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.

         Afro-Puerto Rican woman dressed in her national flag costume at the Puerto Rican Day Parade

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.

                        Afro-Puerto Rican  kids and their mother at Loiza,Puerto Rico

Black history in Puerto Rico initially began with the African freeman (Libertos) who arrived with the Spanish
Conquistadors. The Spaniards enslaved the Tainos who were the native inhabitants of the island and many of them died as a result of the cruel treatment that they had received. This presented a problem for the Spanish Crown since they depended on slavery as a means of manpower to work the mines and build forts. Their solution was to import slaves from Africa and as a consequence the vast majority of the Africans who immigrated to Puerto Rico did so as a result of the slave trade.

                                      Former slaves in Puerto Rico, Circa 1898

 The Africans in Puerto Rico came from various points of Africa, suffered many hardships and were subject to cruel treatment.
When the gold mines were declared depleted and no longer produced the precious metal, the Spanish Crown ignored Puerto Rico and the island became mainly a garrison for the ships. Africans from British and French possessions in the Caribbean were encouraged to immigrate to Puerto Rico and as freemen provided a population base to support the Puerto Rican garrison and its forts. The Spanish decree of 1789 allowed the slaves to earn or buy their freedom. However, this did little to help them in their situation and eventually many slaves rebelled, most notably in the revolt against Spanish rule known as the "Grito de Lares“.  On March 22, 1873, slavery was finally abolished in Puerto Rico.
The Africans that came to Puerto Rico overcame many obstacles and particularly after the SpanishAmerican War, their descendants helped shape the political institutions of the island. Their contributions to the music, art, language, and heritage became the foundation of Puerto Rican culture.
                  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.

 Afro-Puerto Rican writer Mayra Santos-Febres is one of Puerto Rico’s most celebrated authors.

The fact that the Spaniard was unable to annihilate the African slave as he did the Indian slave; the fact that the African had a sense of identity; the fact that the African demonstrated resistance against the Spanish by revolting at times; the fact that they sought freedom in the rural interior and mountain sides are all a reflection of the strong and independent civilizations from which they came.

As the blacks arrived they imposed themselves numerically in many regions of the island and contributed a "vigorous cultural force," constantly renewed with the arrival of new African slaves.

Rafael Henandez, great Afro-Puerto Rican musical composer

To understand how the black man contributed his cultural inputs and took a place within the Puerto Rican culture, one need examine the very institution of slavery as it existed in Puerto Rico. It is then that one sees the natural evolution of social and ethnic forces that become incorporated into the modern Puerto Rican personality.
The number of slaves in Puerto Rico rose from 1,500 in 1530 to 15,000 by 1555. The slaves were branded on the forehead with a stamp so people would know they were brought in legally and that way they couldn't be kidnapped. The cruelty of hot branding was stopped in 1784.  
African slaves were sent to work the gold mines, as a replacement of the lost Taino manpower, or to work in the fields in the islands ginger and sugar industry. They were allowed to live with family in a bohio (hut) on the master's land and was given a patch of land where they could plant and grow vegetables and fruits. Blacks had little or no opportunity for advancement and faced discrimination from Spaniards. The slave was educated by his or her master and soon learned to speak his language.
Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, an Afro Puerto Rican, is the founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute and former director of El Museo del Barrio and the Association of Hispanic Arts. © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

They enriched the "Puerto Rican Spanish" language by adding some words of their own and educated their children with what they had learned from their masters. The Spaniards considered the blacks superior to the Taínos, since the Taínos were unwilling to assimilate their ways. The slave had no choice but to convert to Christianity, they were baptized by the Catholic Church and assumed the surnames of their masters. It should be noted that many slaves were subject to harsh treatment which in cases included rape.
 The majority of the Conquistadors and farmers who settled the island had arrived without women and most of them intermarried with blacks or Taínos creating a mixture of races that was to become known as the "mestizo's" or "mulattos". This mixture was to become the bases of the Puerto Rican people. 

