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People, Language & Religion
 
 
 

People

During the 1800s hundreds of Corsican, French, Lebanese, Chinese, and Portuguese families arrived in Puerto Rico, along with large numbers of immigrants from Spain (mainly from Catalonia, Asturias, Galicia, the Balearic Islands, Andalusia, and the Canary Islands) and numerous Spanish loyalists from Spain's former colonies in South America. Other settlers included Irish, Scots, Germans, Italians and thousands others who were granted land by Spain during the Real Cedula de Gracias de 1815 ("Royal Decree of Graces of 1815"), which allowed European Catholics to settle in the island with a certain amount of free land. This mass immigration during the 19th century helped the population grow from 155,000 in 1800 to almost a million at the close of the century. A census conducted by royal decree on September 30, 1858, gives the following totals of the Puerto Rican population at this time: 300,430 identified as Whites; 341,015 as Free coloured; and 41,736 as Slaves. During the early 20th century Jews began to settle in Puerto Rico. The first large group of Jews to settle in Puerto Rico were European refugees fleeing German-occupied Europe in the 1930s. In 1952, some Jewish families from the United States settled in Puerto Rico and founded the first synagogue. In 1959, there was an influx of Jewish emigrants from Cuba, following the Cuban Revolution.

Recently, Puerto Rico has become the permanent home of over 100,000 legal residents who immigrated from not only Spain, but from Latin America: Argentines, Cubans, Dominicans, Colombians and Venezuelans. Emigration has been a major part of Puerto Rico's recent history. Starting soon after World War II, poverty, cheap airfare and promotion by the island government caused waves of Puerto Ricans to move to the US, particularly to New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Florida. This trend continued even as Puerto Rico's economy improved and its birth rate declined.

According to a census held in 2000, there were almost four million inhabitants. 80% of Puerto Ricans described themselves as "white"; 8% as "black"; 12% as "mulatto" and 0.4% as "American Indian or Alaska Native".

Language

The official languages are Spanish and English with Spanish being the primary language. English is taught as a second language in public and private schools from elementary levels to high school and in universities. Particularly, the Spanish of Puerto Rico, has evolved into having many idiosyncrasies that differentiate it from the language as spoken in other Spanish-speaking countries. This is mainly due to the influences from ancestral languages, such as those from the Taínos and Africans, and more recently from the English language influence resulting from its relationship with the US. According to a study by the University of Puerto Rico, nine of every 10 Puerto Ricans residing in Puerto Rico do not speak English at the advanced level.

Religion

The Roman Catholic Church has historically been the dominant religion in Puerto Rico. The first dioceses in the Americas was erected in Puerto Rico in 1511. All municipalities in Puerto Rico have at least one Catholic church, most of which are located at the town centre or "plaza". Protestantism which was suppressed under the Spanish regime has been encouraged under American rule making modern Puerto Rico inter-confessional. Taíno religious practices have been rediscovered/reinvented to a degree by a handful of advocates. Various African religious practices have been present since the arrival of African slaves. In particular, the Yoruba beliefs of Santeria and/or Ifá, and the Kongo-derived Palo Mayombe find adherence among a few individuals who practice some form of African traditional religion. In 2007, Islam had over 5,000 Muslims in Puerto Rico, representing about 0.1% of the population. There were eight Islamic mosques spread throughout the island, with most Muslims living in Rio Piedras. Puerto Rico is also home to the largest and richest Jewish community in the Caribbean with 3,000 Jewish inhabitants. Puerto Rico is the only Caribbean island in which the Conservative, Reform and Orthodox Jewish movements are represented.

 

 
 

 



 


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