Puerto Rico is a beautiful country with rich cultural diversity. It’s known for its charismatic beauty and pleasing climate. Puerto Rico has been described as a melting pot of cultures due to the influence of different cultures like Spanish, Taino Indians, and Africa.
Puerto Rico is a self-governing territory of the United States. The island is located in Northeastern Caribbean, East of Dominican Republic, and West of the Virgin Islands. Puerto Rican archipelago includes the main land and many islands like Culebra, Vieques, and Mona. The island is mostly covered by mountains with coastal regions in North and South.
On 19th November 1493, Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Puerto Rico on his second voyage to new world and named it as, San Juan Bautista. Earlier Taino (Arawak) Indians came from South America and were the first inhabitants to form their own territories called Borikén or Borinquen, which means “the land of lords”.
The Spanish invaded the island and forced Taino’s into slavery, later almost the entire population was eliminated, except a few who managed to escape in remote mountains and were known as “jibaros” i.e. “mountain people”. Puerto Rican culture is greatly influenced by Taino’s, Spanish and African slaves.
Culture of Puerto Rico
Traditional Costume of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rican culture is known to be colorful and represents a blend of different races, culture, religion, and language. There is a fair amount of Spanish influence on clothing of Puerto Ricans. The men wore a tailed cotton shirt with cotton slacks and woven straw hat, while the women would be dressed in long skirt, and low-cut blouse.
Puerto Ricans are very friendly people and they welcome their guest with warm hospitality. They are very cordial and genuine people and lead a very peaceful life. Puerto Ricans believe in well-knit family and have strong family values, which reflects in their culture. Puerto Ricans give great importance to dignity, honor, and respect to the elders in the family. They are emotionally attached to their family and friends, and like to socialize with them. They give high priority to education.
Puerto Rico is a bilingual and multicultural society, greatly influenced by the Spanish, African, Indian, and U.S. Also Latin American countries have greatly influenced Puerto Rican culture to develop its own distinguished cultural identity. Both Spanish and English are official languages of Puerto Rico, but mainly Spanish is the spoken language. English is used as compulsory second language in schools, and is widely used in business, industry, and research.
Puerto Rican constitution guarantees freedom for all religions, and Christianity is the major religion followed. Today, majority of the population are Roman Catholics. Apart from this religion, people also follow Protestant faith. Other forms of beliefs include Islam and Judaism. Some also practice Santeria, an Afro-Caribbean religion that originated in Cuba.
In ancient days, Puerto Ricans were best-known for the art of oral storytelling. The talented painters were influenced by their life experiences. One can have a glimpse of their creative streaks through their paintings, that describe stories about the incidents in their life. Some of the earlier inhabitants created polychrome ceramics, amulets (a piece of jewelry), and stone carvings. Puerto Rico is famous for the popular masks known as caretas or Vejigantes which are worn during carnivals.
Puerto Rican poets, authors, novelist and playwrights have made a mark for themselves in the field of literature. Puerto Rico is known for the popular art form of carving called ‘Santos’. The Santos are small carved wooden sculptures of religious saints that originated in Puerto Rico.
One can get the best source of information of arts and crafts by visiting the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in the Dominican Convent in Old San Juan. It has the greatest monument of art and craft, with many museums and a dozen art galleries. In the Museum of the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras, you can look at the wide collection of paintings from Pre-Columbian artifacts to modern painters.
Music is an integral part of Puerto Rico’s culture and binds the people together. Puerto Rican music reflects the strong presence of African, Taino Indians and Spanish influences and has become very popular across the globe. Güiro, a notched hollowed-out gourd is a famous Puerto Rican musical instrument.
Puerto Rican music has evolved in many forms, from classical folk music to Salsa, Bomba, and Plena. Puerto Rico is the home for musical style Bomba; it is a musical expression of people created by rhythmic traditional Africans using a drum called Bomba. Salsa, is a well-known Puerto Rican dance form, and very popular in the world of International music.
Puerto Rican actors, musicians, and composers are counted among the world’s most famous pop stars. Famous Academy Award winners José Ferrer, Rita Moreno, Benicio Del Toro as well as Raul Julia are from Puerto Rico. Jennifer Lopez and Chita Rivera are also of Puerto Rican descent.
Ricky Martin, considered as a famous star in the world of Latin Pop, promotes Puerto Rican music all over the world. Many series of concerts and annual festivals are organized every year in Puerto Rico, to encourage its music and art tradition. The ‘Casals Festival’ honors the work of great musician Pablo Casals. The ‘Le Lo Lai Festival’, is a weekly show of popular folk music, that takes place throughout the year.
Puerto Rican cuisine is mainly influenced by the Taino’s, Spanish, Africans and Americans. Local people of Puerto Rico refer their cuisine as “cocina criolla”. Wide variety of vegetables are grown in rich and fertile lands. Its food is flavored with spices and seasonings. Soups are served as starters, and it is said that world’s best-known soup is prepared in Puerto Rico. The lunch and dinner start with hot sizzling appetizers.
Puerto Ricans love desserts. Jellies and preservatives made by them are used in preparation of different types of delicious desserts. Usually meal is ended with a cup of strong black aromatic Puerto Rican coffee, which is produced in the island since more than 300 years.
Arroz con Pollo
Puerto Ricans just love chicken, which they cook with various spices and seasonings. Some of the popular chicken dishes, on the island are Arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), Pollo al jerez (chicken in sherry), Pollo agridulce (sweet and sour chicken) and Pollitos asados a la parrilla (broiled chickens).
Visitors love to taste different dishes of fish and shellfish served on the island. Many mouth-watering egg dishes are served here, one such famous recipe is Tortilla española (Spanish omelet.)
Puerto Rico is the world’s largest producer of rum. And the national drink of Puerto Rico is rum. The most consumed rum in United States is Puerto Rican famous Bacardi Rum.
Castillo San Felipe del Morro
Puerto Rico is a holiday paradise. The exotic and beautiful locations, with white sandy beaches, mountains, rainforest and skyscrapers beckon tourists to explore the natural beauty of the country. A large number of tourists are attracted to Puerto Rico due the fact that visitors do not need passport to enter Puerto Rico from America every year. You can get a glimpse of Puerto Rican culture by visiting Castillo San Felipe del Morro or El Morro fort.
One should visit San Juan, which is also the capital of Puerto Rico and “La Ciudad Amurallada” (city surrounded with walls).
The most visited places are Plaza San Jose, Plaza del Quinto Centenario (Memorial of 500th anniversary of Columbus discovery of the New World) and the Pigeon park (“Parque de las Palomas”). One must explore the depths of million-year-old park called Rio de Camuy Caves Park.
Puerto Rico is also famous for the largest radar/radio telescope on earth called the Arecibo Observatory.
“La Perla del Sur” (Pearl of the South) is the second largest city of Puerto Rico with many tourist attractions. Tourists can enjoy a walk under the shadow of coconut palm trees, watch the blue-green waters and listen to the whispers of ocean waves. With the magnificent resort facilities, a tourist definitely gets a feeling of being in paradise. The major part of annual revenue comes from tourism.