                   Afro-Puerto Rican lady

By 1570, the gold mines were declared depleted and no longer produced the precious metal. After gold mining came to an end in the island, The Spanish Crown basically ignored Puerto Rico by changing the routes of the west to the north. The island became mainly a garrison for the ships that would pass on their way to or from the other and richer colonies. An official Spanish edict of 1664 offered freedom and land to African people from non-Spanish colonies, such as Jamaica and St. Dominique (Haiti), who immigrated to Puerto Rico and provided a population base to support the Puerto Rican garrison and its forts. These freeman who settled the western and southern parts of the island, soon adopted the ways and customs of the Spaniards. Some joined the local militia which fought against the British in their many attempts to invade the island. It should be noted that the escaped slaves and freedman who immigrated from the West Indies, kept their former masters surnames which normally was either English or French. This is why it is not uncommon for Puerto Ricans of African ancestry to have non-Spanish surnames.

       Afro-Puerto Rican manplaying tradtional African drum

                     Famous Puerto Rican Freeman
One of the most renowned Puerto Ricans of African ancestry was Rafael Cordero (1790 – 1868), a freeman born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He became known as "The Father of Public Education in Puerto Rico". Cordero was a self-educated Puerto Rican who provided free schooling to children regardless of their race. Among the distinguished alumni who attended Cordero's school were future abolitionists Román Baldorioty de Castro, Alejandro Tapia y Rivera and José Julián Acosta. Cordero proved that racial and economic integration could be possible and accepted. In 2004, the Roman Catholic Church, upon the request of San Juan Archbishop Roberto González Nieves, began the process of Cordero's beatification.

                  A painting of Afro-Puerto Rican Rafael Cordero and his pupils.

José Campeche (1751-1809), was another Puerto Rican of African ancestry who contributed greatly to the islands culture. Campeche's father Tomás Campeche, was a freed slave born in Puerto Rico, and María Jordán Marqués, his mother, came from the Canary Islands. Because of this mixed descent, he was identified as a mulatto, a common term during his time. Campeche is the first known Puerto Rican artist and is considered by many as one of its best. He distinguished himself with his paintings related to religious themes and of governors and other important personalities.

   José Campeche, the famous Afro-Puerto Rican artist

Capt. Miguel Henriquez (c.1680-17??), a former pirate who became Puerto Rico's first Black military hero when he organized an expeditionary force which fought and defeated the British in the island of Vieques. Capt. Henriques was received as a national hero when he returned the island of Vieques back to the Spanish Empire and to the governorship of Puerto Rico. He was awarded "La Medalla de Oro de la Real Efigie" and the Spanish Crown named him "Captain of the Seas" awarding him a letter of marque and reprisal which granted him the privileges of a privateer.

 Captain Miguel Herinquez

          The Royal Decree of Graces of 1815
The Royal Decree of Graces of 1815 was a legal order approved by the Spanish Crown in the early half of the 19th Century to encourage Spaniards and later Europeans of non-Spanish origin to settle and populate the colonies of Cuba and Puerto Rico.The decree encouraged slave labor to revive agriculture and attract new settlers

The new agricultural class now immigrating from other countries of Europe sought slave labor in large numbers and cruelty became the order of the day. It is for this reason that we see a series of slave uprisings in the island, from the early 1820s until 1868 in what is known as the Grito de Lares. The 1834 Royal census of Puerto Rico established that 11% of the population were slaves, 35% were colored freemen and 54% were white. 
sylvia del villard
Sylvia del Villard was an actress, dancer, choreographer and Afro-Puerto Rican activist.

