Culture & History in Puerto Rico

When Christopher Columbus stepped ashore in Guánica (or Aguadilla; both towns claim the honor) in 1493 he encountered a flourishing Taíno culture. Within decades the Indians disappeared, but not before leaving their mark on the character that was to become Puerto Rican. African slaves replaced the Indians as laborers, and their traditions also went into the cultural mix forged by more than four centuries of Spanish dominance.

The symbol of the Institute of Puerto Rico Culture depicts these three influences: Indian, African and Spanish. In broad terms, that is an accurate ethnic amalgam, but culture and history are never easy to explain. Into the crucible have to go Chinese workers, who built the railroads and remained; Spanish Loyalists fleeing revolution in South America; Corsicans who populated the coffee country out on the island; French immigrants from Haiti and Louisiana; a smattering of Scots and Irish; and droves of North Americans following the Spanish American War.

What is Puerto Rico? It is an island teeming with beauty and vitality. Some of it is Spanish, some Indian, some African and something else. But somehow it all blends together into a culture that you will find fascinating and one-of-kind.

Familiarize yourself with Puerto Rico’s Top Attractions and Museums , take a walking tour of Old San Juan , and learn the basics about the island’s Culture and History and in the following pages.