PUERTO RICO HISTORYwritten by Elena Harley
The island 'Borinquen' was populated by the Taino Indians until the early 1500's. Carib Indians raided the more peaceful Taino and established a few settlements. Columbus discovered the island on his second voyage in 1493 and named it San Juan. No attempt at settlement was made until Juan Ponce de Leon was given a charter by the King of Spain to colonize the island of San Juan (1508). The first capital city soon moved from its' origins in Caparra to what is now Old San Juan due to the mosquito infestations from the surrounding swamps. The capital city became known as San Juan as the name of the island changed to Puerto Rico (Rich Port). The Spanish government built a series of fortifications, including El Morro and San Cristobal, which still stand guard over the entrance to the harbor. Old San Juan is the second oldest Spanish colonial city in the New World and an excellent example of Spanish colonial architecture; most of which, has been beautifully restored. The lovely blue cobblestones paving the streets were brought as ballast in the ships. The cities of Ponce and Mayaguez were established in the late 1700's.
As settlement of Puerto Rico progressed, the native Indians tried to defend their island but were overpowered by the Spanish' Conquistadores'. The Indians not killed in battle were enslaved, most died off from disease and maltreatment. Many of the Indian women survived and eventually populated the interior of Puerto Rico along with the Spanish sailors who had brought no women with them. For several hundred years Puerto Rico was mainly a small farm economy. In the early 1800's the King of Spain granted a 'Cedula de Gracia' to increase the European population of Puerto Rico by awarding land grants to immigrants from South American colonies, Spain and other European countries. Thus began the century of change from small farms to large coffee plantations, then sugar production came into supremacy. African slaves were imported for the larger plantations. Slavery was abolished in 1873.