PUERTO RICO - AN INTRODUCTION
This lesson is intended to provide children with a fuller picture of our pluralistic society by increasing the opportunities for them to learn more about the origins of the Puerto Rican culture and folklore. This is an introduction to our Puerto Rico unit designed for teaching the culture and history of Puerto Rico at the elementary grade level.
Puerto Rico is located in the Caribbean Ocean. It is the smallest of the Greater Antilles Islands, which include Cuba (the largest), Haiti and the República Dominicana (sharing an island), and Jamaica. Puerto Rico is only 100 miles long by 35 miles wide. It is 1000 miles from Miami.
Puerto Rico is often referred to as Borinquen or Borikén, indigenous names, as well as Isla del Encanto, and Perla del Caribe. Puerto Ricans refer to themselves as Puertorriqueños or Boricuas. Boricua is used as a term of endearment and cultural affirmation.
Before the Spaniards discovered Puerto Rico, it was populated by Taíno Indians. The Taínos were a peaceful, gentle nation. They welcomed the conquistadores and shared their homes and food and gave the Spaniards many gifts.
Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain in his second voyage and discovered Puerto Rico on November 19, 1493. He named the island San Juan Bautista. Columbus thought this island to be very beautiful and wrote so in his diary. Soon after the island's name was changed to Puerto Rico.
Juan Ponce de León colonized Borinquen in 1508 and became its first governor. The Spaniard conquistadores were looking for gold. They made slaves of the Indians slowly killing them from overwork. Soon thereafter African families were brought to the island as slaves.
Juan Ponce de León, the explorer, was born in Valencia, Spain, in 1460. As a teenager he joined Spanish forces that defeated the Moors. In 1493 he accompanied Cristóforo Colombo in his second voyage to America. Later Ponce de León was granted a commission to explore Borinquen. He then set out to colonize the island of San Juan Bautista and build the first settlement called Caparra. He served as first governor from 1509-12. During his term as governor the island's name was changed from San Juan Bautista to Puerto Rico. Ponce de Leon went on to other accomplishments. His tomb is found at the San Juan Cathedral in Old San Juan. His family estate is the Casa Blanca, another popular tourist site.
Many families from Spain and other European nations moved to the island. Slowly Taíno Indians married either Africans or Europeans forming a new ethnic group called Criollos. Today there are many European, African, and Criollo families in Puerto Rico.