By the mid 19th century, a committee of abolitionists was formed in Puerto Rico which included many prominent Puerto Ricans.
Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances (1827-1898), whose parents were rich landowners, believed in the abolition of slavery and together with fellow Puerto Rican and abolitionist Segundo Ruiz Belvis (1829-1867) founded a clandestine organization called "The Secret Abolitionist Society'. The objective of the society was to free children who were slaves, by the sacrament of Baptism. The event, which was also known as "aguas de libertad" (waters of liberty), was carried out at the Cathedral of Mayagüez. When the child was baptized, Betances would give money to the parents which they in turn used to buy the child's freedom from hismaster. 
José Julián Acosta (1827-1891) was a member of a Puerto Rican commission, which included 
Ramón Emeterio Betances, Segundo Ruiz Belvis and Francisco Mariano Quiñones (1830-1908). 
The commission participated in the "Overseas Information Committee" which met in Madrid, Spain. 
There, Acosta presented the argument for the abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico.On November 19, 1872, Román Baldorioty de Castro (1822-1889) together with Luis Padial 
(1832-1879), Julio Vizcarrondo (1830-1889) and the Spanish Minister of Overseas Affairs, Segismundo Moret (1833-1913), presented a proposal for the abolition of slavery. On March 22, 1873, the Spanish Government approved the proposal which became known as the Moret Law. This edict granted freedom to slaves over 60 years of age, those belonging to the state, and children born to slaves after September 17, 1868. Most importantly for genealogy purposes, the Moret Law established the Central Slave Registrar which in 1872 began gathering the following data on the island's slave population: name, country of origin, present residence, names of parents, sex, marital status, trade, age, physical description, and master's name. 
The Spanish government had lost most of its possessions in the New World by 1850. After the successful slave rebellion against the French in St Dominique (Haiti) in 1803, the Spanish Crown became fearful that the "Criollos" (native born) of Puerto Rico and Cuba, her last two remaining possessions, may follow suit. Therefore, the Spanish government issued the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815, attracting European immigrants from non-Spanish countries to populate the island believing that these new immigrants would be more loyal to Spain. However, they did not expect the new immigrants to racially intermarry as they did and identify themselves completely with their new homeland.  On May 31, 1848, the Governor of Puerto Rico Juan Prim, in fear of an independence or slavery revolt imposed draconian laws, "El Bando contra La Raza Africana", to control the behavior of all Black Puerto Ricans, slave or free.
On September 23, 1868, slaves, who were promised their freedom, participated in the short failed 
revolt against Spain which became known in the history books as "El Grito de Lares" or "The Cry of 
Lares". Many of the participants were imprisoned or executed.

Hide video Negro: Finding Identity-Conversation with an Ethnographer

                               Abolition of Slavery
On March 22, 1873, slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico. Slave owners were to free their slaves in 
exchange of a monetary compensation. The majority of the freed slaves continued to work for their former masters with the difference that they were now freeman and received what was considered a just pay for their labor.
The freed slaves were able to fully integrate themselves into Puerto Rico's society.  It cannot be denied that racism has existed in Puerto Rico since racism is something that exists in every country, however, racism in Puerto Rico did not exist to the extent of other places in the New World, possibly because of the following factors:
* In the 8th century, nearly all of Spain was conquered (711 - 718), by the Muslim Moors who had crossed over from North Africa. The first blacks were brought to Spain during Arab domination by North African merchants. By the middle of the 13th century all of the Iberian peninsula had been reconquered. A section of the city of Seville, which once was a Moorish stronghold, was inhabited by thousands of blacks. Blacks became freeman after converting to Christianity and lived fully integrated in Spanish society. Black women were highly sought after by Spanish males. Spain's exposure to people of color over the centuries accounted for the positive racial attitudes that were to prevail in the New World. Therefore, it was no surprise that the first conquistadors who arrived to the island, intermarried with the native Taínos and later with the African immigrants.
* The Catholic Church played an instrumental role in the human dignity and social integration of the black man in Puerto Rico. The church insisted that every slave be baptized and converted to the Catholic faith. In accordance to the church's doctrine, master and slave were equal before the eyes of God and therefore brothers in Christ with a common moral and religious character. Cruel and unusual punishment of slaves was considered a violation of the fifth commandment. 
* When the gold mines were declared depleted in 1570 and mining came to an end in Puerto Rico, the vast majority of the white Spanish settlers left the island to seek their fortunes in the richer colonies such as Mexico and the island became a Spanish garrison. The majority of those who stayed behind were either black or mulattos (of mixed race). By the time Spain reestablished her commercial ties with Puerto Rico, the island had a large multiracial population. Even though one of the reasons that the Spanish Crown put the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815 into effect was to "whiten" the islands population by offering attractive incentives to non-Hispanic Europeans, the new arrivals continued to intermarry with the native islanders. By 1868, the majority of the population of Puerto Rico was interracially mixed.
                             Afro-Puerto Rican woman dancing (Bámbula @ BomPlenazo 2012)
                       Spanish-American War
After the Spanish-American War of 1898, Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States by way of the 
Treaty of Paris of 1898. The United States took over control of the islands institutions. Political participation by the natives was restricted.

