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Yo Soy (I am): The Historical Trajectory of Language in Puerto Rico

Spanish Language Influence

Boucher, Jack E., photographer.150. Aerial view, looking northwest to southeast at El Morro - Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, Northwest end of San Juan, San Juan, San Juan Municipio, PR. 1998. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

During the early years of Spanish colonization, the Spanish crown was Insistent on the Christian indoctrination of the Taínos. Teaching Taínos to read and write was part of the indoctrination process, particularly for the sons of caciques (chiefs) who would then set an example for their communities. On the other hand, children of Spanish descent received instruction on grammar, theology, and arithmetic. Public education was nonexistent in Puerto Rico during the first centuries of the Spanish colonization.

In the 18th century, Governor Miguel de Muesas, began establishing public education in Puerto Rico, organizing and regulating public instruction for male students throughout the island. In 1779, schools for girls opened for the first time. However, officials limited education to grammar, rudimentary math skills, and the Christian doctrine. The Church offered fundamental formal instruction in cities like San Juan, Arecibo, San Germán and Coamo. Accessibility was one of the greatest challenges in the development of education in Puerto Rico. In many cases, a large number of students lived far from learning centers. This issue lasted centuries because officials established schools in developed areas, rural communities had excessively limited means for access to educational facilities. By the end of the 19th century, public education programs increased throughout the island.

This colonial history shaped Puerto Rican Spanish with notable traces of the colonial Spanish language in Puerto Rican culture and Spanish predominance as the language of instruction to the present day. Spanish rule also left Puerto Rico with colonial architecture and Catholicism.

The following items delve into the Spanish attributes that shape Puerto Rican identity and language development throughout the course of 400 years under colonial rule.


These print materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digitized versions are provided when available.

The Library of Congress subscribes to a large number of diverse databases which are cataloged and accessible via the E-Resources Online Catalog (EROC). The following selected databases range from freely available to on-site available resources. The databases marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

These selected resources offer materials related to Spanish language influx in Puerto Rico as a consequence of colonialism.

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The following suggested material covers language evolution due to colonialism in Puerto Rico:

  • Del Moral, Solsiree. “ Language and Empire: Elizabeth Kneipple's Colonial History of Puerto Rico.” Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, vol. 31, no. 1, 2019.

Would you like to supplement your research? The following external websites can be useful for expanding your search on topics regarding Spanish influx in Puerto Rico as a result of 400 years of colonialism.

This tab contains a compilation of subject areas related to Spanish influence in Puerto Rico that link directly to the HLAS database. The HLAS Web database contains bibliographic records found in the Handbook of Latin American Studies (HLAS) from the 1970s to the present. HLAS includes annotated citations for books, journal articles, book chapters, conference papers, maps and atlases, and e-resources.

Spanish Fortifications in Puerto Rico

The following photographs present Spanish fortifications and industrial buildings that showcase distinct Spanish Colonial architecture and represent the Spanish rule over the island. Most images are part of The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) collections which document achievements in architecture, engineering, and landscape design in the United States and its territories.