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White Puerto Ricans

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

White Puerto Ricans
Total population
75.8% of the total population (2010)
Regions with significant populations
Throughout Puerto Rico
Related ethnic groups
White Latin Americans, White Hispanic and Latino Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, White Cubans, White Dominicans

White Puerto Ricans are Puerto Ricans who are of predominantly European descent. As of the 2010 U.S. census, people who self-identified as White constituted the majority in Puerto Rico, making up 75.8% of the population. People who identified themselves as being of mixed-race origin, predominantly of European and West African ancestry, constitute 3.3% of the population.[2][1]

Aside from Spanish—largely Canariansettlers, additional Europeans of many families from France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Portugal, Germany, and Ireland immigrated to Puerto Rico during Spain's five-hundred year-long occupation of the island. People from the mainland United States and the Netherlands have settled on the island over the last 120 years.[3][4]

Population history

An early Census on the island was conducted by Governor Lieutenant General Francisco Manuel de Landó in 1530.[5] An exhaustive 1765 census was taken by Lieutenant General Alexander O'Reilly which (according to some sources) showed 17,572 whites out of a total population of 44,883.[6][7] The censuses from 1765 to 1887 were taken by the Spanish government who conducted at irregular intervals. The 1899 census was taken by the War Ministry of the United States. Since 1910 Puerto Rico has been included in every decennial census taken by the United States.

European / white population 1530 - 2010
Year Population % of Puerto Rico Ref(s) Year Population % of Puerto Rico Ref(s)
1530 333a, 426b 8.0-10.0 [8][9] 1887 474,933 59.5 [10]
1765 17,572 - [6] 1897 573,187 64.3 [10]
1775 30,709 40.4 [11] 1899 589,426 61.8 [10]
1787 46,756 45.5 [11] 1910 732,555 65.5 [12]
1802 78,281 48.0 [10] 1920 948,709 73.0 [12]
1812 85,662 46.8 [10] 1930 1,146,719 74.3 [12]
1820 102,432 44.4 [10] 1940 1,430,744 76.5 [13]
1827 150,311 49.7 [10] 1950 1,762,411 79.7 [13]
1830 162,311 50.1 [10] 2000 3,064,862 80.5 [14]
1836 188,869 52.9 [10] 2010 2,825,100 75.8 [15]
1860 300,406 51.5 [10]
1877 411,712 56.3 [10]
Source: Official census statistics.


Casa de España was used as the headquarters of a private social organization whose members are those of Spanish descent in San Juan on Calle Ponce de León.
Casa de España was used as the headquarters of a private social organization whose members are those of Spanish descent in San Juan on Calle Ponce de León.

Puerto Rico was a Spanish Overseas Province for nearly 400 years. The bulk of Puerto Ricans' European ancestry is from Spain. In 1899, one year after the United States invaded and took control of the island, 61.8% of people were identified as White. In the 2010 United States Census the total of Puerto Ricans that identified as White was 75.8%.[16][17] The European heritage of Puerto Ricans comes primarily from one source: Spaniards (including Canarians, Catalans, Castilians, Galicians, Asturians, and Andalusians) and Basques. Though, the Canary Islands of Spain has had the most influence on Puerto Rico, and is where most Puerto Ricans can trace their ancestry.[18][19][20][21] It is estimated up to 82% of persons in certain parts of Puerto Rico descend in part from Canarian people.[19][22] The table shows that in the twentieth century, the foreign-born made up a very small percentage of the total population of the Island. However, in 1910 people born in Europe composed 75.3% of the total foreign-born population, with Spain alone making up 60.9%.[23]

Canary Islander influence

The first wave of Canarian migration to Puerto Rico seems to be in 1695, followed by others in 1714, 1720, 1731, and 1797. The number of Canarians that immigrated to Puerto Rico in the first three centuries of Iberian rule is not known to any degree of precision. Still and all, Dr. Estela Cifré de Loubriel and other scholars of the Canarian migration to America, such as Dr. Manuel González Hernández of the University of La Laguna, Tenerife, agree that they formed the bulk of the jíbaro or white peasant stock of the mountainous interior of the island.[18]

The Isleños increased their commercial traffic and immigration to the two remaining Spanish colonies in America, Puerto Rico and Cuba. Even after the Spanish–American War of 1898, Canarian immigration to the Americas continued. Successive waves of Canarian immigration continued to arrive in Puerto Rico, where entire villages were founded by relocated islanders.[24]

