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AFRICAN DESCENDANTS IN PUERTO RICO (AFRO-PUERTO RICANS)

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Afro-Puerto Rican(Afro-Boriquin, Afroborincano) are Puerto Ricans of African descent. The first blacks arriving with the Spaniards were free. Puerto Rico has always had a larger free black population than slave population, through-out the 500 years of black occupation.

The Puerto Rican government stopped reporting ethnicity in 1950, so it was difficult to verify Afro-Puerto Rican numbers. They are sometimes confused with Dominicans living on the island. World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples put them at a range of 22-65%. CIA Factbook put the number at 6.5% Black and 4.4% mixed. According to recent 2010 census, 461,000 identify themselves as solely black making them 11.58%(461,000/3,978,702) of the population, an increase of 50%. Afro-Puerto Ricans tend to concentrate in the eastern part of the island, the coastal lowlands around cities like Ponce and San Juan, areas such as Cangrejos (Santurce), Carolina, Canóvanas, and Loíza Aldea.

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First Africans in Puerto Rico

 

According to historians, the first free black man arrived in the island in 1509. Juan Garrido, a conquistador who belonged to Juan Ponce de León's entourage was the first black man to set foot on the island and in the New World for that matter. Another free black man who accompanied de León was Pedro Mejías. It is believed that Mejías married a Taíno woman chief (a cacica) by the name of Luisa. 

When Ponce de León and the Spaniards arrived in the island of "Borinken" (Puerto Rico), they were greeted by the Cacique Agüeybaná, the supreme leader of the peaceful Taíno tribes in the island.
Agüeybaná helped to maintain the peace between the Taínos and the Spaniards. However, the peace would be short-lived because the Spaniards soon took advantage of the Taínos' good faith and enslaved them; forcing them to work in the gold mines and in the construction of forts. Many Taínos died as a result of either the cruel treatment that they had received or of the smallpox disease epidemic which had attacked the island. Many Taínos either committed suicide or left the island after the failed Taíno revolt of 1511.
 
Friar Bartolomé de las Casas, who had accompanied Ponce de León to the New World, was outraged by the cruel treatment of the Spaniards against the Taínos and protested in 1512 in front of the council of Burgos of the Spanish Courts. He fought for the freedom of the natives and was able to secure their rights. The Spanish colonists, who feared losing their labor force, protested before the courts. The colonists in Puerto Rico complained that they not only needed the manpower to work the mines and on the fortifications, but also in the thriving sugar industry. As an alternative Las Casas suggested the importation and use of black slaves. In 1517, the Spanish Crown permitted its subjects to import twelve slaves each in what became the beginning of the slave trade in the New World. 
According to historian Luis M. Diaz, the largest contingent of Africans came from the Gold Coast (Ghana), Nigeria and Dahomey (Benin), or the region known as the area of Guineas, the Slave Coast. However, the vast majority came from the Yorubas and Igbo tribe from Nigeria and the Bantus from the Guineas. There were elements of Fantes, Baules, Mandingo, Mande and Wolof tribes too. It is interesting to note the Church felt that by Christianizing the slaves, it would render them with a set culture. It worked the other way around too, since the black slaves came to Puerto Rico with a rich and deep culture of their own which the indigenous Indians readily imitated, creating a common bond between them.
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