Puerto Rico Cultural Overview

Since the first humans came ashore thousands of years ago, the island that is now known as Puerto Rico has sheltered many different cultures. As a result of its geographical position in the center of the arc of the Antilles,and its particular history, Puerto Rico is a crossroads of Hispanic and Anglo culture.

The Taínos, the last from a series of Indian migrations that originated in South and North America, ruled the island when the Spaniards arrived in 1493.

During their 400-year tenure the Spaniards laid the bedrock of our language and our culture. They built cities and towns, fortresses and churches, lighthouses and roadways. They brought slaves from Africa to work in the fields, who, in turn, contributed the spice of their culture, enriching our language, our music and our diets!

The confluence of these three cultures, Indian, Spanish and African, formed the Puerto Rico character. Yet Puerto Rico has been a part of the United States since 1898 and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917. This close relationship with the world’s most powerful nation has also left its mark.

It is this fascinating combination of elements that gives the island its distinctive character. Here you will find cities and towns that are living museums of Spanish colonial architecture, yet bustling with activitiy. You can see the remains of villages more than a thousand years old. You can hear music that captures the tempo of the island or echoes the world. You can even watch NASA scientists listening for signs of intelligent life in the universe!