Old San Juan/ Porta Coeli Church / Sugar mill ruins Santa Isabel

'Isla Borinquena' Puerto Rico History ...1508 to the Present

The U.S. House of Representatives, and the Jones Act of 1917, established all Puerto Ricans are born citizens of the United States with the identical citizenship of any US Citizen. You do not need a passport to visit Puerto Rico from anywhere in the 50 states.

Residency of Puerto Rico, however, is a little different than amongst the 50 states.. No residents of Puerto Rico pay federal income tax ( unless you are a Federal Employee or derive income from the US mainland some people pay both federal and local tax but are not taxed twice on any income). Residents of PR can not vote in presidential elections, but pay most other federal taxes, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc., and many commerce-related taxes like the alcohol tariffs. When any resident of Puerto Rico moves and changes residency to one of the 50 states, then they must commence paying federal income tax and can vote in presidential elections . .

Our currency is the U.S.dollar, our mail system is the U.S. Mail, we have Federal Courts, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. National and Air Guards, and even the F.B.I.

Puerto Ricans have spilled their blood in every war and conflict in which this nation has entered since World War One. Five Puerto Ricans have received the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously. Over 50 Puerto Ricans have already died in Iraq and Afghanistan defending US policy. Two Puerto Ricans have served as Surgeon General of the United States. Numerous Puerto Ricans hold decisive positions in government’s agencies, like NASA.

Puerto Rico could be said to be a separate 'cultural nation', but politically it is part of the United States. Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the US, some say territory . . . some say it is more like a state. As far as the local Puerto Rican vote, only 3% ever vote for the independence ticket, the rest is divided between remaining a commonwealth or becoming an official state.

Memory and description of the island of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Compiled by the order of His Majesty, King Philip the Second. In the year 1582........... History of Puerto Rico

The discoverer and conqueror of this island was Juan Ponce de Leon, a citizen of the city of San Servas del Campo. He conquered it, following the orders of the Admiral don Diego de Colon, the son of the first discoverer of the Indies (Christopher Columbus). To do this he sailed from the port of Xiguey, the old, a place they used to call Salvaleon, in the island of Santo Domingo. The first time that he came he landed on the tip of this island that they call Aguada. He was warmly greeted by Agueybana, the head cacique. He took some Indians with whom he had made acquaintance and he found gold which he brought back as a sample to the Admiral. He did not conquer it then but negotiated with the Admiral and then returned to conquer and populate it. He landed on the southern tip of the island, and he founded a city in the port of Guanica. Don Cristobal Sotomayor, from Galicia, was lieutenant of this outpost. And from here they began the conquest of this island. This was in the year 1508. ..............

They eventually worked their way east by horseback until the reached the mangrove swamps ( Caparra) where they established the first fort. They soon moved from Caparra to what is now Old San Juan, due to the mosquito infestations from the surrounding swamps.

It took seven years to conquer, destroy and enslave the Taino Indians of Boriken. Taken from the first history of Puerto Rico, preserved in the Gutenberg archives.

Columbus returned to Spain from his first voyage. He had left behind a small group of men in Hispanola to start a colony. It was announced that a second expedition was being organized. The cessation of hostilities in Granada had left thousands of knights, whose only patrimony was their sword, without occupation--men with iron muscles, inured to hardship and danger, eager for adventure and conquest. There also were monks and priests, , ruined traders, and the protégés of royalty and of influential persons at court, who aspired to lucrative places in the new territories. Columbus counted among the fifteen hundred companions of his second expedition individuals of the bluest blood in Spain.

Twenty Granadian lancers with their spirited Andalusian horses were accommodated; cuirasses, swords, pikes, crossbows, muskets, powder and balls were abundant; rice, sugar-cane, vegetables, cattle, sheep, goats, swine, and fowls for stocking the new provinces, and a breed of mastiff dogs, which became in a short time the dreaded destroyers of natives.

At daybreak, September 25, 1493, seventeen ships, three carácas of one hundred tons each, two naos, and twelve caravels, sailed from Cadiz

they reached the Indies on November 3, when fifteen hundred pairs of wondering eyes beheld the mountains of an island mysteriously hidden till then in the bosom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Among the men-at-arms, one was destined to play the principal rôle in the conquest of Puerto Rico. His name was Juan Ponce, a native of Santervas or Sanservas de Campos in the kingdom of Leon. He had served fifteen years in the war with the Moors as page or shield-bearer to Pedro Nuñez de Guzman, knight commander of the order of Calatráva, and he had joined Columbus like the rest--to seek his fortune in the western hemisphere.