European-born population in Puerto Rico[23][25]
Year Spain Italy France Germany UK Other Europe
1899 7,690 . . . . .
1910 6,630 362 681 192 313 387
1920 4,975 233 580 94 183 129
1930 3,506 166 367 91 137 112
1940 2,532 118 224 98 138 180
1950 2,851 120 222 126 123 302
1960 2,558 . . . . .
1970 4,120 . . . . .
1980 5,200 . . . . .
1990 4,579 . . . . .
2000 3,800 . . . . .
2010 2,676 - - - -

In the 1860s, Canarian immigration to America took place at the rate of over 2,000 per year, at a time when the total island population was 237,036. In the two-year period 1885-1886, more than 4,500 Canarians emigrated to Spanish possessions, with only 150 to Puerto Rico. Between 1891 and 1895 Canarian immigrants to Puerto Rico numbered 600. These are official figures; when illegal or concealed emigration is taken into account, the numbers would be much larger.[26]

The Canarian cultural influence in Puerto Rico is one of the most important components in that many villages were founded by these immigrants, starting in 1493 until 1890 and beyond. Many Spaniards, especially Canarians, chose Puerto Rico because of its Hispanic ties and relative proximity in comparison with other former Spanish colonies. They searched for security and stability in an environment similar to that of the Canary Islands and Puerto Rico was the most suitable. This began as a temporary exile which became a permanent relocation and the last significant wave of Spanish or European migration to Puerto Rico.[27][26]

Royal Decree of Graces of 1815

Royal Decree of Graces, 1815
Royal Decree of Graces, 1815

By 1825, the Spanish Empire had lost all of its territories in the Americas with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico. These two possessions, however, had been demanding more autonomy since the formation of pro-independence movements in 1808. Realizing that it was in danger of losing its two remaining Caribbean territories, the Spanish Crown revived the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815.

The decree was printed in three languages—Spanish, French, and English—intending to attract mainland Spaniards and other Europeans, with the hope that the independence movements would lose their popularity and strength with the arrival of new settlers.

Under the Spanish Royal Decree of Graces, immigrants were granted land and initially given a "Letter of Domicile" after swearing loyalty to the Spanish Crown and allegiance to the Catholic Church. After five years they could request a "Letter of Naturalization" that would make them Spanish subjects. The Royal Decree was intended for non-Hispanic Europeans and not Asians nor people that were not Christian.

In 1897, the Spanish Cortes also granted Puerto Rico a Charter of Autonomy, which recognized the island's sovereignty and right to self-government. By April 1898, the first Puerto Rican legislature was elected and called to order.


Type of steamship in which Corsicans arrived in Puerto Rico
Type of steamship in which Corsicans arrived in Puerto Rico

Hundreds of Corsicans and their families immigrated to Puerto Rico from as early as 1830, and their numbers peaked in the early 1900s. The first Spanish settlers settled and owned the land in the coastal areas, the Corsicans tended to settle the mountainous southwestern region of the island, primary in the towns of Adjuntas, Lares, Utuado, Ponce, Coamo, Yauco, Guayanilla and Guánica. However, it was Yauco whose rich agricultural area attracted the majority of the Corsican settlers. The three main crops in Yauco were coffee, sugar cane and tobacco. The new settlers dedicated themselves to the cultivation of these crops and within a short period of time some were even able to own and operate their own grocery stores. However, it was with the cultivation of the coffee bean that they would make their fortunes. The descendants of the Corsican settlers were also to become influential in the fields of education, literature, journalism and politics.[28][failed verification]

Today the town of Yauco is known as both the "Corsican Town" and "The Coffee Town". There's a memorial in Yauco with the inscription, "To the memory of our citizens of Corsican origin, France, who in the C19 became rooted in our village, who have enriched our culture with their traditions and helped our progress with their dedicated work - the municipality of Yauco pays them homage." The Corsican element of Puerto Rico is very much in evidence, Corsican surnames such as Paoli, Negroni and Fraticelli are common.[29]


Many citizens of France fled Haiti after the Battle of Vertières and settled in Puerto Rico
Many citizens of France fled Haiti after the Battle of Vertières and settled in Puerto Rico

The French immigration to Puerto Rico began as a result of the economic and political situations which occurred in various places such as Louisiana (United States) and Saint-Domingue (Haiti). Upon the outbreak of the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years' War (1754–1763), between the Kingdom of Great Britain and its North American Colonies against France, many of the French settlers fled to Puerto Rico.[30] French immigration from mainland France and its territories to Puerto Rico was the largest in number, second only to Spanish immigrants and today a great number of Puerto Ricans can claim French ancestry; 16 percent of the surnames on the island are either French or French-Corsican.[28]

Their influence in Puerto Rican culture is very much present and in evidence in the island's cuisine, literature and arts.[31] Their contributions can be found, but are not limited to, the fields of education, commerce, politics, science and entertainment.


