Puerto Rico

Culture Name

Puerto Rican

Alternative Names

Borinquen, Borincano, Borinqueño


Identification. Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Rico in 1493, during his second voyage, naming it San Juan Bautista. The Taínos, the indigenous people, called the island Boriquén Tierra del alto señor ("Land of the Noble Lord"). In 1508, the Spanish granted settlement rights to Juan Ponce de León, who established a settlement at Caparra and became the first governor. In 1519 Caparra had to be relocated to a nearby coastal islet with a healthier environment; it was renamed Puerto Rico ("Rich Port") for its harbor, among the world's best natural bays. The two names were switched over the centuries: the island became Puerto Rico and its capital San Juan. The United States anglicized the name to "Porto Rico" when it occupied the island in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. This spelling was discontinued in 1932.

Puerto Ricans are a Caribbean people who regard themselves as citizens of a distinctive island nation in spite of their colonial condition and U.S. citizenship. This sense of uniqueness also shapes their migrant experience and relationship with other ethnoracial groups in the United States. However, this cultural nationalism coexists with a desire for association with the United States as a state or in the current semiautonomous commonwealth status.

Location and Geography. Puerto Rico is the easternmost and smallest of the Greater Antilles, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Basin to the south. Puerto Rico is a crucial hemispheric access point. It was thus a valuable acquisition for European powers and the United States. Puerto Rico retains its strategic importance, housing the U.S. Army Southern Command and other military facilities. Since the 1940s, the U.S. Navy has used its offshore islands for military maneuvers that have damaged their ecology, economy, and quality of life.

Puerto Rico includes the surrounding small islands, including Culebra and Vieques to the east and Mona to the west. Mona is a nature reserve and wildlife refuge under government jurisdiction. The total land area, including the smaller islands, is 3,427 square miles (8,875 square kilometers).

The tropical island ecosystem is unique and diversified in spite of industrialization and urban sprawl. Beside Mona, the government has established several other nature reserves. There are twenty forest reserves, such as El Yunque Rain Forest and the Caribbean National Forest, which are under federal jurisdiction.

A rugged central mountain range constitutes two-thirds of the island and separates a northern coastal plain noted for karst formations from a drier southern plain. The Taínos recognized the power of the seasonal hurricanes that affect the island. The Spanish word huracán originated from the Taíno juracán, the sacred name for this phenomenon.

Spain turned Puerto Rico into a military stronghold. San Juan was walled and fortified to house military forces, but the other settlements were neglected until the eighteenth century; isolated by the scarcity of roads, they subsisted on contraband, with little official management. The impenetrable highlands became a refuge in which settlers, runaway slaves, Taínos, and deserters produced a racially mixed population.

Demography. Puerto Rico is densely populated and urbanized. Census projections for 2000 place the population at 3,916,000, not including the estimated 2.7 million Puerto Ricans in the mainland United States. Almost 70 percent of the island is

Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
urban, in contrast to its rural character up to the 1940s. Sprawl has integrated formerly distinct barrios (rural and suburban neighborhoods), cities, and towns. The San Juan metropolitan area extends almost to Fajardo in the east and west to Arecibo. Ponce in the south and Mayagüez in the west also have become sprawling metropolitan areas.

Puerto Ricans self-define as a homogenized Taíno, African, and Spanish mixture. Taínos were Amerindians who occupied the island before European domination. Then estimated at thirty thousand, they were reduced to two thousand by the seventeenth century through exploitative labor, disease, native uprisings, and emigration to the other islands. But many fled into the highlands or intermarried: Spanish immigration to the island was mostly male and interracial relations less stigmatizing than among Anglo settlers. The contemporary revival of Taíno identity is partially based on the survival of Taíno highland communities.

Although the Spanish introduced slavery to replace a dwindling Taíno labor force, slavery never reached large proportions until the plantation system was fully implemented in the nineteenth century. However, there was a significant African influx of slave, indentured, and free labor.

Chinese labor was introduced in the nineteenth century, and immigrants came from Andalusia, Catalonia, the Basque provinces, Galicia, and the Canary Islands. Threatened by Latin America's nineteenth century revolutions, Spain facilitated immigration through economic incentives, attracting other nationalities as loyalists fled republican uprisings. The nineteenth century also brought Corsican, French, German, Lebanese, Scottish, Italian, Irish, English, and American immigration.

The U.S. occupation increased the American presence, and the 1959 revolution in Cuba brought an estimated 23,000 Cubans. Many Dominicans immigrated in search of economic opportunities; some use Puerto Rico as a port of entry into the United States. Tension and prejudice against these two groups have emerged. Americans, Cubans, and Dominicans tend to consider their presence in Puerto Rico temporary.

Linguistic Affiliation. Spanish and English are the official languages, but Puerto Rico is overwhelmingly Spanish speaking, despite government efforts to eradicate Spanish or foster bilingualism. Puerto Rican Spanish is a dialect of standard Spanish that has its own particularities. The influence of Taíno is evident in descriptions of material objects ("hammock" and "tobacco"), natural phenomena ("hurricane"), place names and colloquialisms. However, Africans gave Puerto Rican Spanish defining nuances. African speech contributed words and also influenced phonology, syntax, and prosody.

