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Nuestra Lengua Criolla

Have you ever wondered why jíbaros spoke the way they did? Spaniards arrived to colonize the island in 1509. However most did not stay long. There was a gold-rush in Perú and the only ones that stayed on the island were those too poor to travel.  
A mi amigo el embroyón toabía jando buscando Pa que me abone un beyón Y pueda seguir fiando.

The first Puerto Rican settlers were Spaniards who came to become hacendados - landowners - destined to become the privileged upper class. They remained on the island, hired tutors for their children and sent their daughters to finishing school and their sons to universities in Spain. Many of their children remained in Spain, many of the sons brought their new European spouses to Puerto Rico. The Spanish upper class continued to grow calling themselves Españoles - but by European standards considered criollos themselves.

1509 - The Taínos that remained were few. Many Taíno women bore children of Spanish soldiers. Their children spoke a mixture of Taíno and Spanish.

1521 - Slaves were soon introduced to the island. The slaves that arrived in Puerto Rico were from West Africa. They already spoke Bozal Spanish - a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish which they picked up from pirates, sailors, and merchants.

Pues mire usté, don Pepé, ¡bálgame la bisne!, si le juera a contal me taldaría de aquí a jurutungu. Imagínesi; que pa la rehabilitación - ¿se arrecuelda usté? - jue después del temporal San Felipe, que las cosas estaban tan malas, - oi día no es na comparás con aqueyu -imagínesi que mucha genti tenía que jasel alambiquis pa podel bibil.
Before long many slave women bore children of Spanish men. Their children spoke Congo and Bozal Spanish. For the next two hundred years the hancendados lived in their own world full of wealth. They did not mix with the lower classes who were the first Puerto Ricans or criollos - the descendants of Spaniards, Taínos and Africans.    

During these first two hundred years music, song, and dance, and other traditions and customs developed that were strictly Puerto Rican but would later be modified by influx of Spaniards from the Canary Islands and other Europeans such as the Dutch, and the French.

1695 - A new wave of migration began from the Spanish Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean west of Morocco in the African continent. The Canarios brought their very own vernacular influenced by Moors and Africans. They also brought their own culture and traditions - their own food, music, song and dance. This very large number of Canarios increased the European population in Puerto Rico and it became the island with the largest number of European whites in the Caribbean.

With los Canarios came the peculiar Puerto Rican pronunciation (early Puerto Rico) of words such as casaise, poique, moide. The (oi) sounds are typical of seafarer nations. Some credit Canarios with our peculiar pronunciation of the letter (r) as an (l) - and the pronunciation of the (s) at the end of a word as an (h). It is also important to note here that some linguists also credit the Bozal slaves with bringing this same linguistic note into Puerto Rico. West African languages lacked the sounds of (r) and (s) in their vocabulary.

The Puerto Rican vernacular is heavily sprinkled with Portuguese, African, and Taíno. Our words of Portuguese origin include matojo, aguaviva, chola, botar, fañoso, gago, gamba, maguarse, jiribilla, desinquieto, frangollo, mojo and mojito, furnia and others. We are already familiar with Taíno words that include batey, canoa, hamaca, huracan and many others. African words include fufú, gandinga, bomba, plena, mofongo, grifería, malanga and many others.

Until very recently in the history of Puerto Rico these two groups - the criollos, and the Spaniards kept a distance from each other. Thanks to a few poets and writers of yesteryear - today we have a slight vision of what this criollo vernacular was really like. Manuel A. Alonso, a "Puerto Rican Spaniard," wrote his much acclaimed book "El Gíbaro" (old Spanish) where we find the poem El Baile de Garabato. The poem is almost impossible to understand. This was Español Jíbaro Puertorriqueño - but realize that Alonso lived from 1822 to 1889 - the Spanish that he heard and wrote about had already been greatly influenced by more educated Europeans - in other words - the Spanish that he wrote about was an improved version over what had been there before.