Iglesia Santísima Trinidad in Ponce
Iglesia Santísima Trinidad in Ponce

German immigrants arrived in Puerto Rico from Curaçao and Austria during the early 19th century. Many of these early German immigrants established warehouses and businesses in the coastal towns of Fajardo, Arroyo, Ponce, Mayaguez, Cabo Rojo and Aguadilla. One of the reasons that these businessmen established themselves in the island was that Germany depended mostly on Great Britain for such products as coffee, sugar and tobacco. By establishing businesses dedicated to the exportation and importation of these and other goods, Germany no longer had to pay the high tariffs which the English charged them. Not all of the immigrants were businessmen; some were teachers, farmers and skilled laborers.[32]

The Riefkohl and Verges children of Maunabo, Puerto Rico (c. 1890s)
The Riefkohl and Verges children of Maunabo, Puerto Rico (c. 1890s)

In Germany the European Revolutions of 1848 in the German states erupted, leading to the Frankfurt Parliament. Ultimately, the rather non-violent "revolution" failed. Disappointed, many Germans immigrated to the Americas, including Puerto Rico, and were dubbed the Forty-Eighters. The majority of these came from Alsace-Lorraine, Baden, Hesse, Rheinland and Württemberg.[33] German immigrants were able to settle in the coastal areas and establish their businesses in towns such as Fajardo, Arroyo, Ponce, Mayagüez, Cabo Rojo and Aguadilla. Those who expected free land under the terms of the Spanish Royal Decree, settled in the central mountainous areas of the island in towns such as Adjuntas, Aibonito and Ciales among others. They made their living in the agricultural sector and in some cases became owners of sugar cane plantations. Others dedicated themselves to the fishing industry.[34]

In 1870, the Spanish Courts passed the Acta de Culto Condicionado (Conditional Cult Act), a law granting the right of religious freedom to all those who wished to worship another religion other than the Catholic religion. The Anglican Church, the Iglesia Santísima Trinidad, was founded by German and English immigrants in Ponce in 1872.[34]

By the beginning of the 20th century, many of the descendants of the first German settlers had become successful businessmen, educators, and scientists and were among the pioneers of Puerto Rico's television industry. Among the successful businesses established by the German immigrants in Puerto Rico were Mullenhoff & Korber, Frite, Lundt & Co., Max Meyer & Co. and Feddersen Willenk & Co. Korber Group Inc., one of Puerto Rico's largest advertising agencies, was founded by the descendants of William Korber.[35]


Plaque honoring Ramon Power y Giralt in San German, Puerto Rico
Plaque honoring Ramon Power y Giralt in San German, Puerto Rico

From the 16th to the 19th century, there was considerable Irish immigration to Puerto Rico, for a number of reasons. During the 16th century many Irishmen, who were known as "Wild Geese", fled the English Army and joined the Spanish Army. Some of these men were stationed in Puerto Rico and remained there after their military service to Spain was completed.[36] During the 18th century men such as Field Marshal Alejandro O'Reilly and Colonel Tomas O'Daly were sent to the island to revamp the capital's fortifications.[37][38] O'Reilly was later appointed governor of colonial Louisiana in 1769 where he became known as "Bloody O'Reilly".[39] Irish immigrants played an instrumental role in the island's economy. One of the most important industries of the island was the sugar industry. Besides Tomás O'Daly, whose plantation was a success, other Irishmen became successful businessmen in this industry, among them Miguel Conway, who owned a plantation in the town of Hatillo and Juan Nagle whose plantation was located in Río Piedras. Puerto Ricans of Irish descent also played an instrumental role in the development of the island's tobacco industry. Miguel Conboy is credited with being the founder of the tobacco trade in Puerto Rico and the Quinlan family established two tobacco plantations, one in the town of Toa Baja and the other in Loíza.[40]

