In 1898, as part of the Treaty of Paris, Puerto Rico became a colony of the United States. In this respect Puerto Ricans, although Latin Americans in origin, are United States citizens with the to vote while in the mainland. Puerto Rico was a military protectorate until 1952 when the first elected Puerto Rican government was established. Puerto Rico has been an economic and military accessory of the United States. The issue of the associated free state status continues to be what is called the national sport. Politics are a major part of Puerto Rican life in the island that permeates and affects attitudes and feelings of Puerto Ricans in the states. But, who are Puerto Ricans and what are their ethnic backgrounds?
The indigenous people of Puerto Rico at the time of the Europeans' arrival were the Tainos. The Taino people were an organized society that involved a network of chieftains. Each chieftain had a set hierarchy that organized the life of every member. Some members worked in the agriculture others in the hunting and fishing. Although gold and other precious metals were used in the island, art forms were found more often in pottery and stone and wood's carvings. It was obvious that these people were not miners yet the Spaniards forced them to work as mining laborers. The encounter of these two cultures was not favorable for the Tainos who fell ill from diseases, exhaustion, and were killed in violent encounters between the two groups. Many flee into the mountains and to this day many Taino features can be seen among Puerto Ricans.
The Spaniards first arrived to Puerto Rico in 1493 that was during Christopher Columbus second trip to the Americas. During the same time the inquisition was rampant in Spain. Many people who came to the Americas saw it as a way to escape religious persecution others were in search of economic prosperity. Either way they came to an unknown environment where they would have to endure the harsh conditions of colonizing a land. In addition to Spanish immigrants other Europeans in smaller numbers came to Puerto Rico. Obviously the clash between cultures was difficult but as humans often do many adjusted and some married or concubine with the other ethnic group. Yet, a clearly Spanish literary and artistic legacy continues to permeate Puerto Rican culture.
As numbers of the Tainos diminished African slaves were brought to work as laborers. Marked as property these people were used to build, mine, grow crops, and many other chores. Again interethnic marriages and other circumstances infused the African ancestry into the Puerto Rican ethnicity. It is often said to those who denied their African ancestry: "and your grandma where is she?" Educated Puerto Ricans are proud of their Native American, Spanish, and African ancestry, yet, there is a small group of people who attempt to deny their non European ancestry. Other groups of Puerto Ricans whether in the mainland or the island may not be aware of their ancestry.
Momentarily, Puerto Ricans express their love for who they are by embracing nationalistic emblems such as the flag and the official seal of the island. Moreover, it is usual to find artifacts that represent typical foods, instruments, and holidays. Finally, when away from the island Puerto Ricans often dream of returning to it or about the beautiful bounty of colors in the flora and the fauna of their "homeland". Thus, I have border in my mind can help capture some of the oral history present among Puerto Rican students in the mainland.