Dr. José Celso Barbosa, Puerto Rican medical d...
Dr. José Celso Barbosa, Puerto Rican medical doctor, sociologist, and political leader; Library of Congress (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  Dr Jose Celso Barbosa, the great Afro-Puerto Rican medical doctor and a politician

 One Puerto Rican politician of African descent who distinguished himself during this period was José Celso Barbosa (1857-1921) who on July 4, 1899, founded the pro-statehood Puerto Rican Republican Party. He is known as the "Father of the Statehood for Puerto Rico" movement.
              Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

Another distinguished Puerto Rican of African descent, who in this case was an advocate of Puerto Rico's independence was Arturo Alfonso Schomburg (1874-1938) who became known as the "Father of Black History" in the United States and who coined the phrase "Afroborincano" meaning African-Puerto Rican. 
After the United States Congress approved the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917, every Puerto Rican became a citizen of the United States. Many Puerto Ricans were drafted into the armed forces, which at that time was segregated. Puerto Ricans of African descent were subject to the discrimination which was rampant in the U.S.
Black Puerto Ricans residing in the mainland United States were assigned to all-black units. Rafael Hernández Marín (1892-1965) was assigned to the 396th Infantry Regiment, African-American regiment which gained fame during World War I and became known as the "Harlem Hell Fighters". 
 Rafael Hernandez Marin

Pedro Albizu Campos (1891-1965), who later became the leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, held the rank of lieutenant in the 375th Infantry Regiment which was stationed in Puerto Rico and never saw combat action. According to Campos, the discrimination which he witnessed in the Armed Forces,influenced his political beliefs.

                      Pedro Albizu Campos

Two Puerto Rican writers who exposed the racism to which Black Puerto Ricans were subject to were Abelardo Diaz Alfaro (1916-1999) and Luis Palés Matos (1898-1959) who was credited with creating the poetry genre known as Afro-Antillano.
                 Beautiful Afro-Puerto Rican girl with her natural Afro hair, eating ice cream in Loiza.
                           Afro-Puerto Ricans Today

  Joan Smalls, Afro-Puerto Rican international fashion super-model

The descents of the former African slaves became instrumental in the development of Puerto Rico's political, economic and cultural structure. They overcame many obstacles and have made their presence felt in their contributions to the islands entertainment, sports, literature and scientific institutions. Their contributions and heritage can still be felt today in Puerto Rico's art, music, cuisine, and religious beliefs in everyday life. In Puerto Rico, March 22 is known as "Abolition Day" and it is a holiday celebrated by everyone.

