“African History In Puerto Rico” (Courtney’s Blog)

I am a Puerto Rican woman of African descent. I love to call myself La Negra Bella, Afro-Rican, or Afro-Boricua. I just love to embrace my African roots and culture. As I discussed in Afro-Latina Pride Parts 1-3, many Latino people have African blood. In my next few blogs I will be discussing African influences in the culture of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and a few other Latin American countries. I just want to educate my people so that they can learn about our beautiful history. Many of us deny and are ashamed of being Black. My goal is to help you all see that BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL. Self-hatred is horrible and it is also disrespectful to our ancestors. I hope everyone who reads my blogs will learn and appreciate them.

In 1509, Juan Garrido, a free black man and conquistador, arrived on the island of Puerto Rico as part of Ponce de León’s entourage. Juan Garrido is believed to be the first African to set foot on Puerto Rican soil. Soon after he arrived, Africans were brought to the island as slaves. The slaves soon intermarried with the natives of the island, the Taino people and the Spanish, creating present day Puerto Ricans. More than half of Puerto Rican people have African blood running through their veins. Deny it all you want but you are likely to have Black blood.

The descendants of the former African slaves became an important part in the development of Puerto Rico’s cultural structure. They overcame many obstacles and have made their presence felt and known with their contributions to the island’s food, music and religion. They were the first to introduce the coconut, okra, coffee bean, gandules (pigeon peas), plantains, yucca, sweet potato, hen and deep frying of foods. Puerto Rican musical instruments such as barriles (drums with stretched animal skin), and Puerto Rican music-dance like Bomba or Plena are also brought from Africa. Bomba and plena represent the strong African influence in Puerto Rico. Both styles of music were brought from West Africa. The religion of Santeria was also brought over from Africa. Even though they were converted to Christianity, the captured Africans did not abandon their African religious practices altogether. Santería is a religion created between the diverse images drawn from the Catholic Church and the representational deities of the African Yoruba ethnic group of Nigeria. Santería is widely practiced in the town of Loíza and other cities with a strong Latino presence.

Our African ancestors deserve to be celebrated and remembered. They are a part of us all. As Latinos we need to learn how to appreciate them. If we don’t, we are denying who we are. Stay tuned. Next, I will be discussing Afro-Puerto Ricans who made a difference in the world.