At the time of the arrival of the Spaniards the natives of Boriquén seem to have lived at peace, and passed their days lazily swinging in their hammocks and playing ball or dancing their "areytos." These Tainos were enslaved and called upon to labor from morning to night, to dig and delve, and to stand up to their hips in water washing the river sands. They were forced to change their habits and their food, and from free and happy masters of the soil they became the slaves of a handful of ruthless men from beyond the sea. When Ponce's order to distribute them among his men confirmed the hopelessness of their slavery, they looked upon the small number of their destroyers and began to ask themselves if there were no means of getting rid of them.

The following is the list of Indians distributed after the battle of Yacüeca as given by Mr. Brau, who obtained the details from the unpublished documents of Juan Bautista Muñoz:

Indians to be distributed as slaves:

To the estates (haciendas) of their royal Highnesses 500
Baltasar de Castro, the factor 200, Miguel Diaz, the chief constable 200, Juan Ceron, the mayor 150
Diego Morales, bachelor-at-law 150, Amador de Lares 150, Louis Soto Mayor 100, Miguel Diaz, Daux-factor 100, the (municipal) council 100, the hospitals 100, Bishop Manso 100, Sebastian de la Gama 90
Gil de Malpartida 70, Juan Bono (a merchant) 70, Juan Velasquez 70, Antonio Rivadeneyra 60, Gracian Cansino 60, Louis Aqueyo 60, the apothecary 60, Francisco Cereceda 50 and 40 other individuals 40 each 1,600

Distributed in 1509 1,060

Total 5,100

1511 These numbers included women and children old enough to perform some kind of labor. They were employed in the mines, or in the rivers rather (for it was alluvium gold only that the island offered to the greed of the so-called conquerors); they were employed on the plantations as beasts of burden, and in every conceivable capacity under taskmasters who, in spite of Ferdinand's revocation of the order to reduce them to slavery (September, 1514), had acted on his first dispositions and believed themselves to have the royal warrant to work them to death.

Before Ponce's departure for a trip to Spain the island had been divided into two jurisdictions, the northern, with Capárra as its capital, under the direct authority of the governor, the southern division, with San German as the capital, under a lieutenant-governor, the chain of mountains in the interior being the mutual boundary. This division was maintained till 1782.

Capárra, or Puerto Rico, as it was now called, and San German were the only settlements when Ponce returned in 1515. . . .

According to historian Salvador Brau, the censuses of 1777 and 1787 recorded the existence of some 2,000 Amerindians in the areas of Indiera Alta, Indiera Baja and Indiera Fría. These were descendants of a group of Tainos who, in 1570, decided to intern themselves in the mountainous regions of central Puerto Rico in order to protect themselves from Spanish colonization.

Historical photos of Puerto Rico from the Library of the US Congress - time period unknown.

A fascinating and more detailed account taken from the translation by Carmen Yuisa Colon Delgado, of an old document.

The End of the Taino Kingdom

Another website about the Taino Indians.

Loiza Aldea and the legend of Yuiza

The capital city became known as San Juan, as the name of the island changed to Puerto Rico (Rich Port). San Germán was the second city to be founded, originally where Mayaguez sits now, it moved south into the hills to better protect itself from indian attacks.

Gold was the first economy of Puerto Rico and the gold was sent to Spain. The Golden Years of the 'gold rush' in Puerto Rico ended with the depletion of the gold. See a small history of coffee and agriculture.

Old San Juan is the second oldest Spanish colonial city in the New World and an excellent example of Spanish colonial architecture; most of which, has been beautifully restored. The lovely blue cobblestones paving the streets were brought as ballast in the ships. The cities of Ponce and Mayaguez were established in the late 1700's.

As settlement of Puerto Rico progressed, the native Indians tried to regain their island but were overpowered by the Spanish' Conquistadores'. The Indians tried several times to rid their island of the 'Spanish Infestation' but were outnumbered, outgunned and unsuccesful. The Indians not killed in battle were enslaved, most died off from disease and maltreatment. Many of the Indian women survived and eventually populated the interior of Puerto Rico along with the Spanish sailors who had brought no women with them.

For several hundred years Puerto Rico was a small farm economy. After the end of the gold, Spain ignored Puerto Rico and the routes to the west were changed to the north, missing Puerto Rico. This dramatic loss of economy created a situation in which, even the governor, was forced into smuggling and piracy.

Breeding and exporting horses became a major source of the export economy of Puerto Rico, after the gold ran out.. The horses of Mexico came from Puerto Rico. The first Paso Fino was bred in Puerto Rico. "Dulce Sueño" sired 75 horses, the stock of Paso Fino horses. Today paso fino horse breeding and competing are a serious 'hobby', along with racing throuroughbreds. Horses are still an integral part of Puerto Rico and on any Sunday drive in the mountains or along the coast you will encounter local people out on their horses.

Paso Fino competitions attracts horses from around the world, as well as throuroughbreds who come to race at the El Comandante Race Track.