                         African Influence in Puerto Rican Culture
                                    Afro-Puerto Rican people

The Puerto Rican personality is also influenced by the African’s imprint on the language. Some African slaves spoke "Bozal" Spanish, a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, and the language spoken in the Congo. The African influence in the Spanish spoken in the island can be traced to the many words from African languages that have become a permanent part of Puerto Rican Spanish (and, in some cases, English). Words like name, Shango, bernbe, mango, rumba etc. are part of the Puerto Rican’s everyday speech. The up and down speech intonations in Puerto Rican Spanish are typically African as well as the grammatical practice of cutting endings (para nada becomes pa’na), transforming or dropping consonants and various phonetic implications in the vernacular.

      Afro-Puerto Rican in colorful traditional attire dancing to Bomba music

The African influence is no less evident in Puerto Rico’s music. The African is by instinct and experience a music-maker. If one examines the African cultures carefully we find that some tribes had full orchestras with rather sophisticated instruments. Since the Spanish gentlemen considered it beneath their dignity to play a musical instrument, blacks in Puerto Rico did not only became their musical performers, but also the teachers and composers.
               The Folkloric Ballet Majestad Negra of Piñones at the city of Loíza, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican musical instruments such as la clave (also known as par de palos or "two sticks"), drums with stretched animal skin such as bongos or congas, timbales, marimbas and Puerto Rican music-dance forms such as la bomba or la danza/la plena are likewise rooted in Africa.
 Plena Puerto Rico
The Bomba represents the strong African influence in Puerto Rico. Bomba is a music, rhythm and dance that was brought by West African slaves to the island of Puerto Rico. The Plena is another form of folkloric music of Puerto Rico of African origin. The Plena was brought to Ponce by blacks who immigrated north from the English speaking islands south of Puerto Rico. The Plena is a rhythm that is clearly African and very similar to Calypso, Soca and Dance hall music from Trinidad and Jamaica.
                Afro-Puerto Rican woman dancing to Plena sounds

The Bomba and Plena were played during the festival of Santiago (St. James), since slaves were not allowed to worship their own gods, and soon developed into countless styles based on the kind of dance intended to be used at the same time; these include leró, yubá, cunyá, babú and belén. The slaves celebrated baptisms, weddings, and births with the "bailes de bomba". Slave-owners, for fear of a rebellion, allowed the dances on Sundays.

Hide video Bomba en Loiza, Puerto Rico

The women dancers would mimic and poke fun at the slave owners. Masks were and still are worn to ward off evil spirits and pirates. One of the most popular masked characters is the "Vejigante" (vey-hee-GANT-eh). The Vejigante is a mischievous character that stars in the Carnivals of Puerto Rico. Traditionally he wears a paper mache mask and a colorful robe. 
                  Musical group, Africaribe Bomba from Puerto Rico performing Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba

Until 1953, the Bomba and Plena were virtually unknown outside of the island until Puerto Rican musicians Rafael Cortijo (1928-1982) and Ismael Rivera (1931-1987) and the El Conjunto Monterrey orchestra introduced the Bomba and Plena to the world. What Rafael Cortijo did with his orchestra was to modernize these Puerto Rican folkloric rhythms with piano, bass, saxophones, trumpets, and other percussion instruments such as timbales, bongos, and replacing the typical barriles (skin covered barrels) with congas. 
Rafael Cepeda (1910-1996), also known as "The Patriarch of the Bomba and the Plena", was the patriarch of the Cepeda Family. The family is one of the most famous exponents of Puerto Rican folk music, with generations of musicians working to preserve the African heritage in Puerto Rican music. 
The family is well known for their performances of the bomba and plena folkloric music and are considered by many to be the keepers of those traditional genres.
                        Afro-Puerto Rican kids dancing to the Bomba sound

Puerto Rican cuisine also has a strong African influence. The melange of flavors that make up the typical Puerto Rican cuisine counts with the African touch. Pasteles, small bundles of meat stuffed into a dough made of grated plantain (sometimes combined with pumpkin, potatoes, plantains, or yautía) and wrapped in plantain leaves, were devised by African women on the island and based upon food products that originated in Africa.
                       Afro-Puerto Rican cuisine preparation