Language is a significant cultural marker of national identity for a people whose culture has always been under siege because of colonialism. U.S. officials disdained Puerto Rican Spanish as an unintelligible "patois" that had to be eradicated; they also believed that by learning English, Puerto Ricans would be socialized into "American values." The U.S. government imposed educational policies prescribing schooling in English through the first half of the twentieth century; language became part of the long-standing struggles over Puerto Rico's culture and colonial condition.

Although "English-only" policies were abrogated after the establishment of the commonwealth in 1952, debates about language have intensified. Purists decry the loss of the "mother tongue," advocating vigilance and "correctness," yet the "deterioration" of Puerto Rican Spanish through English "interference" has been exaggerated. Puerto Ricans in the United States have developed a linguistic repertoire that involves mixing English and Spanish in everyday talk. This code switching has been stigmatized as "Spanglish" and condemned by language purists, but is actually culturally significant as an identity marker.

Symbolism. The most powerful cultural symbol is the island itself. Idealized in a variety of media, its image resonates even among members of U.S. migrant communities. Natural and human-made features associated with the island are imbued with great value. The coquí (a tiny indigenous tree frog), royal palms, Taíno petroglyphs, Luquillo Beach and El Yunque, bomba and plena (music and dance forms of African origin), literature, and native food are some of these features. Puerto Ricans in New York City have built casitas, copies of the traditional rural wooden houses painted in vibrant colors and decorated with Puerto Rican objects.

The jíbaro, the highland rural folk, has become a controversial symbol because jíbaros are depicted as descendants of white Spanish settlers in a way that casts Puerto Rico as a backward rural society and negates Puerto Rico's African roots.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The Taínos received the Spanish with civility but were quickly farmed out in encomiendas , a system of indentured labor, to work at mining and cultivation. By mid-century, African slaves were imported for labor, and both slaves and Taínos soon rose in armed rebellion.

Spain realized that the island's wealth did not lie in gold and silver, yet it was attacked repeatedly by European powers that recognized its strategic location. Puerto Rico survived on contraband and piracy, trading cattle, hides, sugar, tobacco, and foodstuffs directly with other nations.

In the eighteenth century, the Spanish initiated a series of improvements, reforming the system of land tenure and in effect initiating private ownership. Overhauled policies allowed trade with other nations. These measures fostered development and increased settlement, urbanization, and population growth; they also facilitated the emergence of a sense of culture. By the eighteenth century, Puerto Ricans had developed a definite creole identity, distinguishing themselves from the hombres de la otra banda ("men from the other side"), who were transient colonial administrators, military personnel, or exploiters.

The nineteenth century fostered increased political consciousness and claims for autonomy or incorporation as an overseas province. In liberal times, Puerto Rico was granted civil liberties, which were abrogated upon the return to conservatism and repression.

The independence movement culminated in the Grito de Lares of 1868, an armed rebellion that was reported to the Spanish by an infiltrator and suppressed. Some of its leaders were executed, and those who were exiled continued their struggle from Europe, Latin America, and New York City, where they worked alongside Cuban patriots.

National Identity. Cultural nationalism generated political activism, literary and artistic production, and economic development. In 1897, Spain granted Puerto Rico an Autonomic Charter that recognized its right to internal self-government. The first autonomous government was constituted in April 1898, but its accession was postponed when the United States declared war on Spain.

The national consciousness that emerged under Spanish rule survived into the twentieth century under U.S. control. The United States saw itself as exercising a benign modernizing function, but Puerto Ricans saw it as eroding their culture and curtailing their autonomy. This tension was aggravated by U.S. capitalistic practices. The government facilitated the economic exploitation of the island's resources by absentee corporations and fostered the exportation of local workers as cheap migrant labor. Claiming that the island lacked resources and was overpopulated, the U.S. government encouraged migration, with the consequent formation of diasporic communities across the United States.

Americanization efforts included English-only education and the implementation of an American educational system, the appointment of pro-U.S. officials, the incorporation of Anglo-Saxon common law principles and practices into the island's legal system, the grant of U.S. citizenship on the eve of World War I, and the introduction of U.S. currency and the devaluation of the local peso.

The advent of the commonwealth in 1952 did not end debates over Puerto Rico's culture and colonial status. Many people view the changes over the last century as modernization and the introduction of a corporate capitalist culture that has spread around the world without erasing cultural differences.

Ethnic Relations. Cultural identity is commonly defined in terms of nationality rather than ethnicity. Puerto Ricans in the United States have been defined as an ethnoracial group in spite of their nationalism.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Old San Juan is a world-class example of Spanish urban architecture adapted to a tropical environment. After the commonwealth government initiated its renovation, it became a tourist attraction and a handsome residential and commercial area. Its

A man hand-rolls cigars for the Bayamón Tobacco Corporation, the last family-owned cigar producer in Puerto Rico. They produce five thousand cigars per day.
A man hand-rolls cigars for the Bayamón Tobacco Corporation, the last family-owned cigar producer in Puerto Rico. They produce five thousand cigars per day.
landmarks and fortifications, such as the Castle of San Felipe del Morro, are regarded as international treasures. The greater San Juan metropolitan area is a congested mix of undistinguished building styles that contains functionally distinct areas: Condado and Isla Verde are tourist enclaves, Santurce is a mix of commercial and residential spaces, Hato Rey has become the financial and banking center, and Río Piedras is the site of the University of Puerto Rico. Sprawl has eroded the sense of community and precluded pedestrian use, and an excellent network of modern highways has fostered car dependency to the detriment of the environment.

