Earliest archaeological remains in Puerto Rico were discovered at a large limestone cave near Foza Aldea, close to the northeast coast. This discovery yielded artifacts dating back to the first century A.D., which points to the fact that Puerto Rico has been inhabited by man for approximately two thousand years. Arturo Morales Carrion calls these first settlers Archaic Indians, who may have migrated from Florida to Cuba, then to the rest of the West Indies. More significance is attributed to the Arawak Indians whose migratory movements started from the Orinoco basin and settled in the whole of the West Indian chain. The first wave of this group that reached Puerto Rico was that of the Iqueris or Saladoids. Some archeologists believe that the Iqueris cultural pattern slowly changed into what is called the Ostionoid culture. This culture eventually evolved into the Taino culture. The Tainos called the island Boriquen . . . the island of strong men. The island still retains its Indian heritage in names such as: Humaco, Caguas, Mayaguez, and Utado. Many aspects of every day life have passed into the Spanish period, leaving a significant imprint on Puerto Rican culture. This was the culture that existed when the Spaniards came in 1492.
On November 19, 1493, Columbus, on his second voyage, found the island of San Juan Bautista (Puerto Rico). A permanent foothold was established in 1508 by Juan Ponce de Leon, when he founded the town of Caparra not far from the present capital of San Juan. Eventually all the Indians on the island were defeated in battle and subjugated. Badly mistreated by the Spaniards, they died out as a labor force and the role of the Indian was taken over by the African slaves. In time this port city evolved into what is now San Juan and the island Puerto Rico. As the Spanish empire grew, Puerto Rico’s strategic location over shadowed its economic significance. It was thought of by the crown officials as the strongest foothold of Spain in America.
Puerto Rico’s strategic location from a navel standpoint demanded special attention from Spain and rightfully so. The English and Dutch also coveted this island as a prize possession. Having thwarted the attempt by these nations to take over the island, the people of Puerto Rico began to develop a distinct society of their own.