Los Boricuas or los Borinquen were the first inhabitants of the island during the pre-Columbian era. Boricua means “Brave Lords” in one of the many Arawak languages. Boricuas were also called the Taíno Indians. Like many Arawak tribes, they emerged in the Greater Antilles from the delta of the Orinoco River during the migration era around 5000 B.C.
The population process of the Antilles lasted thousands of years as the tribes moved up the archipelago and inhabited most of the islands of the Caribbean, especially the Greater Antilles. By the time Columbus set sail, they occupied well-established societies.
The societies of the Antilles changed drastically after the Spanish and British settlers established their dominions. The settlers created new social orders and helped create distinct new ethnic groups, including those on the island of Puerto Rico.
Some of these ethnic groups now occupy their own nation-states throughout the Caribbean islands and South America. Unified by the influence of “three cultures,” most of these countries enjoy sovereignty and independence as nations. But others, such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, do not. In fact, Puerto Rico is not a sovereign state even though it does possess a national culture and identity.
The history of Puerto Rico during the pre-Columbian and the Colonial period is very similar to the other islands of the Great Antilles that were colonized by Spain and became virreynatos (viceroyalties). Driven by the desire to explore and conquer, November 22 of 1493 found Columbus on his second voyage to the New World. After making brief stops on many islands of the Caribbean, Columbus sighted the island of Puerto Rico. He stopped at the island briefly, and, after naming it San Juan Bautista, appointed Vicente Yañez Pinzón as governor of the Island. Columbus then headed West to the Hispaniola and, according to documents, he forgot about the island of Borinquen for a period of seven years.
During the first years of his governorship in the new virreynatos, Columbus dealt with insurgency from his men, who for the most part were unruly convicts. They were eager for the riches the Admiral had indirectly promised them, but instead, they found hunger, sickness and suffering. These men committed many crimes in the years to come. The indigenous people began to die out quickly due to enslavement, tortures, massacres, and harsh working conditions. Driven by the misery, the natives resisted when they could but were tortured and burned alive as punishment.