Puerto Rican Heritage Org.
PO Box 1152
Elgin, IL 60121-1152
The ancient history of the archipelago known today as "Puerto Rico" before the arrival of Christopher Columbus is not well known. What is known today about them comes from scarce archaeological findings and early Spanish scholarly accounts. Today, there are few and rare cave drawings, rock carvings and ancient recreational activity sites that have been identified with some degree of speculation as to who left them behind.
Between the 7th and 11th centuries the Taino culture developed on the island, had become dominant. At the time of Columbus' arrival, an estimated 30 to 60 thousand Taíno Amerindians, led by cacique (chief) Agüeybaná, inhabited the island. They called it Boriken, "the great land of the valiant and noble Lord. The natives lived in small villages led by a cacique and subsisted on hunting, fishing and gathering of indigenous cassava root and fruit. Soon thereafter, the Spanish began to colonize the island. The indigenous population (Taínos) came to be exploited and forced into slavery. Within 50 years they were reduced to near extinction by the harsh conditions of work and by European infectious diseases to which they had no natural immunity and had almost vanished. Soon thereafter, the Spanish began to colonize the island. The indigenous population (Taínos) came to be exploited and forced into slavery. Within 50 years they were reduced to near extinction by the harsh conditions of work and by European infectious diseases to which they had no natural immunity and had almost vanished. The importation of African slaves was brought to the island because of the decline of the Taíno population. African slavery was primarily restricted to coastal ports and cities, while the interior of the island continued to be essentially unexplored and undeveloped. Spanish and other European colonists were concentrated in island's seaports. Puerto Rico soon became an important stronghold and a significant port for Spanish Main colonial expansion.
The United States invaded Puerto Rico and began a long-standing relationship. Puerto Rico began the 20th century under the military rule of the U.S. with officials, including the governor, appointed by the President of the United Sates. The Foraker Act gave Puerto Rico a certain amount of civilian popular government, including a popularly elected House of Representatives, also a judicial system following the American legal system that includes both state and federal courts establishing a Puerto Rico Supreme Court and a United State District Court; nonvoting member of Congress, by the title of "Resident Commissioner". In addition, this Act extended all U.S. laws "not locally inapplicable" to Puerto Rico, specifying specific exemption from U.S. Internal Revenue laws. During an address to the Puerto Rican legislature in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt recommended that Puerto Ricans become U.S. citizens. In 1917, "Puerto Ricans were collectively made U.S. citizens". The same Act also provided for a popularly elected Senate to complete a bicameral Legislative Assembly, a bill of rights and authorized the election of a Resident Commissioner to a four-year term. As a result of their new U.S. citizenship, many Puerto Ricans were drafted into World War I and all subsequent wars with U.S. participation in which a national military draft was in effect.