Spanish Colonialism on the History of Puerto Rican People
"Puerto Rico". The name immediately brings to mind images of a beautiful lush tropical island of enchantment. The name "Puerto Rico" usually does not conjure the image of Taino Indians or African slaves, yet these populations have great importance in laying the foundation for the notion of identity of Puerto Ricans. In contemporary debates of Puerto Rican identity, it is essential to examine the history of the island to determine the effects of Spanish colonialism on Puerto Rican identity. As he demonstrates in his article "Puerto Rico: the Four-Storeyed Country", Jose L. Gonzalez discusses the notion of identity as a series of storeys, one built upon another in order further incorporate each aspect in the past that contributes to the idea of "Puerto Ricaness" in the present. Thus, in looking at the history of Puerto Rico and the effects of Spanish colonialism, we will see that Puerto Rican identity has been constructed storey by storey, catalyzed by the Spanish occupation.
At the time of the sixteenth century, the country of Spain was in its prime, enjoying its status as the most powerful empire in Europe; possessing the most land than any other European country . This was the time of Renaissance, the "rebirth", and in this time of the "new", Spain looked to further support and maintain its position in seeking wealth and empire overseas, not just in the European region. Christopher Columbus, as appointed by King Ferdinand and Queen Elizabeth, was sent in search of wealth and treasure, and in his travels, discovered what is known today as "America", the United States, in 1492. In November of 1493, Columbus discovered the island of Puerto Rico, which at that time was occupied by a native people, named by the Spaniards as "Taino", in reference to a word used in the language of the Tainos (Figueroa, Sept. 17). The island’s discovery did not lead to a quick occupation, though. Juan Ponce de Leon, in search of gold, made the first effort to settle on the island in 1508. In the next twenty years, the Taino population became decimated while forced to labor in prospecting gold, a phase that ended in this time, succumbing to disease and a breakdown in their social network.
An important implication of this initial occupation of the island by Spaniards is the imposition of the Spanish language. Because the Taino population could be counted in small amounts and Spanish had established their presence on the island by instilling their language as the only accepted language, in the name of Spain, a first storey was constructed in the notion of identity of the Puerto Rican. The Tainos had been moved out and taken over, the Spanish had moved in and started to let their culture infiltrate into that of the Taino, and now things were changing.
Because the gold rush on the island lost its surge, the Spanish turned its attention to the agricultural success they could have with the island....