The salmorejo, a local land crab creation, resembles Southern cooking in the United States with its 
spicing. The mofongo, one of the island's best-known dishes, is a ball of fried mashed plantain stuffed with pork crackling, crab, lobster, shrimp or a combination of all of them. There are also gandinga (stewed or marinated pork livers with vinegar and garlic), funche (mushed cornmeal), guanimos (cornmeal croquettes), sambumbia (an elaborate salad) are all part of la comida criolla or the native cuisine. Puerto Rico's cuisine embraces its African roots, weaving them into its Indian and Spanish influences.

One of the principal areas of Puerto Rican culture where the influence of the black man is more evident is in religion. The Bantu, for example, brought with him to Puerto Rico all the elements of spiritual African traditional religion. They are engaged in ancestral worship which still persist. Spiritual communications with the dead, which is derived from the West African cultures, also exists in many parts of the island.

            Santeria worship icons

 Guayama, a city in southern Puerto Rico, is known as "The town of sorcerers." Blacks and mulattoes in this area have passed down from generation to generation a host of legends dealing with the supernatural. They also have the reputation of being experts in the preparation of brews and potions to incur evil or good. Hence, there is the need for amulets to protect children from the evil eye and forces of these sorcerers. Even today Puerto Rican mothers resort to hanging la cabeza negra or the black head, an amulet made of jet stone, on a baby’s carriage or person to ward off evil forces.
 Throne inside Santeria Church

Although the slave yielded to the vigorous Christianizing of the Catholic Church, he nevertheless continued to worship his ancestral gods and perform all the traditions associated with it. Free blacks living in the rural country side imported their beliefs to the poor whites, mulattoes and mestizos there.

                                     Santeria altar with Catholic saints

 It is no wonder that even today when one goes into a typical Puerto Rican home he will see along with statues of Christian saints and the Virgin, a Shango or black African god to whom, in many cases, offerings of fruit, wine or other items are present. This mixture of Christian worship with traditional African gods is called Santeria.
Santeria is a religion created between the diverse images drawn from the Catholic Church and the representational deities of the African Yoruba tribe of Nigeria.

Santería, also known as La Regla de Lukumi (Lukumi's Rule) and "The Way of the Saints", is a religious tradition derived from traditional beliefs of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The Santería/Yoruba tradition comprises a hierarchical structure according to priesthood level and authority. Orisha "ile" or temples are usually governed by Orisha Priests known as Babalorishas, "fathers of orisha", or Iyalorishas, "mothers of orisha", and serve as the junior Ile or second in the hierarchical religious structure.

Drummers play and sing during a Santería ceremony in honor of the ocean goddess Yemayá

The Babalorishas and Iyalorishas are referred to as "Santeros(as)" and if they function as diviners of the Orishas they can be considered Oriates. The highest level of achievement is to become a priest of Ifa (ee-fah). Ifa Priests receive Orunmila who is the Orisha of Prophecy, Wisdom and all Knowledge. Ifa Priests are known by their titles such as "Babalawo" or "Father Who Knows the Secrets" and "Iyanifa" or "Mother of Destiny." Ifa Ile or Temples of Ifa serve as the senior to all Orisha Ile in the Traditional Orisha-Ifa / Santería Community. The Sacred Oracle of Ika-Fun or Ika Ofun serves as confirmation. The "Seven Powers of God" or "Siete Potencia" are; Elegua, Oggun, Oshun, Chango, Obatala', Yemeya and Onrula. 
In Santería there are many deities who respond to one "top" or "head" God. These deities, which are said to have descended from heaven to help and console their followers, are known as "Orishas." 
According to Santeria the Orishas are the ones who chooses the person whom it will watch over.
spiritualist altar to propitiate spirit guides through Espiritismo Cruzado

