Columbus on his second trip in 1493 landed in Puerto Rico and claimed it for
Spain, he found the island populated by as many as 60,000 Arawak or Taino
The conquest of the island didn’t take long, and the peaceful Tainos were put
island. The gold didn’t last long and in 1511 there was an uprising of the
took a soldier by the name of Sotomayor and dunked him head first in a river
for several hours to see if he would die. Just in case, they had prepared a feast
that took most of the lives of the Arawaks, but the diseases that were brought
from Europe and for which the indians had no defenses.
In 1508 the first governor arrived, Juan Ponce de Le?n (who is more famous
The island remained Spanish despite harassment and numerous conquest
attempts by buccaneers and pirates and English and Dutch expeditions. To
defend the island against these threats, two forts, El Morro and San
Crist?bal,were built to guard the approaches to San Juan harbor. Defense of
these forts foiled attempts by Sir Francis Drake in 1595, by another English
fleet in 1598, and by the Dutch in 1625 to capture Puerto Rico for their
respective empires. The defeat of the British in 1797 finally thwarted that
During the 16th to the 19th century Puerto Rico was characterized primarily by
ships that would pass on their way to or from the other and richer colonies.
ships from Spain and as trade with other countries was prohibited, the island
reverted to contraband trading with ships from England, Netherlands or
whomever would trade for the main produce of the island, which at that time
was ginger. This peasant agriculture continued until the early 19th century,
when Spanish law was changed to allow unrestricted trade with the neighbors.
The 19th century in Puerto Rico was characterized by a series of strict if not
brutal military governors which stifled the independence movements in Puerto
Rico that were shaking the foundations of its other American colonies. Slavery
and the importation of slaves reached its peak, with the need for workers on
proportions of freemen to slaves as it did on the other colonies or even on
established that 11% of the population were slaves, 35% were colored
freemen and 54% were white. It was only until 1873, however, that slavery
was finally abolished in Puerto Rico.