In the early 1800's the King of Spain granted a 'Cedula de Gracia' to increase the European population of Puerto Rico by awarding land grants to immigrants from South American colonies, Spain and other European countries. Thus began the century of change from small farms to large coffee plantations, then sugar production came into supremacy. African slaves were imported for the larger plantations.

Leaders of the Puerto Rican abolitionist movement, waged a long struggle to end slavery on the island. On March 22, 1873, the Spanish National Assembly finally abolished slavery in Puerto Rico. The owners were compensated with 35 million pesetas per slave, and slaves were required to continue working for three more years

Visit Puerto Ricos' Panoramic Roads with a rental car.


What is now Old San Juan is the second oldest European city in the new world. Many of the names of the towns and municipalities of Puerto Rico are derived from the Taino names of the Indian Chiefs who ruled in that area. Caguas, Morovis and Guajataca are all Taino names.

During the 'Spanish-American War' US troops invaded Puerto Rico at Guanica, July 25, 1898 to fight the Spanish Troops stationed there. No Puerto Ricans were killed; however, 50 Spanish and 50 US troops died in subsequent battles. The war ended before any heavy fighting began in Puerto Rico. The local populace had already risen in arms against the Spanish in 1868 and, in general, did not oppose the American soldiers, although the government in San Juan had declared loyalty to Spain. At the termination of the 'Spanish-American War' , the US demanded Puerto Rico as 'war payment' from Spain in the 'Treaty of Paris'. In 1917 all Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship. A succesion of governors were appointed to Puerto Rico from Washington.

Munoz Marin was the first elected governor (1948) and Puerto Rico developed its' own constitution under 'Commonwealth' status. Puerto Rico was offered independence but felt it could not handle it well and chose to remain a commonwealth. At present the independence party garners less than 5% of the vote, the statehood and commonwealth parties divide the rest. Puerto Rican residents do not pay federal income tax nor vote in presidential elections but do pay social security, receive federal welfare and serve in the USA armed forces.

SOME CLARIFICATION OF THE PRESENT STATUS ISSUE , a letter from President Kennedy to Governor Munoz.

Puerto Rico's economy is presently based on the many factories established through tax incentives. Many of these are no longer in effect. Tourism has accounted for only 7% of the economy, but now seeks to increase. 90% of all food and drugs is imported to the island. The island is quite heavily populated, 3.9 million people or more than a thousand per square mile.

The struggle between maintaining and increasing the forests and adding needed housing is one of great conflict. Only 34% of the island is forested and 82% of those forests are in private hands, subject to the whim of the owners. Puerto Rico has a terrific potential as an Eco-tourist destination but it remains to be seen if this valuable resource will be recognized in time to protect it. 75% of the mangrove forest has already been destroyed on mainland Puerto Rico, but not on the island of Vieques. The local legislature has created a new law for protection and expansion of the forests. Only 6% of the island is presently protected forest.

The Caribbean National Forest, known as 'El Yunque Rain Forest' is a US Forest Service protected forest, the most visited Eco-tourist attraction in Puerto Rico. There are 5 other mountain forest reserves and over 20 lowland reserves. The unique karst region of the North West is one of few such places in the world. There are 189 listed caves and the worlds third largest underground river flows through the Camuy Cave System. The small islands and cays around Puerto Rico host many fabulous beaches, excellent snorkeling and water sports such as sailing and kayaking.

The Department of Natural Resources of Puerto Rico patrols the waters of and surrounding Puerto Rico. 'DRNA' and they have the responsibility of protecting the environement. The Conservation Trust plays a role as well.

Vieques Island has the largest wildlife refuge in the Caribbean (and exquisitely beautiful beaches) . US Fish & Wildlife manages it, along with several reserves in Culebra and elsewhere in Puerto Rico. US Fish & Wildlife administers the recovery program for the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot.

Several dozen pleasant guest houses around the island cater to the Eco-tourist. Renting a car and visiting the natural wonders of Puerto Rico is both a pleasant and easy way to enjoy your vacation. Puerto Rico is only 100 miles long by 35 miles wide but is so rich in diverse terrain that it would require a few weeks of exploration to really begin to enjoy it all.

Five pages of Panoramic Road trips show the diversity of Puerto Rican terrain and culture.

Loiza Aldea and the legend of Yuiza

San Juan is where the night life is. Allthough there are scattered spots around the island, anyone interested in night life has to go to San Juan.

There is a link to some interesting books about Puerto Rico on the links page.

All about the unique El Yunque rainforest.

Relive the history of Old San Juan with a guided walking tour.

Wonderful information about Puerto Rico in the 1500's.

Here is a government website that offers a list ( and links) to the historic sites in Puerto Rico. Historic Sites.



Guest Houses surrounding the El Yunque rainforest