The Spanish plan of cities organized in a grid pattern of intersecting streets with central plazas bordered by public buildings recurs throughout the older sectors of the island's towns and cities. Residential architecture is eclectic. The U.S. occupation brought about a revival of the Spanish colonial style. Grillwork is ubiquitous because it offers security against criminality. Elite families built Art Nouveau and Art Deco houses, some luxurious and deserving of their designation as private "castles." The 1950s brought good examples of contemporary architecture.

Puerto Ricans have a strong cultural preference for owning their own houses. Housing developments ( urbanizaciones ) are the norm; shopping centers and strip malls have partially replaced the old marketplaces. Public housing projects ( caseríos ) have supplanted the old urban slums; people initially resisted them because they violated cultural expectations of individual housing and community. High-rise condominiums were constructed in the 1950s and have become desirable housing choices. In the few remaining rural areas, wooden and straw huts have been replaced by cement block houses.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Food preferences were shaped by the island's cultural diversity and predominantly rural lifestyle. Taíno and African influences are seen in the use of tropical fruits and vegetables, seafood, condiments, and legumes and cereals (the ubiquitous rice and beans). The Spanish contributed culinary techniques and wheat products and introduced pork and cattle. The tropical climate required the importation of preserved food; dried codfish was long a dietary mainstay. Candied fruits and fruits preserved in syrup are also traditional. Rum and coffee are the preferred beverages.

Traditionally, meals were patterned after Spanish custom: a continental breakfast, a large midday meal, and a modest supper. Many people now eat a large breakfast, a fast-food lunch, and a large dinner. Puerto Ricans tolerate fast-food, but prefer native food and home cooking. There are fast-food establishments that serve rice and beans, and other local dishes. The island boasts restaurants and eating places across the economic and gastronomic spectrums; San Juan, in particular, offers international choices.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Although American holidays are legally celebrated, the foods associated with them are prepared according to local tastes and culinary techniques. Thus, the Thanksgiving turkey is done with adobo, a local seasoning mix. The traditional holiday menu includes pernil or lechón asado (spit-roasted pork), pasteles (plantain or yucca tamales), and arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas); typical desserts are arroz con dulce (coconut rice pudding), bienmesabe (coconut pudding), and tembleque (coconut milk pudding). Coquito is a popular coconut and rum beverage.

Basic Economy. Industrialization has eroded the viability of agriculture as an important economic activity and the island is dependent on food imports. Local products are considered of higher quality.

Land Tenure and Property. Most Puerto Rican land is in private hands. Owning a home holds important cultural value. The emphasis placed on owning one's own home led to agrarian reform in the 1940s and the parcela program, a local homesteading effort by which the government appropriated land held by corporations for exploitative agribusiness and sold it for minimum prices. The only period within the twentieth century when private property was affected was precisely between 1898 and the 1940s when the whole island was literally carved up among a handful of absentee U.S. sugar-producing corporations and their local subsidiaries.

The government holds portions and there are protected nature reserves.

Commercial Activities. Beginning in the 1950s, Operation Bootstrap, the commonwealth's developmental program, fostered rapid industrialization. Tax incentives and cheap skilled labor brought many U.S. industries to the island, but by the late 1960s, the social costs and the ending of tax incentives eroded the economy. The flight of industry to cheaper labor markets in Asia and Latin America and the rise of transnational business have reduced the process of industrialization.

Major Industries. Restrictive U.S. laws and policies and U.S.-dominated banking and finance have limited Puerto Rico's ability to develop its own markets and conduct international business. The island is now dependent on manufacturing and services. The government remains a major employer. It has fostered petrochemical and high-technology industries that capitalize on an educated labor force. Pharmaceuticals, chemicals, electronics, medical equipment, and machinery are the leading products. Tourism is the most important service industry.

Trade. Major imports include chemicals, machinery, food, transport equipment, petroleum and petroleum products, professional and scientific instruments, and clothing and textiles.

Major exports include chemicals and chemical products, food, and machinery.

Division of Labor. There is a professional class in Puerto Rico. It is a full-fledged Westernized society, with the government being a major employer. Unemployment rates average at 12.5 percent. Agriculture is a waning labor source.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. A capitalist class structure is organized by access to wage labor and means of production. During the colonial period, small farms and subsistence agriculture prevailed. This prevented the emergence of a privileged hacendado class as in other latin societies. In the nineteenth century, with the implementation of an economy dependent on sugar, tobacco, and coffee, landowning and merchant classes emerged, along with a small class of urban professionals. Most political leaders came from those classes, but the bulk of the population remained artisans, sharecroppers, and laborers. Families that retained their assets under U.S. control made the transition to the professional, business, banking, and industrialist class. The economic changes of the 1950s produced an expanded middle class of government employees, administrators, and white-collar workers and an industrial working class replaced the rural one.

Symbols of Social Stratification. A "good" family and education are considered more important than wealth, but class distinctions increasingly are based on the ability to purchase and consume certain goods and commodities such as cars, electronic media, clothes, and travel.

