitants, called archaics, came from the Orinoco River Delta in northern South America thousands of years ago. Archaeology has documented human presence in these lands since 4,000 (in Angostura, Barceloneta), and 3,000 BC, (in Maruca in Ponce). When the Spaniards arrived in Boriquén (the name given to the island by its native inhabitants) during the second voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1493, they impacted the Tainos, descendants of the Arawak ethnic group from northern Venezuela.
The Tainos were the product of the fusion of various previous cultures. They had developed a very productive agriculture, where they applied knowledge of astronomy and meteorology. They believed in many gods. Their society was governed by a pyramidal structure directed by a cacique to whom they paid tribute. The chiefdom was an intermediate social, economic and political state, whose next stage was represented in America by the city-states exemplified by the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas. The Indigenous Taino heritage left a significant imprint on Puerto Rican culture.
The Spanish colony in Puerto Rico
Columbus named Boriquén San Juan Bautista when he stopped on the island on November 19, 1493, but it was not until 1508 that the Spanish established a permanent presence with Juan Ponce de León as the first governor. The subordination and mistreatment given to the natives provoked the rebellion of 1511, but little could the stone axes against the arquebuses and other weapons and strategies of the conquerors.
In addition, imported diseases and the difficult conditions of forced labour reduced the indigenous population. Their role as forced laborers was replaced by slaves, coming from the western region of Africa. The crossing of these three ethnic groups (Taino, Spanish and African) represents the ethnic and cultural origin of Puerto Ricans. The racial and cultural mixing continued over the next few centuries combined with the arrival of other immigrants, such as free blacks from neighboring islands (in the eighteenth century), white Europeans (in the nineteenth century) and later, Americans, Cubans and Dominicans (in the twentieth century).
The colony grew rapidly and was one of the bases of support for the advance of the Spanish empire on the mainland. The main city was called Puerto Rico, for its spacious bay and natural harbor. In 1522 San Juan de Puerto Rico was founded as its capital, after moving from Caparra, the initial enclave of the administration of conquest and colonization. By 1582 the entire island was identified as Puerto Rico.
As the Empire grew and faced rivalry from other European powers, its strategic and military importance overshadowed its economic significance (particularly after the conquest of the wealthy civilizations of the Aztecs in Mexico and the Incas in Peru). For the growing Empire, Puerto Rico would become “the key to the Indies,” a key point in repelling the intruders and infidels of the Spanish Mare Nostrum.
PUERTO RICO BECOMES A U.S. COLONY
Bombing of El Morro in the Spanish-American War 1898
The autonomous government that Spain granted was short-lived. In February 1898 the American ship Maine exploded in Havana Bay, sparking the Spanish-American War. Eight days after the newly inaugurated Puerto Rican Legislature met for the first time, U.S. troops landed in Guánica on July 25, 1898. This marked the end of the Spanish experiment in self-government and inaugurated the American colonial experiment. Although the island had not participated in the war, its acquisition became part of a new geopolitical vision of U.S. hegemony in the Caribbean.
In December 1898 the Treaty of Paris was signed and Spain formally ceded Puerto Rico to the United States. The civil rights and political status of Puerto Ricans would be determined by the U.S. Congress. After more than a century, control of Puerto Rican sovereignty and political status remains in the hands of Congress.
The invading American General Nelson A. Miles (who was responsible for ending the wars against the Indians in the United States) knew exactly where to land in Puerto Rico. He was knowledgeable about the anti-Spanish sentiments of the people on the south coast (who had not forgiven the Repression of the Compontes of 1887). This led to the surprise and successful landing in the bay of Guánica, as well as the enthusiastic welcome that the residents of Ponce (bastion of the Creoles) and Yauco (bastion of the Corsicans) gave to the American troops while the Spanish Army retreated towards the mountains.
The military campaign in Puerto Rico was quick (the Spaniards knew that they had already lost Cuba and, therefore, the war) although there were some battles until the armistice was signed a month after the landing.
