What was the previous name of Puerto Rico and who was responsible for renaming it?

Travel Destinations

By Laurie Baratti

Puerto Rico and Its Name

Puerto Rico is an archipelago situated in the Caribbean Sea and is a territory of the United States. The island is known for its tropical climate, stunning beaches, and vibrant culture. However, many people may not be aware that Puerto Rico has undergone several name changes throughout its history. This article will explore the island’s original name, its first and second name changes, and its current name. Additionally, it will delve into the controversy surrounding the island’s name change and the political implications it has for Puerto Rico’s future.

Pre-Columbian Times: The Island’s Original Name

Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493, the Taíno people inhabited the island of Puerto Rico. They called the island Borikén, which means "land of the brave lord." The Taíno people were skilled farmers, fishermen, and artisans who lived in harmony with nature. Unfortunately, their way of life was disrupted by the arrival of the Spanish colonizers.

Spanish Colonization: The Island’s First Name Change

When the Spanish arrived on the island, they renamed it San Juan Bautista in honor of Saint John the Baptist. However, the name San Juan was also given to the capital city, which caused confusion among seafarers. As a result, the island became known as Puerto Rico, which means "rich port." The name referred to the island’s natural harbor, which was a strategic location for trade and commerce.

US Occupation: The Island’s Second Name Change

After the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States. In 1900, the island’s name was officially changed to Porto Rico, which was the spelling preferred by the US government. However, in 1931, the US government reverted to the original spelling of Puerto Rico.

Jones Act of 1917: The Island’s Current Name

The Jones Act of 1917 granted US citizenship to Puerto Ricans and made the island an unincorporated territory of the United States. The act also declared that the island’s name would be Puerto Rico, which is the name it has today.

The Meaning Behind the Name Puerto Rico

The name Puerto Rico reflects the island’s rich history and culture. The name highlights the island’s strategic location and its importance as a center for trade and commerce. Additionally, the name celebrates the island’s natural beauty and resources.

The Name Change Controversy: Arguments for Independence

Some Puerto Ricans advocate for a name change as part of their fight for independence. They argue that the current name reinforces the island’s colonial status and erases its indigenous heritage. Advocates for independence suggest that the island be given a new name that reflects its Taíno roots and celebrates its cultural diversity.

The Name Change Controversy: Arguments for Statehood

Advocates for statehood argue that changing the island’s name would be unnecessary and costly. They suggest that the name Puerto Rico has become synonymous with the island’s identity and that changing it would be confusing for its residents and visitors. Additionally, proponents of statehood argue that changing the name would not address the underlying issues facing the island, such as economic inequality and political suppression.

The Name Change Controversy: Political Implications

The name change controversy is not just about semantics; it has significant political implications. The debate over the island’s name reflects the ongoing struggle for Puerto Rico’s political status. Some argue that changing the island’s name would be a step towards decolonization, while others argue that it would be a distraction from the broader issues of political autonomy and self-determination.

The Future of Puerto Rico’s Name: Current Debates

The debate over Puerto Rico’s name is ongoing, and there is no clear consensus on the issue. However, one thing is certain: the island’s name is closely tied to its identity and culture. As Puerto Ricans continue to fight for political autonomy and self-determination, the debate over the island’s name will likely continue.

Conclusion: Puerto Rico’s Identity and Name

Puerto Rico’s name has undergone several changes throughout its history, reflecting the island’s complex political and cultural identity. The debate over the island’s name reflects the ongoing struggle for political self-determination and decolonization. As Puerto Ricans continue to advocate for their rights and autonomy, the issue of the island’s name will remain a critical topic of discussion.

References: Sources for Further Reading

  1. "Puerto Rico: History, Geography, Points of Interest." Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 2021.
  2. "The Debate Over Puerto Rico’s Name." The New York Times, 2021.
  3. "Puerto Rico’s Name: A Complicated History." NPR, 2021.
  4. "The Jones Act and Puerto Rico’s Current Political Status." Congressional Research Service, 2021.
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Laurie Baratti

Laurie Baratti, a renowned San Diego journalist, has contributed to respected publications like TravelAge West, SPACE, Modern Home + Living, Montage, and Sandals Life. She's a passionate travel writer, constantly exploring beyond California. Besides her writing, Laurie is an avid equestrian and dedicated pet owner. She's a strong advocate for the Oxford comma, appreciating the richness of language.

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