A doorway painted to represent the flag used in the 1868 Lares Insurrection.
A doorway painted to represent the flag used in the 1868 Lares Insurrection.

Political Life

Government. The official head of state is the president of the United States even though Puerto Ricans can not vote in presidential elections. A local governor is elected every four years through universal suffrage. An elected resident commissioner represents the island in the U.S. Congress but has no vote. Puerto Rico has its own constitution. A bicameral legislature is elected every four years. The Senate is composed of two senators from each of eight senatorial districts and eleven senators at large; the House of Representatives consists of eleven representatives at large and one each from forty representative districts. Minority party representation is guaranteed in both chambers regardless of election returns.

Leadership and Political Officials. Political parties are based on the three traditional positions on status: autonomy in an enhanced commonwealth status, statehood, and independence. Currently, these positions are represented by the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), the New Progressive Party (PNP), and the Independence Party of Puerto Rico (PIP). The PPD was founded in the late 1930s by the architect of commonwealth status, Luis Muñoz Marín, who became the first elected governor in 1948. The PNP emerged in 1965, succeeding an old pro-statehood party. The PIP was established in 1948 when a PPD faction split off because of Muñoz's failure to support independence. Its popularity peaked in 1952 but has decreased. However, the PIP plays an important opposition role.

Over the last forty years, government control has alternated between the PPD and the PNP. Puerto Ricans vote politicians in and out for their governing abilities rather than their position on status. Concerns about the economy and the quality of life predominate.

Several plebiscites have been held to allow residents to exercise their right to self-determination by expressing their status preference. However, the United States has not honored any plebiscite results.

Social Problems and Control. The unified court system is administered by the island's Supreme Court, which is appointed by the governor. But Puerto Rico is also subject to federal law and constitutes a district within the U.S. federal court system, with a local district court that has jurisdiction over federal law cases. Legal practice incorporates elements from Anglo-American common law and the continental civil code law inherited from Spain. There is no "customary" law.

The island has its own police force, though the FBI also exercises jurisdiction. The correctional system has been plagued by overpopulation, lack of rehabilitation programs, poor physical facilities, undertrained correctional officers, and violent inmate gangs. Criminality is a major problem. Some attribute it to the flight of Cuba's organized crime, which shifted operations to Puerto Rico after 1959. Others blame modernization and the alleged deterioration of traditional values. Many crimes are committed by drug addicts. Drug addiction has also brought the spread of AIDS.

Military Activity. The island is fully integrated into the U.S. military system. Puerto Ricans serve in the U.S. forces. There is also a local national guard. Many residents object to U.S. military control and the military use of Culebra and Vieques. The U.S. ceased maneuvers in Culebra in the mid-1970s, but intensified them in Vieques. It has faced resistance and civil disobedience from many Puerto Ricans.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Ongoing economic difficulties have produced high rates of unemployment. Puerto Rico receives federal aid but does not get equal coverage or qualify for most welfare programs. The local government is the main welfare provider. Although it has managed to sustain a relatively high standard of living, the cost of living is steep and Puerto Ricans accumulate high levels of debt. However, Puerto Rico's achievements in reducing mortality, increasing literacy, improving medical services, and raising life expectancy have placed it on a par with many U.S. states.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

The list of organizations and associations in Puerto Rico is vast, since the number and kind of them there parallel those found in any state of the U.S. They include international (the Red Cross), national (YMCA, Boy and Girl Scouts), and local groups (Puerto Rico Bar Association).

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Gender relations have become increasingly egalitarian. When the island had a subsistence lifestyle, women were important economic producers in rural households and outside the home. The ideal of the home-tending housewife has been honored among the middle and upper classes but has become impractical. In an ideal male world, women are expected to do the double duty of workplace and household labor, but this is changing because of the need to maintain double-salary households.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. There is a long-standing tradition of women being active in public life as intellectuals, writers, activists, politicians, and professionals. When women's suffrage was approved in 1932, Puerto Rico elected the first woman legislator in the Western Hemisphere.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Puerto Ricans consider family life a core cultural value; family and kin are viewed as the most enduring and reliable support network. Despite a high divorce rate and an increase in serial monogamy, most people prefer marriage to living together, although female virginity is not as important as it was in the past. Today courting is based on group or individual dating rather than chaperoned outings. Wedding ceremonies may be religious or secular but preferably include receptions for relatives and friends. Although remaining single is increasingly acceptable, marriage is an important marker of adulthood.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family is prevalent, but relatives socialize often. Having children is preferable to childlessness, but it is increasingly the couple's choice. Working spouses who share household chores are becoming common, but socializing children is still predominantly a female role even among family-oriented men. Male authority is invoked and appealed to, but women's authority over many domains and activities is recognized.

Kin Groups. Relatives are expected to support each other materially and emotionally. Support is legally prescribed and required along descent, ascent, and collateral lines. Elders are respected. Kinship is bilateral, and people commonly use both the father's and the mother's family name as surnames.

Inheritance. Civil law requires that a third of an estate must be bequeathed equally among all the legal heirs. Another third may be used to improve an heir's lot, and the last third may be disposed of freely by the testator. The estate of a person who dies without a will is divided equally among all the legal heirs.


