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White Puerto Rican

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White Puerto Rican

White Puerto Ricans
Total population
2,825,100 [1]
75.8% of the total population (2010 Census)
Regions with significant populations
All regions of Puerto Rico
Prediminantly Puerto Rican Spanish & English
Christianity, Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
White Latin American, White Hispanic and Latino Americans, Puerto Rican American, White Mexican, White Dominican

White Puerto Ricans are Puerto Ricans whose ancestry is of predominant European descent, most notably from Spain (especially the Canary Islands). Lesser influences came from France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Portugal, Germany, and Ireland.

As of 2010 US 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 African and European ancestry, constitute an additional 11.1% of the population.[2][3]

Census history

An early Census on the island was conducted by Governor Lieutenant General Francisco Manuel de Lando in 1530. 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.[4][5] 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 or white population 1530 - 2010 Census
Year Population Percent. R. Year Population Percent. R.
1530 333a, 426b 8.0-10.0 [6][7] 1887 474,933 59.5 [8]
1765 17,572 ND [9] 1897 573,187 64.3 [10]
1775 30,709 40.4 [11] 1899 589,426 61.8 [12]
1787 46,756 45.5 [13] 1910 732,555 65.5 [14]
1802 78,281 48.0 [15] 1920 948,709 73.0 [16]
1812 85,662 46.8 [17] 1930 1,146,719 74.3 [18]
1820 102,432 44.4 [19] 1940 1,430,744 76.5 [20]
1827 150,311 49.7 [21] 1950 1,762,411 79.7 [22]
1830 162,311 50.1 [23] 2000 3,064,862 80.5 [24]
1836 188,869 52.9 [25] 2010 2,825,100 75.8 [26]
1860 300,406 51.5 [27]
1877 411,712 56.3 [28]


Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony for nearly 400 years, and can be credited for Puerto Rico's use of the Spanish language, as well as the Roman Catholic religion for most Puerto Ricans. The bulk of Puerto Ricans' European ancestry, is from Spain. In 1899, one year after the U.S 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%.[29][30] 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 European ancestry.[31][32][33][34] It is estimated up to 82% of White Puerto Ricans descend primarily from Canarian people.[32][35]

North African influence comes from Spain being ruled by Moorish Muslims for nearly 800 years, from about 711 AD until the end of the Reconquista in 1469. Also, Canarians are partially descended from North African Berbers.

Canarian 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 Cifre 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.[36]

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.[37]

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.[38]

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.[39][40]

Royal Decree of Graces of 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 Europeans of non-Spanish origin, 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 Cortés 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

The island of Puerto Rico is very similar in geography to the island of Corsica and therefore appealed to the many Corsicans who wanted to start a "new" life. 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.[41]

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.[42]


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 (USA) 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.[43] 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.[44]

Their influence in Puerto Rican culture is very much present and in evidence in the island's cuisine, literature and arts.[45] Their contributions can be found, but are not limited to, the fields of education, commerce, politics, science and entertainment.


Iglesia Santísima Trinidad of 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.[46]

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.[47] 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.[48]

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.[48]

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.[49]


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.[50] 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.[51][52] O'Reilly was later appointed governor of colonial Louisiana in 1769 where he became known as "Bloody O'Reilly".[53] 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.[54]

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.[55]

The Jews

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 flurish in 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.[56] Puerto Rican Jews have made many contributions to the Puerto Rican way of life. Their contributions can be found, 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.[57][58][59]

Other immigration sources

Other sources of European populations are Basques, Portuguese (especially Azoreans), Italians, Greeks, Maltese, Scots, Dutch, English, Danes, Lebanese, and Jews. Further sources include white populations originating from New World countries like the United States and Cuba.

'Blanqueamiento' in Puerto Rico

Under Spanish and American rule, Puerto Rico underwent a whitening process or "blanqueamiento". Puerto Rico went from being two-thirds black and mulatto in the beginning of the 19th century, to being nearly 80% white by the middle of the 20th century, which was largely due to the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815 and the Regla del Sacar laws.[29][30][60][61][62] Under Spanish rule, Puerto Rico had laws such as Regla del Sacar or Gracias al Sacar, which made persons of mixed African-European ancestry to be classified as white, which was the opposite of "one-drop rule" in US society after the American Civil War.[63][64] Though, most Puerto Ricans self-identify as white, few are of purely European ancestry, with many also having Taino and African ancestry present.[63][65][66][67][68][69] Studies have shown that the ancestry of the "average" white Puerto Rican person is about 64% European, 21% African, and 15% Taino/Amerindian, with European ancestry strongest on the west side of the island, African ancestry strongest on the east side, and consistent levels of Taino ancestry throughout the island.[70] In fact, even though 75% of Puerto Ricans self-identify as white, it is estimated only about 25% are of nearly pure European ancestry with little to no non-European admixture.[71][72][73]

Population by Municipalities in the 2010 Census

Hon. Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto is the current mayor of San Juan.