The Irish element in Puerto Rico is very much in evidence. Their contributions to Puerto Rico's agricultural industry and to the field of politics and education are highly notable.[41]


Inside Sha'are Zedeck
Inside Sha'are Zedeck

Even though the first Jews who arrived and settled in Puerto Rico were "Crypto-Jews" or "secret Jews", the Jewish community did not flourish on the island until after the Spanish–American War. Jewish-American soldiers were assigned to the military bases in Puerto Rico and many chose to stay and live on the island. Large numbers of Jewish immigrants began to arrive in Puerto Rico in the 1930s as refugees from Nazi occupied Europe. The majority settled in the island's capital, San Juan, where in 1942 they established the first Jewish Community Center of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is home to the largest and wealthiest Jewish community in the Caribbean with almost 3,000 Jewish inhabitants.[42] Puerto Rican Jews have made many contributions to the Puerto Rican way of life. Their contributions can be found in, but are not limited to, the fields of education, commerce and entertainment. Among the many successful businesses which they have established are Supermercados Pueblo (Pueblo Supermarkets), Almacenes Kress (clothing store), Doral Bank, Pitusa and Me Salve.[43][44][45]

Other immigration sources

Other sources of European populations are Basques, Portuguese, Italians, French people, Scots, Dutch, English, Danes and Jews. Further sources include white populations originating from New World countries like the United States, the Dominican Republic[46] and Cuba.

Present day Puerto Rico

Singer Ricky Martin is of Spanish and Corsican descent.[47][48][49]
Singer Ricky Martin is of Spanish and Corsican descent.[47][48][49]

By the middle of the 20th century, Puerto Rico was nearly 80% white, in part due to the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815, when the central government of Spain granted free land to mainland Spaniards and other European Catholics willing to settle in Puerto Rico.[16][17][50][51][52] Though most Puerto Ricans self identified as white only, many have varying degrees of Taino (Native Puerto Rican) ancestry as well. In 1802, the options available on the Census documents were either "black" or "white" and people were no longer able to indicate Indio on the census self identification, so they were no longer counted. Before that, in 1797, 2,312 had self-identified as Indio. Evidence suggests that some Taíno men and African women inter-married and lived in relatively isolated Maroon communities in the interior of the islands, where they evolved into a hybrid rural or campesino population with little or no interference from the Spanish authorities.[53]

Studies have shown that European ancestry is strongest on the west side of the island, African ancestry mostly found on the east, and consistent levels of Taino ancestry throughout the island.[54] In fact, even though 75% of Puerto Ricans self-identify as white only, it is estimated only about 25% are of nearly pure European ancestry with little to no non-European admixture.[55][56][57] As mentioned above, this is partly due to African ancestry inherited from Spanish immigrants from the Canary Islands.[1][58][59][60][61][62]

Population by Municipalities in the 2010 Census

Ricardo Rosselló the former Governor of Puerto Rico; has paternal Majorcan heritage.

The population who self-identified as white in the census by municipality is as follows:

See also


  1. ^ a b "Puerto Rico 2010 Profile" (PDF). Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  2. ^ "CIA - The World Factbook -- Puerto Rico". CIA. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  3. ^ "Officials and Employees of the City of San Juan de Puerto Rico (1897". Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  4. ^ "1974 Analysis" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-08-02.
  5. ^ "Historia de Puerto Rico" (PDF) (in Spanish). p. 17. Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  6. ^ a b R. Haines, Michael; H. Steckel, Richard. "A Population History of North America". Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  7. ^ "El crecimiento poblacional en Puerto Rico: 1493 al presente" (PDF). August 30, 2020.
  8. ^ "El -Censo de Lando (1530)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Report on the census of Porto Rico, 1899 Census of "Porto Rico" (Old Spelling) Page 57.
  11. ^ a b El crecimiento poblacional en Puerto Rico: 1493 al presente Archived 2015-10-03 at the Wayback Machine (Population of Puerto Rico 1493 - present)
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  13. ^ a b The population of the United States and Puerto Rico See (page 53-26).
  14. ^ Summary Population, Housing Characteristics. Puerto Rico: 2000 Census. (Page 52).
  15. ^ Puerto Rico: 2010 - Summary Population and Housing Characteristics 2010 Census of Population and Housing.
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