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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A Brief Overview of the Dominican Republic

Flag

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  • The nation’s official flag was adopted on November 6 1844.
  • It features blue in the top left and bottom right corners, which is symbolic of liberty.
  • Red fills the remaining corners and is symbolic of fire and the blood shed in the struggle for independence.
    • These colors are said to be from the Haitian and French flags, though they have different meanings.
  • The national coat of arms in the middle of the cross has several aspects, many of them relating to God.coatofarmsdominicanrepublicflag
    • In the center of the symbol is a bible with a golden cross hovering above it.
    • Above the shield of the Dominican flag in which the bible rests is a ribbon with the motto “Dios, Patrio, Libertad” which translates to “God, Fatherland, Liberty.”
    • The emblem also features olive and palm branches. Generally, the palm branch is associated with Christianity while the olive branch is a symbol of peace.
  • Without the emblem, the flag is flown by private citizens. The Dominican government adds the coat in accordance with the presidential decree of 1913

History

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  • The Dominican Republic was first discovered by Christopher Columbus on his voyage in 1492 and was originally named La Española. Columbus’ son, Diego, was the colony’s first viceroy.
  • Established in 1496, the capital, Santo Domingo, is Europe’s oldest settlement in the Western Hemisphere.
  • The colony was first under Spanish rule, then given to the French in 1795. From the French, Haitians led by Toussaint L’Ouverture claimed the colony in 1801.
  • The colony became a republic in 1808 after the people revolted, but Spain soon regained power in 1814.
  • In 1821 the people took back power from the Spanish, but the next year the land was taken over by the Haitians. In 1844 the Haitians were overthrown and the Dominican Republic was established, but continued attacks by the Haitians made the leader, Pedro Santana, turn the country into a province of
  • Spain from 1861 to 1865.
  • In 1870 the president, Buenaventura Báez, tried to have the country annexed to the U.S. to solve its economic problems, but the U.S. refused to sign the treaty.
  • The country remained in a state of disorder until the dictatorship of Ulíses Heureaux in 1916. When chaos resumed, the U.S. sent a troop of marines who stayed until 1924.
  • The marines trained Sgt. Rafáel Leonides Trujillo Molina, who eventually began a 31 year dictatorship that started in 1930 and ended with his assassination in 1961.
  • The next year, Juan Bosch, a member of the leftist Dominican Revolutionary party, became the first democratically elected leader in four decades.

Language

  • The official language of the Dominican Republic is Spanish.
    • Dominicans tend to use certain words dating back to the Spanish occupation of the Dominican Republic rather than adapting to modern Spanish.
  • Due to the country’s history with Haitians, Haitian creole is also spoken.
    • The speakers of Haitian creole are primarily of Haitian descent and they make up 160,000 of the country’s inhabitants. The language has been influenced by French, Spanish, and West African languages.
  • Southwestern Creole English is by 22,000 people and the language has West African and English influences.
  • Samaná English, which is similar to Creole English, is spoken by 8,000 people in the northeast.
  • English is spoken minimally and can generally only be heard in tourist areas.
  • Finally, due to an influx of refugees during the Chinese Revolution, 25,000 of the country’s inhabitants speak Chinese.

Religion

gc_breadwinebiblesacramentcommunion_fb

  • The most followed Religion in the Dominican Republic is Roman Catholicism, with 90% of the population claiming to be practicing Roman Catholics.
  • This is due to the country being formerly under Spanish rule as Spaniards were very strict followers of the religion and forced Roman Catholicism on the residents of all the territories it claimed.
  • Dominican Catholicism― a blend of Roman Catholicism and Santeria, which is influenced heavily by African traditions― is also very prominent.
  • Religions outside of the realm of Catholicism are present as well, including:
    • Protestantism
    • Seventh Day Adventistism
    • Baptist
    • Mormonism
    • Judaism

Music & Dance

traditional_merengue

  • Merengue is the most popular form of music and dance in the Dominican Republic. Merengue is famous for its 2/2 beat pattern  and 2/4 time which makes for great dancing music.
  • The three instruments used to create the iconic Merengue sound are the melodeon (an accordion-like instrument), güira (a grater-looking instrument that is scraped), and the tambora (double-headed drum).
  • There are several theories as to the origin of the merengue dance but the most widely accepted is that it was developed by slaves who were chained at the ankles and were therefore forced to dragged one foot to the beat of the drum. Another story, which is particularly popular on the island says that slaves witnessed their masters dancing in their homes and began to mimic them when holding their own festivities. It is said that they added the upbeat drum rhythm because the original European dance was perceived as boring.
  • Particularly popular in the more rural regions of the Dominican Republic, is Bachata . This is music with a more melancholy beat and 4/4 time, and it talks mostly about life in the country and relationships between men and women.