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

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ A Population History of North America By Michael R. Haines, Richard H. Steckel
  5. ^ El crecimiento poblacional en Puerto Rico: 1493 al presente (Population of Puerto Rico 1493 - present) Page 11.
  6. ^ El |Censo de Lando (1530)
  8. ^ Report on the census of Porto Rico, 1899 Census of "Porto Rico" (Old Spelling) Page 57.
  9. ^ A Population History of North America By Michael R. Haines, Richard H. Steckel
  10. ^ Report on the census of Porto Rico, 1899 Census of "Porto Rico" (Old Spelling) Page 57.
  11. ^ El crecimiento poblacional en Puerto Rico: 1493 al presente (Population of Puerto Rico 1493 - present)
  12. ^ Report on the census of Porto Rico, 1899 Census of "Porto Rico" (Old Spelling) Page 57.
  13. ^ El crecimiento poblacional en Puerto Rico: 1493 al presente (Population of Puerto Rico 1493 - present)
  14. ^ Puerto Rico Census of 1910, 1920 & 1930. (See page 136).
  15. ^ Report on the census of Porto Rico, 1899 Census of "Porto Rico" (Old Spelling) Page 57.
  16. ^ Puerto Rico Census of 1910, 1920 & 1930. (See page 136).
  17. ^ Report on the census of Porto Rico, 1899 Census of "Porto Rico" (Old Spelling) Page 57.
  18. ^ Puerto Rico Census of 1910, 1920 & 1930. (See page 136).
  19. ^ Report on the census of Porto Rico, 1899 Census of "Porto Rico" (Old Spelling) Page 57.
  20. ^ The population of the United States and Puerto Rico See (page 53-26).
  21. ^ Report on the census of Porto Rico, 1899 Census of "Porto Rico" (Old Spelling) Page 57.
  22. ^ The population of the United States and Puerto Rico See (page 53-26).
  23. ^ Report on the census of Porto Rico, 1899 Census of "Porto Rico" (Old Spelling) Page 57.
  24. ^ Summary Population, Housing Characteristics. Puerto Rico: 2000 Census. (Page 52).
  25. ^ Report on the census of Porto Rico, 1899 Census of "Porto Rico" (Old Spelling) Page 57.
  26. ^ Puerto Rico: 2010 - Summary Population and Housing Characteristics 2010 Census of Population and Housing.
  27. ^ Report on the census of Porto Rico, 1899 Census of "Porto Rico" (Old Spelling) Page 57.
  28. ^ Report on the census of Porto Rico, 1899 Census of "Porto Rico" (Old Spelling) Page 57.
  29. ^ a b Puerto Rico's History on race to the 2000 Census.
  30. ^ a b
  31. ^
  32. ^ a b
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ Las raíces isleñas de Mayagüez (in Spanish: The island roots of Mayagüez) by Federico Cedó Alzamora, Official Historian of Mayagüez.
  36. ^ Canarian Migration to Spanish America
  37. ^
  38. ^ The Spanish of the Canary Islands
  39. ^ Canarian immigration: canarios en Puerto Rico (Islas Canarias)
  40. ^ Canarian Settlement in the Americas
  41. ^ Corsican immigration to Puerto Rico
  42. ^ Corsican Immigrants to Puerto Rico, retrieved July 31, 2007
  43. ^ Historical Preservation Archive: Transcribed Articles & Documents
  44. ^ Corsican immigration to Puerto Rico, Retrieved July 31, 2007
  45. ^ Puerto Rican Cuisine & Recipes
  46. ^ Dr. Úrsula Acosta: Genealogy: My Passion and Hobby
  47. ^ Breunig, Charles (1977), The Age of Revolution and Reaction, 1789–1850 (ISBN 0-393-09143-0)
  48. ^ a b La Presencia Germánica en Puerto Rico
  49. ^ Group
  50. ^
  51. ^ Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña
  52. ^
  53. ^ Alejandro O'Reilly 1725-1794, Retrieved November 29, 2008
  54. ^ Irish and Puerto Rico, Retrieved November 29, 2008
  55. ^ Emerald Reflections
  56. ^ The Virtual Jewish History Tour Puerto Rico, Jewish Virtual Library, Retrieved November 12, 2008.
  57. ^ Toppel, 84, supermarket mogul, philanthropist, Palm Beach Post, Retrieved January 9, 2009
  58. ^ Puerto Rico Companies, Right Management, Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  59. ^ Work hard and improve constantly. (Israel Kopel, president of Almacenes Pitusa) (Top 10 Business Leaders of Puerto Rico: 1991), Caribbean Business, Retrieved January 9, 2009
  60. ^ Representation of racial identity among Puerto Ricans and in the u.s. mainland
  61. ^ CIA World Factbook Retrieved June 8, 2009.
  62. ^ Puerto Rico's Historical Demographics Retrieved November 10, 2011.
  63. ^ a b Falcón in Falcón, Haslip-Viera and Matos-Rodríguez 2004: Ch. 6
  64. ^ Jay Kinsbruner, Puerto Rico's Mulattoes, University Press Preview
  65. ^
  66. ^ Puerto Rico – DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000
  67. ^ Recent Genetic Selection in the Ancestral Admixture of Puerto Ricans. American Journal of Human Genetics. (2007).
  68. ^ Martínez Cruzado, Juan C. (2002). "The Use of Mitochondrial DNA to Discover Pre-Columbian Migrations to the Caribbean: Results for Puerto Rico and Expectations for the Dominican Republic". KACIKE: The Journal of Caribbean Amerindian History and Anthropology [On-line Journal], Special Issue, Lynne Guitar, Ed. Available at: [Date of access: 25 September 2006]
  69. ^ Bonilla et al., Ancestral proportions and their association with skin pigmentation and bone mineral density in Puerto Rican women from New York City. Hum Gen (2004) 115: 57-58 Available at: [Date of access: 30 May 2008]
  70. ^
  71. ^
  72. ^
  73. ^
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