A Brief Overview of Puerto Rico

Flag

  • The white star represents the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
  • The blue of the triangle represents the sky and the coastal waters that surround the island.*
  • The sides of the triangle represent the three branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial).
  • The three red stripes represent the blood that feeds the three branches of government.
  • The two white stripes represent the rights of man and the freedom of each individual .
  • The flag is the same as the Cuban flag with its colors inverted to represent the close ties Puerto Rico and Cuba had in the 19th century.

* There is debate about the shade of blue. It was originally a sky blue and was later changed to a darker shade that resembled the one on the U.S. flag. Historians believe this is due to the flag’s relation to an independence revolution.

History

  • Puerto Rico was first discovered by Europeans with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493.
  • It was called Puerto Rico, meaning “rich port”, after gold was discovered. San Juan, the shortened version of its original name (San Juan Bautista), became the name of the capital city.
  • Under Spanish rule, the island produced cattle, sugarcane, tobacco, and coffee, which eventually led to the importation of African slaves.
  • English, French, and Dutch forces all wanted the island but failed to procure it. It was under Spanish rule until after the Spanish-American War (1898) when, in accordance to the Treaty of Paris, it became a territory of the U.S.
  • Puerto Ricans received U.S. citizenship in 1917 and the island officially became a commonwealth in 1952.

Language

  • Puerto Rico was first discovered by Europeans with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493.
  • It was called Puerto Rico, meaning “rich port”, after gold was discovered. San Juan, the shortened version of its original name (San Juan Bautista), became the name of the capital city.
  • Under Spanish rule, the island produced cattle, sugarcane, tobacco, and coffee, which eventually led to the importation of African slaves.
  • English, French, and Dutch forces all wanted the island but failed to procure it. It was under Spanish rule until after the Spanish-American War (1898) when, in accordance to the Treaty of Paris, it became a territory of the U.S.
  • Puerto Ricans received U.S. citizenship in 1917 and the island officially became a commonwealth in 1952.

Religion

  • Puerto Ricans all have freedom of religion, which has resulted in a cornucopia of religions on the island.
  • The most practiced religions in Puerto Rico are Roman Catholicism (practiced by 85% of the population) and Protestantism (practiced by 8% of the population).
    • During the Spanish occupation, Puerto Ricans were forced to practice Roman Catholicism. When the Americans began occupying the island in 1898, the previously banned religions were allowed and Protestantism was introduced.
  • The remaining 7% practice some of the following:
    • Santeria
    • Spiritualism
    • Judaism
    • Islam
    • Mayombe
    • Palo Mayombe

Music

  • Some famous Puerto Rican artists are Ricky Martin, Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, and Fat Joe.
    • Salsa is the major type of music coming out of Puerto Rico, with its hot rhythms and danceable vibe. Willie Colón is just one of the masters of today’s salsa beat in Puerto Rico.
  • Bomba y Plena are two types of music that are coupled with dance and have very different origins.
  • Bomba has its roots in Africa. It is a combination of different drum beats and its sound is very interactive with the movements of the dancer.
  • Plena music is a combination of Puerto Rico’s cultural backgrounds, including some of the sound of the Taíno tribes.
  • The güicharo, or güiro, is a notched hollowed-out gourd, which was adapted from pre-Columbian days and is used to make a rhythmic percussive noise.
  • The requinto, the bordonua, the cuatro, and the triple, are also Puerto Rican instruments which are all adaptations of the classical six-string Spanish guitar. Each of these produces a unique tone and pitch, the most popular of the group being the cuarto which has ten strings in five pairs.

Art

  • Santos, meaning saints, are figurines crafted from wood, clay, or stone and began due to Spanish influence.
  • The catera is a mask worn during festivals that symbolizes a demon. It was originally created due to Spanish influence to represent the Moors and eventually it gained Taíno influences.
  • Mundillo, or pillow lace, was also brought to the island by the Spanish. It was primarily used by the church but also used to adorn clothes for special occasions like baptismal clothes and wedding gowns.

Festivals & Games

  • In Puerto Rico, Three Kings Day, or El Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, is celebrated on January 6 and is the highlight of the holiday season. For most Puerto Ricans the holiday outshines Christmas by far. It is a common tradition for children to gather grass in boxes to put at the foot of their beds for the camels of the three kings to eat when they visit through the night.
  • Ponce Carnival is the most celebrated and colorful festival on the island. The festival can be likened unto Mardi Gras and is a major tourist attraction dating back to the 1700s. The carnival takes place the week leading up to Ash Wednesday. The focal point of the whole thing are the vejigantes who wear colorful masks and vivid costumes. The festival closes with what is called Entierro de la Sardina, or Burial of the Sardine.
  • The rueda is a popular children’s game in Puerto Rico during which the children form a circle and sing a traditional Puerto Rican song called A La Limon. The children jump around pretending to be broken fountains and then go on to sing about eggs, money, and eggshells. Dominoes is also another favoured game in Puerto Rico.

Food

  • Puerto Rican cuisine typically consists of chicken, seafood or shellfish, rice, plantains, eggs, vegetables, and spices like coriander.
  • The Puerto Rican flavor has a combination of Spanish, African, and Taíno influences.
  • Mojo isleño is a popular dish that consists of fried fish with a sauce made of olives and olive oil, onions, pimientos, capers, tomato sauce, vinegar, and a flavoring of garlic and bay leaves.
  • Chicken is used in dishes like pollitos asados a la parrilla and arroz con pollo which translate to broiled chicken and rice and chicken, respectively.
  • Tostones, fried green breadfruit slices, accompany most meat, seafood, or poultry dishes. Tostones can also be made with plantains.

 

 

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