Immigration to Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s history of immigration may make Boricuas the most ethnically diverse people of the Caribbean. Puerto Ricans know about the three main ethnic backgrounds that make-up the Puerto Rican people: the indigenous Taíno Indians, Spaniards, and Africans. However other ethnicities have and continue to contribute to the Puerto Rican culture.

By the early 19th century Spain had lost most of its possessions in the New World except for Puerto Rico and Cuba. In hopes of securing these areas, Spain announced the Royal Decree of Graces in 1815, which granted the Caribbean territories the right to have commercial ties with countries that were in good standing with Spain.

Hundreds of French (especially Corsican,) German, and Irish families soon immigrated to Puerto Rico. They were later followed by smaller waves of Dutch, Greek, Italian, Maltese, and Portuguese immigrants who adopted the language and customs of the island and were completely integrated into the society.

An increase of immigration to Puerto Rico occurred when the U.S. acquired the territory from the Spaniards after winning the Spanish-American War of 1898. Immigrants from China, Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic soon became part of the Puerto Rican community.

Dominicans have lived on the island of Puerto Rico since colonial time with immigration coinciding with political upheavals. Today about 200,000 Dominicans live in Puerto Rico.

The large number of undocumented residents in Puerto Rico has become a hot political issue. The U.S. has yet to begin a serious conversation about immigration reform, however it will be interesting to see how new regulations will affect immigration in Puerto Rico. The recent devastating earthquake in Haiti is sure to affect further immigration of both Haitians and Dominicans to Puerto Rico.

In any event, U.S. and Puerto Rican officials should keep in mind that we have always been a nation of immigrants. Current U.S. citizens and political leaders should find ways to fairly welcome those seeking a better life and those who have already contributed greatly to the U.S. and Puerto Rican cultures.

For more on the history of immigration to Puerto Rico you can read the February political column at


About Phil Velez

writer, blogger, & communication professional
This entry was posted in latino, politics, puerto rico. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Immigration to Puerto Rico

  1. Clarisel says:

    When I taught English in Santurce, many of my students were of Dominican heritage. That was several years ago.

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