Infant Care. People try to rear children within the family. When the mother is unavailable, relatives are preferred to outsiders, and professional infant care providers are regarded with ambivalence. Puerto Ricans have adopted most modern child raising practices, such as separate beds and bedrooms, medical care, toys, and equipment. From infancy, children are socialized toward family and communal participation. Traditionally, they are expected to learn through observation rather than instruction. Children must learn respeto , the most valued trait in the culture. Respeto refers to the belief that every person has an intrinsic dignity that must never be transgressed. One must learn to respect others by learning to respect oneself. All other valued qualities, such as obedience, industriousness, and self-assurance, follow when a child internalizes respeto .

Child Rearing and Education. Elementary education is legally mandated, but the youth of the population has strained the public education system. Those who can afford it prefer private schooling, which better prepares children for college.

Puerto Ricans distinguish between instrucción (schooling) and (educación) (education). Education transcends schooling. Education is within the province of the family, since an educated person is not someone who has achieved "book learning" but a person who is respectful, cordial, courteous, polite, and "cultured."

Higher Education. Credentialism is on the rise, and a college degree is required for most positions and for upward mobility. The rates of high school and college graduation have increased in recent decades. The newly acquired importance of higher education sustains the university system, which includes the public University of Puerto Rico and the private Interamerican University, Sacred Heart College, and Catholic University. All these institutions have multiple campuses. People have access to professional training in law, medicine, engineering, and other fields.


Respeto and educación are indispensable components of social interaction. Indirection is also an important strategy. People believe that directness is rude and use a variety of euphemisms and hedges to avoid it. Close friends are allowed directness but maintain the boundaries of respect. Puerto Ricans prefer people who are publicly expressive but not excessively so. Friends customarily greet by kissing each other, and engaging in animated conversation is viewed as a social asset. Although social drinking is approved, drunkenness is not. Relajo is a joking

A young woman holds a banner during a pro-statehood demonstration. A U.S. commonwealth since 1952, Puerto Rico has maintained a strong sense of nationalism.
A young woman holds a banner during a pro-statehood demonstration. A U.S. commonwealth since 1952, Puerto Rico has maintained a strong sense of nationalism.
form of indirection that is similar to teasing. It is used to criticize others indirectly, convey problematic aspects of their behavior, stress absurdities, and impart potentially negative information.


Religious Beliefs. The U.S. occupation brought Protestant missions to a predominantly Catholic society. An estimated 30 percent of the population is now Protestant. All major denominations are represented, and there is a synagogue in San Juan but no mosque. Revivalism is quite popular.

The Catholic Church had much power under Spain, but Catholics are prone to a populistic kind of religion that is wary of the established church and its hierarchy. Many people are nonobservant, yet consider themselves devout because they pray, are faithful, treat others with compassion, and communicate directly with God.

African slaves introduced brujería (witchcraft practices). In the nineteenth century, European spiritualism became popular. It is the most important alternative practice and coexists with established religions. Many people consider both forms equally legitimate and practice both. Spiritualist mediums are predominantly women who hold divinations and seances in their homes; many have become successful and even wealthy. Cuban immigrants brought santería , a blend of Yoruba and Catholic religions. Spiritualism and santería have merged into santerismo . Both posit a spirit world, worship a hierarchy of guiding saints and deities from the sacred and secular worlds, and practice divination.

Religious Practitioners. Most religious life in Puerto Rico is enacted in terms of a populist style, in the case of established religions, and engages espiritismo and santería as culturally-specific systems of belief that co-exist with mainstream religious practices.

Medicine and Health Care

Until the second half of the twentieth century, Puerto Rico suffered from the dire health conditions that are typical of poor, underdeveloped countries. Tropical diseases and parasites contributed to high mortality rates and low life expectancy. Progress in health care has been dramatic, and the island now has modern medical facilities. Mortality rates and life expectancy have improved, and many diseases have been eradicated.

Secular Celebrations

People celebrate both United States and Puerto Rican holidays and feast days. Major local holidays include New Year's Eve (1 January), Three Kings Day (6 January), Hostos Day (11 January), Constitution Day (25 July), Discovery Day (19 November), and Christmas Day (25 December). Easter Thursday and Friday are observed. Cities and town celebrate the patron saint's feast day, usually with carnivals, processions, masses, dances, and concerts. These celebrations are local, except for the eve of the island's patron saint, Saint John (23 June).

The government sponsors civic and military parades for political holidays such as the Fourth of July and Constitution Day. Christmas, New Year's Eve, and Three Kings are the high points of a holiday party season that extends from mid-December to mid-January. Easter brings religious processions.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. The arts are important as expressions of cultural nationalism. The government has contributed to their institutionalization through the establishment of the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, which sponsors and funds artistic activities and programs. Although the institute has been criticized for fostering an essentialistic notion of national identity and favoring "high" culture, it has been instrumental in recovering the artistic past and fostering new arts production. Local artists have access to support from U.S. institutions. Universities and colleges are also sources of work, support, and facilities. There are museums in Ponce and San Juan and art galleries all over the island. A performing arts center in Santurce has facilities for theater, concerts, opera, and dance.

