Slavery in Puerto Rico
Although the transatlantic slave trade didn’t bring many Africans to Puerto Rico, it created a new ethnicity and brought a influence of West African culture into the island. West Africans were sent to Puerto Rico to do forced labor such as gold mining and working on ginger and sugar plantations (Stark). When the slaves arrived, they found that the West African and indigenous Taíno cultures were similar as well as their languages (Stark). This encouraged the start of the Afro-Puerto Rican ethnicity. The Spanish government imposed racist and discriminatory laws to try and prevent rebellion from the slaves that could result in their independence. The laws controlled the freedom and behaviors of anyone of African origin, enslaved or free (Minorityrights.org) . These laws were made to separate and degrade them. Afro-Puerto Ricans were discriminated and treated unfairly by society, enforcing the idea of racism and colorism in Puerto Rico. This caused them to have to work together against the Spanish government to gain freedom. These interactions led to creating the new ethnicity of Afro-Puerto Ricans. After slavery was abolished in 1873, fifty years after the rest of the caribbean, many freed slaves continued to work on plantations while being payed. The introduction of West African slaves to Puerto Rico had created a new ethnicity where the culture and ideas from Africa could become part of who they were, as well as Puerto Ricans.
“Afro-Puerto Ricans.” Minority Rights Group, minorityrights.org/minorities/afro-puerto-ricans/.
M. Stark, David "A New look at the African Slave Trade" Researchgate.net, lication/248953529_A_New_Look_at_the_African_Slave_Trade_in_Puerto_Rico_Through_the_Use_of_Parish_Registers_1660-1815
Resistance to Slavery in Puerto Rico
There was significant resistance to slavery in Puerto Rico, just like in the other Caribbean countries that had slaves brought from Africa through the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Bomba is one of the of the oldest music traditions in Puerto Rico. It’s an art form that was developed when West Africans were working on sugar plantations, while the Spanish were still in control. Bomba dancing was a way of social connection and sometimes helped disguise revolts against the Spanish (Ferreras). They used their music to protest against the Spanish government by having a culture that combined their African and Puerto Rican cultures. This was done to show the Spanish that they will defy the discriminatory laws and live freely by practicing their own religion and culture. That they can’t be controlled, especially since they are no longer slaves. The Afro-Puerto Ricans were as much as a part of society as the Puerto Ricans that weren’t of African Origin. They were a new ethnicity that was proud, confident and strong throughout the struggles the Spanish put them through.
Cromwell, Rose Marie, et al. “Bomba: The Enduring Anthem of Puerto Rico.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 July 2018,
Multiple, Contributors. “The Abolition of The Slave Trade.” Uprisings and Maroons in the Americas - African Resistance - The Abolition of The Slave Trade, abolition.nypl.org/essays/african_resistance/4/.
Life and Culture in Present Day Puerto Rico
Present day Puerto Rico celebrates and embraces African heritage through art such as Bomba and festivals. A town called Loíza is considered the heart of Puerto rico’s black culture. The town had little access to the rest of the Puerto Rico until a highway was constructed in 1970, before it was only accessible by ferry. Many residents of Loíza believe that the separation from the rest of the island preserved their Afro-Puerto Rican culture. Loíza is known as “The Capital of Traditions” because it’s the birthplace of Black Puerto Rican music and the dance Plena Bomba music and other African-Taino infused food and traditions are commonplace here.”(Blackvoicenews.com) The town has continued to maintain their Afro-Puerto Rican culture and celebrate it. Just like the rest of the island, Afro-Puerto Rican culture is mostly appreciated and can be seen everywhere.
Diakite, Parker. “What It Means To Be Black In Puerto Rico.” What It Means To Be Black In Puerto Rico - Travel Noire, 5 May 2019, travelnoire.com/what-it-means-to-be-black-in-puerto-rico/.
“Loíza: The Heart of Puerto Rico's Black Culture.” Black Voice News, 14 Apr. 2018, blackvoicenews.com/2018/04/01/loiza-the-heart-of-puerto-ricos-black-culture/.
Puerto Ricos Beautiful Scenery
317 E 67 St
New York, NY 10065