Unlike other religions where the a worshiper is closely identified with his sect (example:Christian/Christianity) the worshiper is not always a "Santero". Santeros are the priests and the only official practitioners ("Santeros" are not to be confused with Puerto Rico's craftsmen who carve and create religious statues from wood and are also called Santeros). A person becomes a Santero if he passes certain tests and has been chosen by the Orishas.
              Brandi Quinones,Afro_Puerto Rican model

Afro Meagan Good Picture African American Actresses in TV Series
 Actress Meagan Good has Afro-Puerto Rican mother

 Afro-Puerto Ricans in their Carnival attire

   Woman dancing to Bomba music

  Pretty Afro-Puerto Rican Basketball Wives star Evelyn Lozada participated in New York City’s Puerto Rican Day Parade on Sunday afternoon (June 10)

  Dancing to Plena

               Joan Smalls,Afro-Puerto Rican

              Bámbula @ BomPlenazo 2012

                     Old Afro-Puerto Rican woman doing her own thing

                             Carnival mood

                      Smiling Afro-Puerto Rican girl

                       Afro-Puerto Rican man

                   Afro-Puerto Rican kids

   Afro-Puerto Rican girls with native Taino and African origin (Afro-Mestizos)

                Brandi Quiñones,Afro-Puerto Rican Model

Actress and singer Claudette Ortiz, an Afro-Puerto Rican

  Afro-Puerto Rican mum and her daughter

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  1. Wonderful article on the Afro-Puerto Ricans. Great info and look into the diversity of the island.

  2. The picture above is reagan. Gomez preston, not claudette ortiz

  3. Love my people Que Dios le bendiga��

  4. Much Luz y Bendiciones ( you have done such an excellent job Getting a brief glance of our History) very well put . Thank you from (Pizarro - Loiza Family)

  5. All Puerto Ricans are of African descent. I dont use the term Afro Puerto Rican I refer to all my people as Puerto Ricans. There are too many shades within families to label anybody.

    1. Not all. Some people will have Spaniard and native only. Spaniard or a mix of all 3. There some people who have remained isolated on the island and some who were racist towards their fellow black Boriquas.
      My grandma spaniard and native.

  6. Puerto Rico isn't a colony. It is a commonwealth in free association with the US. There have been numerous elections held on the island in which Puerto Ricans could freely choose between independence, statehood, or a continuation of commonwealth status and they have consistently chosen to remain a commonwealth.

  7. Should criminals be in charge of correcting the wrong they inflicted?

    Puerto Ricans vote in elections every 4 years at an 80% level of participation. Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States (US) government for the past 116 years. If the US government has the final say in what happens in Puerto Rico, what is the purpose of these elections? The purpose is to fool the world that Puerto Rico is a democracy.

    The United Nations (UN) declared colonialism a crime against humanity in 1960. The UN has asked the US government 33 times to decolonize Puerto Rico immediately. The US government has refused. It says that Puerto Rico’s political relationship with the United States is none of the UN’s business. The US says that it is a domestic affair.

    To appear that the US government wants to decolonize Puerto Rico, it promotes the use of plebiscites to determine what Puerto Ricans want. Doesn’t that sounds innocent and democratic? So what’s the problem?

    To begin with, the international community already rendered its verdict and determined that colonialism is illegal. So to have a political status option in a plebiscite that favors maintaining Puerto Rico a colony of the United States is not permitted. To have a political status option of Puerto Rico becoming a state of the United States is also not permitted under international law. The problem goes back to the beginning of this article. In order to have free elections, the country must be free. So before these elections and plebiscite could be valid, Puerto Rico would have to first be an independent nation.

    What people must realize is that Puerto Rico is a colony of the US because the US government wants it that way. That is why it has used terrorism to keep it that way. That is why it refuses to release the Puerto Rican political prisoner of 33 years Oscar López Rivera. That is also why it is ridiculous to believe that decolonization is a US internal matter in which the UN has no jurisdiction over. If we allow the US government to decolonize Puerto Rico, she will remain a colony of the United States forever!

