Spanish Colonialism and Its Influence on Puerto Rico
There is an on going debate on the identity of Puerto Ricans. One controversial argument is that the first Puerto Ricans were in fact black. Although this idea is not well taken by many Puerto Ricans, history reveals that this statement is accurate. However this is only one contributing factor to the formation of the formation of the Puerto Rican people. Puerto Rican identity can only be understood by studying the colonial history of the island. Spanish colonial rule over Puerto Rico transformed the islanders into a nation without land and one that is economically dependent upon the reining metropolis, once Spain, and today the United States. González’s Puerto Rico: The Four-Storeyed Country divides the major components of Puerto Rican history and formation into four parts. Each part containing their own significance to the evolution of the Puerto Rican. The first two storeys deals with Spanish colonialism and its impact on the formation of the Puerto Rican.
Prior to Spanish colonialism Taino natives inhabited the island. They were a people with a complex society based on class and dependent on extensive agriculture (Figueroa, Sept. 17). Tainos had an established system of rule and a sense of community (Figueroa, Sept. 17).Tainos had all the necessary components of a civilization: complex institutions, social classes, art, economic activity, and political structures (Figueroa, Sept. 17). This is the history of the Puerto Rican people before Spanish rule and one that Puerto Ricans take pride in, although it is argued that this history is not as significant in the formation of puerto Rican identity as the impact of Spanish colonialism. González begins his metaphor of a four-stireyed house with the first floor, Spanish colonialism (González, 8).The Spanish takeover of the island had devastating effects on the indigenous population. Genocide led to the extermination of the Taino people. Although some natives were able to escape the brutalities of the Spanish conquest disease, enslavement, and miscegenation gradually annihilated all traces of Taino blood.
In 1534 the governor of the island described the Puerto Rican population as, "so depopulated that one sees hardly any of Spanish descent, but only Negroes" (González, 10). This documentation confirms Gonzalez’s argument that although the African inhabitants of the island had no sense of "national homeland" they were the beginning of the racial and cultural formation of Puerto Ricans (González, 10).
The African presence in puerto Rico is visible and celebrated. The island has a very different concept of race than that of the United States. In Puerto Rico all skin complexions are considered Puerto Rican but in America darker skin is considered black. The racial categaorization of the United states has displaced Puerto Ricans outside the racial structure denying their culture and therefore their Puerto Ricanness. This confuses Puuerto...