What You Need to Know About Puerto Rico’s Black History

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In the 15th century, Spain colonized Puerto Rico and brought enslaved Africans to work in gold mines and sugar cane fields.

Separated from their homeland, Africans were forced to adopt Spanish culture – learn the Spanish language, convert to Catholicism, and were given Spanish surnames.

They still found ways to keep African traditions intact, merging African religions and language with Catholicism and Spanish.

Puerto Rican culture and people are the products of the Taino, Spanish and African – whose influences are found in music, food and religion.

Unfortunately, some Puerto Ricans have had to suppress their African ancestry as a survival tactic, as many faced racial discrimination in the U.S. and segregation in Puerto Rico.

To avoid discrimination, many Puerto Ricans claim “white” or “biracial” during the U.S. Census.

Today, Puerto Rico still deals with racism, the most recent evidence being the disaster response after Hurricane Maria.

It’s critical that we connect Puerto Rico’s second-class treatment to their deep African roots so we can better understand the experience of our family in the Caribbean.

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