The history of the archipelago of Puerto Rico before the arrival of Christopher Columbusis not well known. What is known today comesfrom archaeological findings and earlySpanishaccounts. The firstcomprehensive book on the history of Puerto Rico was written byFrayIñigo Abbad y Lasierrain 1786, 293 years after the first Spaniardsarrived on the island. Taíno Village at the Tibes Ceremonial Center The first settlers were theOrtoiroid people, anArchaic Periodculture of Amerindianhunters and fishermen. An archaeological dig in the islandof Vieques in 1990 found the remains of what is believed to be an
(Archaic) man (named Puerto Ferro man) dated to around 2000BC. Between AD 120 and 400 arrived theIgneri, a tribe from the SouthAmericanOrinocoregion. Between the 4th and 10th centuries, theArcaicos and Igneri co-existed (and perhaps clashed) on the island.Between the 7th and 11th centuries the Taínoculture developed onthe island, and by approximately 1000 AD had become dominant. Thislasted untilChristopher Columbusarrived in 1492.
WhenChristopher Columbusarrived in Puerto Rico during his secondvoyage on November 19, 1493, the island was inhabited by a group of ArawakIndiansknown as Taínos. They called the island "Borikén" or, inSpanish, "Borinquen". Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista, inhonor of Saint John the Baptist. Later the island took the name of Puerto Rico (Spanish for "Rich Port") while the capital was namedSan Juan. In 1508, Spanish
In 1511, the Taínos revolted against theSpanish; caciqueUrayoán, as planned byAgüeybaná II, ordered hiswarriors to drown the Spanish soldierDiego Salcedoto determinewhether the Spaniards were immortal. After drowning Salcedo, theykept watch over his body for three days to confirm his death. Therevolt was easily crushed by Ponce de León and within a few decadesmuch of the native population had been decimated by disease,violence, and a high occurrence of suicide. By 1520, whenCharles Vissued a royal decree that collectively emancipated the remaining Taíno population, the Taíno presence had almost vanished. Africanslaves were introduced to replace the Taíno. Puerto Rico soon becamean important stronghold and port for theSpanish Empire. Various fortsand walls, such asLa Fortaleza,El Castillo San Felipe del MorroandElCastillo de San Cristóbal, were built to protect the port of San Juanfrom European enemies. France, The Netherlandsand England madeseveral attempts to capture Puerto Rico but failed to wrest long-termoccupancy. During the late 17th and early 18th centuries colonialemphasis was on the more prosperous mainland territories, leaving theisland impoverished of settlers.In 1809, in the midst of thePeninsular War, theSupreme Central Juntabased inCádizrecognized Puerto Rico as an overseas province of Spain with the right to send representatives to the recently convenedSpanish parliament. The representative,Ramon Power y Giralt, diedafter serving a three-year term in the Cortes. Theseparliamentary andconstitutional reforms, which were in force from 1810 to 1814 andagain from 1820 to 1823, were reversed twice afterwards when thetraditional monarchy was restored byFerdinand VII. Nineteenthcentury reforms augmented the population and economy, andexpanded the local character of the island. After the rapid gaining of independence by the South and Central American states in the firstpart of the century, Puerto Rico andCubabecame the only Spanishcolonies found in the Americas. The Spanish Crown revived the RoyalDecree of Graces of 1815. This time the decree was printed in three
languages —Spanish,EnglishandFrench— intending to attractEuropeans of non-Spanish origin, with the hope that the independencemovements would lose their popularity and strength with the arrival of new settlers. Free land was offered to those who wanted to populatethe islands on the condition that they swear their loyalty to the SpanishCrown and allegiance to theRoman Catholic Church. The Original Lares Revolutionary Flag Toward the end of the 19th century, poverty and politicalestrangement with Spain led to a small but significant uprising in 1868known as "Grito de Lares". It began in the rural town of Laresbut wassubdued when rebels moved to the neighboring town of San Sebastián.Leaders of this independence movement includedRamón EmeterioBetances, considered the "father" of the Puerto Rican independencemovement, and other political figures such asSegundo Ruiz Belvis. In1897,Luis Muñoz Riveraand others persuaded the liberal Spanishgovernment to agree to Charters of Autonomy for Cuba and PuertoRico. In 1898, Puerto Rico's first, but short-lived, autonomousgovernment was organized as an 'overseas province' of Spain. Thecharter maintained a governor appointed by Spain, which held thepower to annul any legislative decision, and a partially electedparliamentary structure. In February, Governor-GeneralManuel Macíasinaugurated the new government under the Autonomous Charter.General elections were held in March and the autonomous governmentbegan to function on July 17, 1898.