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Spanish Language's Influence On The Puerto Rican Identity

2345 words - 9 pages

Spanish Language's Influence on the Puerto Rican Identity

The initial occupation of Puerto Rico by the Spaniards carries an important implication for language as part of the Puerto Rican identity. The Spanish language was imposed upon the inhabitants of the island, the Tainos, in the sixteenth century, when the Spanish inhabited the island in 1502, after the Spanish conquerors claimed the island in the name of Spain in 1493. Eventually, the Spanish had moved out or taken over the ways of the old and their culture infiltrated that of the Taino to create a new dimension of the first storey, where the Spanish language was incorporated as the building blocks of the foundation of the Puerto Rican identity (Figueroa, Sept.15).

The Spanish maintained control over the island until 1898, when Spain relinquished Puerto Rico to the United States as a result of the Spanish American War. This change begins the construction of the third storey (the second storey involved the economic and political growth of the island under Spanish rule). The 400 years of Spanish history and influence on the island caused conflict for notions of identity and has great impact on Puerto Rican identity. Although the Spanish had come to the island and taken over, decimating the entire Taino population, Puerto Ricans now take pride in the fact that the Spanish contributes to their identity (a result of acculturation), and that they are a (mainly) Spanish speaking nation.

Although it wasn't initially intended to be, the acquisition of Puerto Rico resulted in the island becoming an unincorporated territory (http://Welcome.ToPuertoRico.org/history.htm). The passing of various acts, such as the English Only Act (1902), the Foraker Law (1900- establishing unincorporated territory status), and the Jones Act (1917- granting U.S. citizenship) initiated the language debate, as a result of a movement developed to fully “Americanize” Puerto Rico (Fernandez, 1996). English was established as the official language of learning in public schools on the island; and well, if Americans were putting schools on the island, why shouldn’t the Puerto Ricans be expected to speak the “American” language? That was the least Puerto Ricans could do in cooperation in becoming "Americanized" and American citizens.

The American's English Only policy (also known as the English First policy) was complex in nature. It wanted to produce bilingual Puerto Ricans as a method of creating “loyal subjects” or good citizens of the United States, but it allowed Americans to get away with not learning the Spanish language. Having American teachers who didn't speak Spanish to Puerto Ricans who didn't speak English just wasn't effective. Because Puerto Rico became a part of the United States (even in its unincorporated status), and its citizens are considered citizens of the U.S., one can understand the idea that English should be implemented on the island. Because the official language of the United States is...

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