Literature. Puerto Rican literature is usually dated to the nineteenth century publication of El Gíbaro , a collection of pieces on the island's traditions, because the book represents the first self conscious expression of a native culture. Literary production is diverse, locally valued, and internationally acknowledged. Puerto Rican authors work in all genres and styles.

Graphic Arts. Graphic arts production is diverse and prolific. The pictorial tradition dates back to the eighteenth century with José Campeche, who specialized in religious painting and portraiture and is acknowledged as the island's first artist. Francisco Oller's impressionist work hangs in Paris museums. Twentieth century artists have been particularly successful in print media.

Performing Arts. Music ranges from popular and folk genres to classical works. Salsa, the island's most recent contribution to world music, is rooted in African rhythms. Puerto Rico has classical composers and performers and has been the site of the international Casals Festival since the 1950s. There are established ballet companies and groups that perform modern, folk, and jazz dance. Efforts to establish film production companies have floundered.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Most social and physical science research is conducted in institutions of higher learning. The social sciences have been instrumental in documenting and analyzing Puerto Rican society and culture. Because of its uniqueness, Puerto Rico is among the most intensely researched places in the world.


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Carr, Raymond. Puerto Rico: A Colonial Experiment , 1984.

Carrión, Juan Manuel, ed. Ethnicity, Race, and Nationality in the Caribbean , 1970

Fernández García, Eugenio, Francis Hoadley, and Eugenio Astol eds. El Libro de Puerto Rico , 1923.

Fernández Méndez, Eugenio. Art and Mythology of the Taíno Indians of the Greater West Indies , 1972.

——. Historia cultural de Puerto Rico, 1493-1968 , 1980.

——. Eugenio ed. Crónicas de Puerto Rico , 1958.

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Urciuoli, Bonnie. Exposing Prejudice: Puerto Rican Experiences of Language, Race, and Class , 1995.

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——and Olga Jiménez de Wagenheim. eds. The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History , 1993.

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Thanks so much. This Site was so helpful. I can use this info for 2 projects. If Any of my friends need info on Puerto Rico I'll totally send them here.
This was very informative about the Puerto Rican Culture and helped me out very much with my project that I am doing right now. Thanks to all the staff that made this great website. Also, can anyone direct me to a website that has the history of all sorts of foods, for future uses. Thanks again.
This site is great! It has a lot of facts about our lovely Island Puerto Rico and it's history!
Thank you for your help....This site was very helpful!
Marty T
This website was so correct on how I was raised and just adds to my beleif in my people and how prided we are and what we can become as a people. I pray that all of us can raise our children to raise there children with the upmost pride and respect that was demanded by our people.
Thank-you so much for this informative website. I have been sitting here for half an hour looking for a good source for my paper and I FINALLY found one! YOURS! Thank-you again!!!!!!!!
i liked it it got me an a+ on my report.I will tell my friends about this website
I found this sight extremely helpful with my research paper. I thank you very much. Could I get the information to cite it as a reference?
this info is very helpful. now ill be able to do my essay on puerto rican culture for my sociology class
Thank you for this site, it was very informative and helpful with a project for school!
WOW...this really helped me on my essayabout the Puerto Rican culture even im Puerto Rican nd i didnt kno a this stuff...
thankz =)
thanks a heap for your information it helps me heaps with my homework!
Nice site, very informative, totally helped with my homework!!!!!!!
That gave me all the information I need for my project in Spanish!
Thank you, it was really helpful.
william krause
This is a very informative overview of a complex and intriguing culture. Even though you by necessity had to broad brush aspects of all the islands many facets you still were able to project a 'personality' of Puerto Ricans.
With admiration and respeto. William Krause
Kaci Hamilton

I am an editor with Ian Randle Publishers in Jamaica and I am requesting permission to use the photo of the young woman demonstrating, under the section "Etiquette". The photo would be used on the cover of one of our forthcoming titles, "Governance in the Non-independent Caribbean: Challenges and Opportunities in the Twenty-First Century".

Please let me know at your earliest convenience.

Kindest regards,
Kaci Hamilton
Veronica Figueroa
I love this article...It's nice to learn more about my culture of where I come from and who I am. I hope to read more articles about my culture. :)
Veronica Figueroa
This article was very good...It made me have pride and love my culture more...#1 PUERTO RICO BABY!!!!! LOL :)
thx this website worked well for me.It helped for my research project at school.
Jose Archilla
This article does some justice to the Nation of Puerto Rico (P.R.) its people and its culture. I just need you to revise the Dialect Statement as I find it not correct, as a matter of fact I find it offensive to all Boricuas who have completed education beyond high school. We learn Castilian Spanish at all levels within the education system, of course we use vulgar regionalist terms as transmitted from the Taino Language and other external influences for day to day verbal communication but written we may call it business Castilian, as we do not use many absolute terms as spoken or written in Spain.
This accent is not unique to P.R. as its common to all languages in the world. If you state a dialect is spoken in Puerto Rico, then what do Black Americans in the USA speak? Lets talk about the slangs and accents within the USA.