Art

public-art-on-calle-el-conde_7221176_l

  • Santo Domingo is at the center of the Dominican art scene as it is home to the Museum of  Modern Art and Museo Bellapart, two beautiful art museums in the heart of the city that display 20th century and contemporary artwork of both Dominican artists and other artists who worked on the island.  
  • Celeste Woss y Gil and Yoryi Morel are historically two of the island’s most well-known artists who were primarily acclaimed for their portraits of women and the development of the modernist school of Dominican painting, respectively. The Dominican Republic has a lengthy history in the fine arts that stretches back to when the country gained its independence in the 1800s. Upon gaining independence the national art scene emerged, making paintings and drawings centered around newfound independence and the overall beauty of the island landscape very commonplace.
  • Outside of museums, Dominican art can be appreciated by taking a simple stroll through El Conde in Santo Domingo, a street teeming with tourists and eager merchant artists. Dominican art is typically associated with bright, vibrant colors that reflect the colorful personality of the island and it’s people.

Festivals & Games

  • 4e4124e4128a45bc8c9b9da7b6234d52   Carnival Cimarrón is a festival in which townspeople adorned with demon masks descend on the city from the lagoon and castigate passers-by with whips. Carnival is one of the most colorful and lively traditions of the Dominican Republic. It is celebrated in all regions of the country, where costumes and masks with different meanings are used. On February 27, coinciding with National Independence parades take place in the major cities of the country, drawing out huge and eager crowds of excited locals.
  • Every year, in July, Santo Domingo dances to the rhythm of merengue. The capital of the Dominican Republic celebrates the merengue festival for one whole week during which the city is filled with music, dance, markets and food stalls.
  • Three Kings’ Day, a holiday celebrated in other Caribbean countries as well, is the major gift-giving holiday in the Dominican Republic surpassing Christmas in that arena.
  • The game of dominoes can be enjoyed by players of all ages but is quite favored, particularly amongst Dominican men and is one that is enjoyed frequently throughout the Caribbean.

Food

  • Dominican cuisine takes its influences primarily from Spanish, indigenous Taíno, and African cuisine. Dominican cuisine also resembles that of neighboring countries like Cuba and Puerto Rico.
  • Staple foods in the Dominican diet include rice, corn, meat, seafood, beans, plantains, cassava, and yuca. A few signature dishes include tostones, bollitos de yuca o plátano maduro (yuca or  plantain fritter balls stuffed with cheese), chapea (a stew of red or white beans with sausage, mashed squash, and ripe plantains), arañitas (shredded yuca fritters mixed with eggs, sugar, and anise seeds).
  • Arroz con leche (rice pudding), and crème caramel (flan), are two desserts that belong not only to the Dominican Republic, but to several other caribbean islands as well.
  • The typical Dominican breakfast consists of mangú (boiled and mashed green plantains), fried eggs, fried salami, fried cheese, and sometimes avocado. Los Tres Golpes, owhich translates to “The Three Hits”, is the name given to the dish in reference to mangú with the three fried sides.
  • As it is in Spain, lunch in the Dominican Republic is both the largest and most important meal of the day. A traditional lunch, called La Bandera meaning “The Flag”, consists of rice, red beans, and meat (beef, chicken, pork, or fish) and sometimes an accompanying salad.

Roots

Nathalie and I discussed this more than a few hours after it was posted, and though I had no knowledge of the post, its topic was as relevant that day as it is every day for people with these national identity issues. I am one of those people, though I don’t feel that my case is as severe as most’s. I was born in the U.S., but because of my Haitian descent and upbringing, I feel split. I don’t speak the languages (though I do have a high understanding of them), nor have I been to Haiti, but I feel that I am too Haitian to be American and too American to be Haitian. I recently joined the Caribbean Culture Club at my school, and when they asked me to introduce myself I thought that I was going to have to give an awkward explanation of how I’m Haitian, but not really. In reality, I felt accepted, and I think the kids who attended that weren’t Caribbean felt the same way. We may be “Americanized”, but we will forever be drawn to the people and things that remind us of our native culture because of that feeling of home.

The Escape Vision

This week I found myself talking with a friend about children who are part of two ethnic groups but seem to belong to none. This hits home as a was born in Colombia and I lived there for five years, however, I have lived here, in Florida, for the rest of my fifteen years. There is a gray zone where all with the same situation as me stand. I am not considered American but in a sense I am not considered fully Colombian either. Family members joke about me being “gringa” but here I’m Hispanic. Honestly, I am beyond proud of my Hispanic background but I embrace the culture of the place I was raised, to a certain extent.

Cultures in Hispanic countries seem to be more strict and structured in comparison to cultures here, in my opinion. I find myself in the middle of this, having been brought up a…

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