    José M López Sierra

  8. What an insightful article, thank you! I'm dating a Puerto Rican woman and I sometimes would question her heritage and if she was truly black. Now, I know so much more about her people, her culture, her heritage and it's exciting. I can't wait to have children with her who know their full history. Getting the Afro-Puerto Rican side as well as the Jamaican side. Knowledge of self is power! Use it and set yourself free. Blessings

  9. I read the entire article and I noted how the author undermines the Taino contribution to Puerto Rican culture.
    In fact it actually states that our people had very little to do with the actual foundation of la cultura in Boriken.

    The author makes it seem like the Africans came in brought with them an advanced culture,language etc and from that came all the brilliance and advancements in everything from food to spirituality in Puerto Rico....It also states that because our people refused to assimilate that the spanish thought the Africans to be superior to the Indios when it should've said our ancestors refused to be enslaved at all cost.
    Another real truth is much of our Taino culture was assimilated by everyone who set foot on our Island and that includes the African slaves. Our people helped a lot of Africans escaped the chains of slavery the spanish put around their necks.
    No where in this article
    is credit given to what our ancestors did for the Africans like they learned nothing from our ancestors????

    Lets just take a look at language for example...It is a known fact that the spanish language acquired and now claims to own hundreds of words that are actually Taino in origin.How about music articule made no mention of the fact that Bomba with all it's supposed to be African rhythms actually uses only one instrument that is African ...the Conga all the other instruments are Taino!!! The Plena actually a call and response dance which was and continues to be the way our people did areytos...
    Note and you will not find that way in Africa even today.
    Moving on here everything form the fishing nets to how to fish make jamacas and Ajiako was taught by our people to the African slaves.

    There was a cultural exchange that took place and our people taught not only the spanish but also the Africans slaves how to survive on our Islands.
    As well our ancestors shared our spirituality with or better stated our way of life.
    Keep to mind that both African and Indio were totally subjected to racism and genocide so we had a common bond.
    That is another fact author does not mention.

    So for me to read an article that clearly undermine our ancestral Indigenous contributions as if we brought nothing worthwhile into the circle is an article that does nothing more than perpetuate our non existence and makes it seem we lacked any worthwhile knowledge.
    Like it or not by many the actual root of Puerto Rican culture is Indigenous...and as long as we have Puerto Ricans looking to rewrite history while putting our Taino heritage on the back burner our communities our people our indigenous cultural heritage will not be respected nor is the entire truth being told about who we really are as a people!!!

    1. I Can't disagree with you more. This article is not about Taino Heritage, but about African heritage...

      Reading the article with a totally neutral view (I'm puerto-rican.. I recognize both taine and african as well as spaniards as my ancestors) I never felt the writer was undermining the Taino in any way... He was just focusing on the African contributions to our culture.

      While I can't confirm or reject your statements about ownership of some of those contributions... whether Taino or African... a case can be made about both of them enriching one another's culture...

  10. Please delete the previous comment posted. It has nothing to do with the article. There are numerous links posted that appear to be sexually explicit. I haven't clicked to find out bc I'm scared to see something nasty will pop up on my screen. Thanks.

  11. I agree 100% with the commenter above who writes that this article undermines the Taino contribution to the culture of Boriken. I also agree with the commenter that questions how one can separate out a Puerto Rican of African descent from everyone else. The facts are that the majority of us have African Ancestors and the majority of us have Taino Ancestors (as proven by mitochondrial DNA studies). It is harmful and offensive to raise oneself up at the cost of putting another culture down. It is time for us to recognize ALL our Ancestors, and fully embrace the complexity of our history and the complexity of contributions of our many Ancestors. I find it incomprehensible to attempt to claim Bomba y Plena (for example) is of a single major influence, likewise with the various foods in Boriquen. One Root is not superior to another.


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