Another comment you need to clarify is that we were conquered through war, many died protecting the Island as well as invading it. P.R. was a colony of Spain and as a result of the accidental sinking of the USS Main in Cuba, the USA used this to declare war on the weaker Empire (Spain), so P.R. went to war as a result of the invasion of North American Forces in 1898
aracelis dreher
will somebody please do an article on what i say and do you agree with me ? puerto ricans, cubans, and dominicans are not latinos. we are caribenos and for governmental reasons, hispanos. the people of these 3 islands are brothers and sisters. we all should learn a little of the yoruban language to honor our nigerian ancestors. thank you, celie boricua blanca
Reyna !!!!
This was great i was on here for hours it helped me so much with my Spanish culture assighnment. I am also Puerto Rican myself so I was really interested and it made me feel proud of who i am :D
Thank you for this well written information. It's a loving culture.
God Bless.
Good info ! Helped me with my project ! [; Also liked the way you stated stuff, made it easy to understand.
Thanks for all of the info about my culture it really helped me on my homework, and you have made me understand more about puerto rico
I love this site...It was very helpful..Thank you so much.
Thanks for the info. I got an 'A+' on my report thanks to this site. I appreciate it very much and I give my regards to the makers of the website.
this website didn't help me that much but was very informative.
I was just wondering who the author or organiztion I could give credit to for my paper I need to do for school.
Thank you,
I love this site...I'm spanish an american an mi fiance is Puerto Rican an I'm planning our Wedding an I've been looking evry whr for info so that our wedding can have both Puerto Rican traditions as well as American...I really enjoy that this site has sooo much ta read an learn...Keep the gud sites comen :)
i love it!! i learned a whole lot from this article.`
I'm a 14 yr old girl and i wanted to know more on my culture. I love this site and i was excited to find more out on being a Puerto Rican.
i love my country is thebest but i dont live there i live in stamford but like in the summer im going to my country is the best i get to see my friends that i allready had but what im happy is because im going back
this is grate stuff. it helped me alot on my research im doing for skewl. thanks alot.
this is some very helpful information thanks. u helped me with a huge project.
This was great information but the thing about spanglish was too much, all you had to say was that its a mix of english and spanish dont need to get all fancy with the wording, some people wont be able to understand
This webpage is AWESOME! :D
Thanks to this page.. I'm got an A++ in my geography class.! (:
Aaliyah Garcia-Guasch
I am so glad i found this website it helped me so much because in doing a project for my school on Puerto Rico's history and how that ties into the history of my last name Guasch and this actually did help me a lot so thank you to the creators of this website.
this was very help ful. i will always use it thank you
awesome website i am puerto rican and i am happy about what u wrote

:) thx for making me happy
it is cool i think...i leared alot:) =] i think other people will like this site im pretty sure all of its right :D
great information i will come to this website all the time
thank you for your help, this site is very use full.
Daniel Morales
This is very good information useful for the research report I am doing!!!
Thank you for making this site it really helped me with my Country project. And i am really proud to be Puerto Rica (Boricua)
nydia stuart
Great information. all about Puerto Rico history with honesty and respect. Well done
Excellent article. However, I recommend to update it. There have been dramatic changes in last 4 years of Puerto Rican history. One of them is the emigration to USA due to different situations. One of them is the elimination of the USA Act 936 that allowed tax exemptions to USA companies doing business in the island. The other factors contributing to this large emigration is the economical situation in general that have affected more to PR than the rest of USA. As a consequence of this a new emigration wave is going on. This time, professional and highly skilled Puerto Ricans are moving to different parts of USA. Many of them like myself are working in the same industry that were working while in Puerto Rico.
"The jíbaro, the highland rural folk, has become a controversial symbol because jíbaros are depicted as descendants of white Spanish settlers in a way that casts Puerto Rico as a backward rural society and negates Puerto Rico's African roots".

