Off the island, anywhere in the world, if someone says they are Puerto Rican to a Puerto Rican, the reaction is “Tú eres Boricua?” – code for “I am indigenous from an island in the Caribbean, known as Borinquen before the Spanish Conquistadores took it.” Previous to September 16th, 2017, when Hurricane Maria descended on the island, most people didn’t even know where Puerto was. Ironically, the storm that nearly eradicated the island put it on the map.
There are two dates which represent neither independence nor liberation, but the hostile takeover of the island by foreigners. Beginning with the famous date 1492, when Christopher Columbus’ faulty calculations (interpreting Al-Farghani’s 7091 foot Arabic mile to be a 4856 foot Roman mile) led his ships off course into the Caribbean. From this fateful visit the Spaniards laid claim on the island, killing and enslaving the Taíno indigenous people. Over the next 500 years, Iberian, African, and Asian populations arrived on the island. The second date is 1898: after the Spanish-American war, the Spanish ceded ownership of Puerto Rico (as well as Guam and the Philippine islands) to the United States under the Treaty of Paris.
Puerto Rico became a commonwealth. But with no right to vote for the president of the United States, nor representation in Congress, it was in reality a colony. An indigenous-afro latinx culture exists in this particularly invisible place in the Greater Antilles. Puerto Rico is American but only technically, Caribbean but branded by the U.S. While seen as a multimillion-dollar tourist destination, this Caribbean archipelago is home to 3.4 million Puerto Ricans, with its own culture, distinctive Spanish language, music, food, and artisanal skills dating back to the Taínos.