The primary purpose of this unit,
Spain in Puerto Rico
The Early Settlements
, is to provide the teacher with a useful teaching tool of the early years after the discovery of Puerto Rico by Spain. I have tried to gather in this unit all the information a teacher would need in teaching about Puerto Rico’s Indian and Spanish heritage. To make the presentation more appealing, I have prepared a slide packet to go along with the unit.
A timely reason for preparing this unit is that in 1993, Puerto Rico will celebrate the 500th anniversary of its discovery by Christopher Columbus. This unit will therefore serve as cultural and historical enrichment for students in Spanish, Social Studies, and Bilingual classes in the junior and high school levels. Regular Spanish and Social Studies class students will learn about the culture and history of Puerto Rico and students in the Bilingual Program will be able to relate and reaffirm to their historical and cultural roots.
Life on the island of Boriquén, as the Taino Indians called Puerto Rico, was never the same after the arrival of the Spaniards in 1493. The fate of the Indians and their lifestyle was to disappear. They struggled valiantly but in vain to resist the domination by the conquerors.
The Spaniards’ quest to discover, colonize, and Christianize was unstoppable. The Indians were forced to give up many things: their direct communication with nature, their religion, and their homeland. Time proved that they would be extinct by midsixteenth century. They were forced to build homes, roads, and forts for the intruders and spend hours on end panning for gold. The Indians died because of exhaustion, starvation, desperation with their unexplainable situation, and illnesses unknown to them brought by the colonizers.
The process of colonizing, of building forts and towns, and Christianizing was slow at first and often discouraging. The Spaniards were prepared for dealing with the initial stages of discovering and conquering new lands and people. It was the difficulty in dealing with the magnitude of their enterprise in the New World which proved to be the key to the downfall of the Spanish Empire.
The Taino Indians
When the island of Boriquén, or the Land of the Noble Lord, was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, it was inhabited by Taino Indians. Several theories try to explain where they came from originally: possibly from Bimini, now Florida, in a Southward migration of the Archaic Indians and/or from South America in a Northbound migration of the Arawak Indians. Each group had certain characteristics that may have ultimately fused into the Taino Indians.
The earliest inhabitants, arcaicos or the Archaic Indians, were nomadic fishermen and did not know anything about farming, pottery making, stone carving, boat building, or making bows and arrows. The araucos or Arawaks, on the other hand, were farmers, boat builders, pottery makers, stone, wood, and bone carvers, and had bows and arrows. The Arawaks were better prepared on all counts over the Archaic Indians and either eliminated the Archaic Indians altogether or fused them into their culture.
The Arawaks were described by González Fernández de Oviedo, the first historian of the Indies, as being: “of copper colored skin, with straight but thick hair, high cheek bones, black colored eyes slightly oblique in shape.”
Because of the climate, they wore little or no clothing and painted their bodies with red and black resins. Only the married woman wore a sliplike skirt called a
There were two phases of development of the Arawak Indian culture, the
. The older of the two, the igneri, excelled in pottery making. The taino phase excelled in stone carving, especially in the elaboration of arrow heads and religious artifacts. The igneri phase has been dated from the year 120 A.D. to around the year 1000 A.D. The taino phase lasted from the year 1000 A.D. until their extinction in the sixteenth century.
The Taino Indians lived in villages called
. There were two kinds of living quarters, the
, which was circular in shape, and the
, which was larger and rectangular in shape. In this larger structure lived the
or the chief and the religious leaders. They had a caste system made of the military noblemen or
, the priests and doctors or
, and the common folk or
. They were very religious and worshipped gods that represented the forces of nature. Yukiyu represented the positive forces and Huracan represented the negative ones. The Indians idolized the
, a stone or clay figure that embodied the good and evil forces.
There were twenty or more villages or yucayeques on the island of Boriquén when the Spaniards arrived. These yucayeques were self-sufficient and selfgoverning, but when an emergency or attack arose they united under the command of Agueybana, the Elder, of Guainia, the principal headquarters on the southwestern end of the island. The Tainos were peace loving but were valiant warriors when they needed to defend themselves. When the Spaniards discovered Puerto Rico, the Tainos were at war with another group of Indians, the maneating Caribs, attacking from the Leeward Islands. These were the general conditions on the island at the time of the arrival of the Spanish conquerors toward the end of the fifteenth century.
Discovery and Conquest of Boriquén
In his letter to the Municipal Council of Seville, in Spain, Diego Alvarez Chanca, a doctor and one of the members of Columbus’ second expedition, wrote: “We traveled by this coast for most of one day until the next day in the afternoon when we spotted another island called
, which coast we followed a full day; it was judged that it was thirty leagues long. This island is very lovely and seems very fertile . . . At a bay on this island we were for two days where many people fled like people afraid of the Caribs. All these islands were discovered on this trail, none of which were seen by the Admiral on the other trip, all are very lovely and of good soil but this one seemed best to all . . . ”
The exact point of landing is not known and there are several theories on this issue, but the fact remains that the Spaniards set foot on land on the 19th of November of 1493 by the testimony of Miguel de Cueno, another member of the crew. Columbus named the island, San Juan Bautista, or Saint John the Baptist. The island was named in honor of Juan, the son of the Catholic king and queen of Spain.
Spain in the New World
The end of the fifteenth century marked the unification of Spain through the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabelle, the conquest of Granada, and the discovery of America. Spain became the wealthiest and most powerful nation in Europe. In architecture and in the arts, the Plateresque style, which relied on heavy ornamentation, became popular. The Plateresque style was of two types: Gothic, also known as Isabelline, and Renaissance.
The term Plateresque is used in architectural decoration to refer to its connection with plateria or silverwork. In Spanish architecture, the Plateresque style first consisted of Gothic motifs applied to Gothic constructions, but later these were applied to Renaissance structures or the Renaissance motifs applied to Gothic structures. The Renaissance Plateresque differed from the Isabelline style in that the ornamentation was more controlled and unified, and it also introduced massive effects which displaced Gothic lightness and articulation. The Isabelline Plateresque was the style of the fifteenth century and the Renaissance Plateresque was in vogue in the sixteenth century. Midway in the six-teenth century, the Italianate style, which was very classical and purist in its statement, was imported into Spain from Italy. Its designs were unadorned, symmetrical, but yet elegant. The emphasis was placed on the building itself and not in the decoration as was the emphasis of the Plateresque styles.
The Isabelline and Renaissance Plateresque styles and to some extent the Italianate, were transplanted from Spain to the colonies. On the islands, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, the architecture was not influenced by any Indian or native element. The buildings were designed and built by Spaniards. The tendency, however, was to simplify the Plateresque style rather than add to it, partly due to the materials available and to economic restraints.
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the islands became strategic watchpoints in the Atlantic as Spain obtained more riches from its colonies. The new cities were under attack constantly. Massive fortifications were needed to protect the shipments from the Mexican silver and Peruvian gold mines. While the building of the forts went on, little attention was paid to the construction of churches, public buildings, and private homes. The structures within the forts were usually wooden houses and huts.