What happened next surprised both the liberals and the separatists in Puerto Rico who had welcomed – and even helped – the invasion. They saw the United States as the great democratic country that would give Puerto Rico, as Miles had promised, “the blessings of civilization.” By contrast, for two years the Americans imposed a military government. When a civil government was established in 1900, through the Foraker Act, even American writers such as Lyman Gould and William Tansill considered it inferior to the Autonomic Charter granted by the decadent Spanish monarchy.
In legal terms, Puerto Rico was defined as an unincorporated territory that “belonged to but was not part” of the United States. Disenchantment with this political status caused open protests that in turn gave life to a new political organization, the Union Party of Puerto Rico in 1904. It brought together followers of autonomism, annexation and independence as possible ways to define the relationship with the United States. For the first time in Puerto Rican history, independence was included as a legal option in a political party’s program.
The Unionists became the dominant party for twenty years, until the emergence of a solid Socialist Party (which represented the workers and was pro-statehood) led to coalitions and alliances that prevailed until the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), founded by descendants of unionists and other parties was formed in 1938.
Independence of Puerto Rico
The formation of a Puerto Rican national consciousness followed a process similar to that of Cuba. Ramón Emeterio Betances and other independence leaders were greatly influenced by José Martí, and as a fundamental point of their program was the abolition of slavery.
The revolutionary uprising, called the “Grito de Lares”, broke out in 1868, and, although quickly put down, persistent resistance forced Spain to abolish slavery (1873) and, finally (1897), to grant autonomy to the island.
- Colonization of the U.S.
In 1898, in the course of the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Army occupied it militarily and dissolved the Autonomous Government. By the Treaty of Paris (1898), Puerto Rico came under U.S. administration.
After two years of military rule, the Foraker Act (1900) established a civilian government appointed by the U.S. president. In a short time U.S. capital controlled the island’s economic resources and imposed the monoculture of sugar cane.
In 1917 the Jones Act gave Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship, albeit without voting rights. The U.S. government has attempted to solve the problem of rapid population growth by emigration to the U.S. Nationalist movements gained great strength in 1935-37, but were harshly repressed.
After World War II, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) began to operate, led by Luis Muñoz Marín, a supporter of the alliance with the United States, who was elected governor in 1948.
In 1952 Puerto Rico became a “commonwealth” of the United States. In 1964 He was elected governor Roberto Sánchez Villeda, who in 1967 called a referendum in which the option of ratifying the 1952 Constitution triumphed.
Modern Puerto Rico History Timeline Recent History
In 1968, Luis A. Ferré, an advocate of the country’s full integration into the United States, was elected governor. He was succeeded in 1972 by Rafael Hernández Colón, of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), a supporter of maintaining the current status.
In the 1976 elections, Carlos Romero Barceló, of the New Progressive Party (PNP), triumphed, favorable, like Ferré, to the full integration of the country in the United States. However, in September 1978 the UN Decolonization Committee recognized in a resolution the right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination and independence.
- R. Barceló (1976-84, of the PNP), R. Hernández Colón (1984-92, of the PPD), P. Rosselló (1992-2000, of the PNP) and S. María Calderón (since 2002, of the PPD) assumed the position of governor. In January 1993 the new House of Representatives repealed the 1991 law declaring Spanish the only official language of the country.
However, the NPP suffered a setback when the electorate voted, in a referendum on annexation to the US (November 1993), the maintenance of the status of commonwealth, in the face of the annexationist position of the NPP.
In a new referendum (December 13, 1998), authorized by the U.S. Congress, the electors rejected by 50.2% of the votes the full incorporation into the United States, as the 51st state of the Union, despite the fact that the proposal was raised and supported by Governor P. Rosselló.
Through a pardon from President Bill Clinton, 12 Puerto Rican nationalists were released from prison after their public renunciation of violence (1999). Many of them related to the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN).