The Identity of a Puerto Rican
Sidney W. Mintz describes the Caribbean as "a scattering of some fifty inhabited units spanning nearly 2, 500 miles of sea between Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and the north coast of South America, constitute the oldest colonial sphere of Western European overseas expansion... these territories were dominated and navigated and explored, their aborigines had been thrust into the consciousness of European monarchs, philosophers, and scientists" (17). The islands in the Caribbean might have some common historical patterns of conquest, slavery and the development of multi-cultural societies but each island has its own history, culture and identity. As part of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico can identify with some of the other Hispanic colonies but in reality the issues of ethnicity, race and nationality are unique in Puerto Rico. In the essay, "Ethnic Conflict and Levels of Identity in the Caribbean: Deconstructing a Myth" Ralph R. Premdas writes, "Ethnic identity emerges from collective group consciousness that imparts a sense of belonging derived from membership in a community bound putatively by common descent and culture... Identity as belonging can be acquired through memberships as various communities bound by one or more social attributes such as race, language, religion, culture, region, etc" (24). The question for Puerto Rico is what is the identity of the people if the island has experienced 400 years of Spanish colonialism and 100 years of US sovereignty? How has and still is American colonial intervention affected or affects Puerto Rican culture? The Puerto Rican national identity has been challenged every since Columbus arrived on the island. To better understand the issues and the changes in identity, we need to divide the history into four parts or as Jose Luis Gonzales puts it in his title Puerto Rico: The Four-Storeyed Country. The first storey deals with the issue of the "first" Puerto Ricans, the mestizo culture of a predominantly Afro Antillean type. The second storey is from the 18th to the 19th century and the second wave of immigration, the third storey deals with the invasion of the United States in 1898 and finally, the fourth storey deals with an advancement American capitalism, industrialization and migration. The United States plays an important role in the issue of Puerto Rican national identity. Nancy Morris in her book Puerto Rico: Culture, Politics and Identity, writes, "The collective identity of Puerto Ricans has been influenced by the island’s relationship with the United States, but Puerto Ricans have retained an identity that is distinct and separate from their sovereign power" (1).
The Taino Indians, The African and The Spanish
The Puerto Rican culture has three historical roots; the Taino Indian, the African and the Spanish. The Africans became the most important for economic and social reasons. As part of the Spanish conquest most of all the Taino Indians were exterminated. Both...