I really believe and this is only my opinion and that is the people that make an issue of african roots being negated are Americanized indivuduals who want to constantly make an issue of race any chance they get. Wheather anyone likes it or not Puerto Rico is a predominately Spanish European decended people with many mixtures. At most any Black Black African decended Puerto Rican makes up 5% at the most.
this is not what i was lookin for but good job any way
this is nice great job i learned a lot of new information and i enjoyed reading this.
I love this page but i would love to know more about the jewish people on the island. I hear that my family which are the perez jimenez have this blood and that they were brought from spain. do you know what year did they come to puerto rico? also the acevedos. thank you
Perdo de la pared morales
i was born in puerto rico but know i live in michigan.
Zacha Roman
being a 17 year old boricua in the U.S im glad to have found a site a/b my home island. :) i havent been there in a long time.
jordan bushno
this website has been so helpful for my school project
A Must Read.
A very good source of information about Puerto Rico's history, people, tradition that helps understanding of culture, tradition intercommunication etc..
Really good help me lear more about were i came from :)
i love Puerto Rico in fact my dad is from Puerto Rico
Ilove puerto rico i think that puerto rico is a beautiful place where yhur family can go and have fun wit family and children and the second reason why i love puerto rico is becuaseits just wonderful..
Can you please tell me who the author(s) of this site is so that I can credit them in my paper. If there is no specific author, then maybe an organization name. This information was extremely helpful, Thanks!
what is the little black charm shaped like a fist that are given to babies in puerto rico called?
I notice that there's no mention of the Irish slaves and immigrants that came to P.R. and influenced its culture. Or even with in the history of Castillo San Felipe del Morro. I would like to see more on this matter. I enjoyed reading this web site, thank you.
Definetly good information. Was nice being able to read good material about my culture.
hannah miller
i loved learning about Puerto Rico!
A very good source of information about Puerto Rico's history, people, tradition that helps understanding of culture.
Excellent article. However, I recommend to update it. There have been dramatic changes in last 4 years of Puerto Rican history. One of them is the emigration to USA due to different situations. One of them is the elimination of the USA Act 936 that allowed tax exemptions to USA companies doing business in the island. The other factors contributing to this large emigration is the economical situation in general that have affected more to PR than the rest of USA. As a consequence of this a new emigration wave is going on. This time, professional and highly skilled Puerto Ricans are moving to different parts of USA. Many of them like myself are working in the same industry that were working while in Puerto Rico.
The person responsable for this information is a professor in New York by the name of Vilma Santiago-Irizarry a Associate Professor of Anthropology Ph.D New York University.
This gave me NOTHING of what i was looking for and it was a waste of time
That was some preety useful info thanks for it im at a laptop at my school right now and i need to fish some Puerto Rico stuff and this website got half oof it done for me Thankss!
Juan Gilberto Hernandez
I would love to see more photos of Taino Art or Symbols .
Donella Speights-Aquil
I found this site very informational. As a bi-racial woman, I need to find out just as much regarding my Puerto Rican heritage as I do about my African American side. The only item that is missing is the opportunity to give someone credit for their work.
baby girl
I have a quandary: I'm trying to coach a friend to perform better on his job. He is 60 year old man originally from PR. What is important to this man? Family? Social status? Rejection? How I get through?
I found it interesting about Puerto Rico, it helped me with my project
Good Website. Recently visited Puerto Rico and wondered about it cultural practices & history. This site helped me understand tremendously.
great site. gave me a great deal of information on Puerto rico
This site gave great information. Very helpful in completing my research paper.
this site helped me out a lot and gave me great information about Puerto rico.
Very useful information but Puerto Ricans CAN vote in presidential elections.
lord gorge
ME GUSTA! helped my students learn the peurto rico ways thank you so much
Adrian garza
This website is very useful! Thanks for the information I really appreciate it!!
Thanks this website has helped me find out more about my cukture
Thank you so much. This is very factful information of our indigenous people that have fought hard and have a come a long way. Our Christmas traditions are uniquely special to us and we take pride in the values that our culture has brought to us as a whole.
I was born in NYC in 1979. All four of my grandparents were born in Puerto Rico. My father was born in Puerto Rico. my mother was born in NYC. Most of my family that i know persoanlly or through stories still reside in NYC. Many older relatives reside in Puerto Rico. Several other members migrated to Florida and surround the U.S. My parents decided to migrate to California which I was mostly raised here and still live here. I am eternally grateful.

Reading this article has hit close to home and gave me a better understanding of the history and culture, something I can learn from and appreciate and share with my own kids. Two of my granparents passed away before i was born and the other two (now deceased) spoke very little english. Our communication was minimal and there was a lot I wished we could have discussed together. Your article touched on info i have learned somewhat over the years and have help me gain more insight on certain aspects of our culture. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and its nice to see how the culture has kept itself up over generations, Pernil, pasteles, arroz con gandules, etc. My son loves the food and I'm ashamed I have not learned for myself. I will make it a point to learn the things i can and pass it on to my kids and so forth. I was surprised to read some aspects of the religion in regards to woman who acted as a medium. My abuela on my mother's side was infamous at this and it is thought of something that could be somehow passed down through generations or certain off spring. I sure wish we did not have a communication barrier so that we can dig deaper into this. I am looking forward to knowing if you can eleborate in this arena.
this helped me alot on this essay.thank you so much
this is awesome IT IS BLOW IN MY MIND know i can understand about puerto rico i love the is website
This website is amazing and has helped me so much and has provided me with infinite information to start an essay. Thank you
Valuable article , For what it's worth if people need to fill out a DD 369 , my company discovered a sample version here
Well done. Another update is due re : Military Presence in Vieques & Puerto Rico since the Naval Base on Vieques was closed & is now a protected area being re-stored ecologically. Also, the subsequent damage of 2 cat.4 hurricanes & the re-building of Puerto Rico almost from scratch has to be addressed. There is a revival of crop & local food sustainability now present. We have bn American citizens for over 100 yrs. (1917-2018) but clearly our political & economic systems have severely struggled under the weight & limitations set by an American Recession, bail-outs & increased debt ceiling which hasn't bn fully addressed.. yet. 🗽
Just planned to visit Puerto Rico!!! So excited to meet the lovely and tropical people with their culture and traditions.
Puerto Rican Culture

Does anyone have a good textbook title to learn about Puerto Rican Culture? Something that covers artistic, economic, historical, literary, philosophical, political, religious, musical, folklore, sports and social trends.
Miracle Emes
Absolutely love this website, it helped me so much on my project for school and got me an excellent grade. I highly recommend this website for any history or english classes working on countries. It tells you alot.
wow amazing site got an A+
i also was willing to find ot more about puerto rico my hometown born and raisd
Manuel Rocha
I use this site to learn what to do when I go to purto rico
Walter Rivera-Santos
Thanks for the powerful data. We are working on a full feature movie painting our history, passing through the present times and moving into the future. We start shooting 1 November 2020.

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