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Canarian emigration to Puerto Rico

Streets in Puerto Rico with architecture so similar to that in the Canary Islands

The first wave of Canarian migration to Puerto Rico appears to have been in 1695, followed by various others throughout the 18th Century. 

The total number of Canarians who migrated to Puerto Rico in the first three centuries of Iberian rule, however, is not known with any accuracy. Even so, Dr. Estela Cifre de Loubriel and other scholars of Canarian migration to America, such as Dr. Manuel González Hernández of the University of La Laguna, Tenerife, agree that they formed the majority of the Jíbaro, or population of white peasants in the mountainous interior of the island. When Canarians arrived in Puerto Rico in the 17th century, they introduced sugar cane. With it, they brought traditions such as the wake and different types of vegetables.
The Puerto Rican Wake

It was tradition that when a person died, a wake was held for one to two days in the home of the deceased along with family and loved ones. The purpose of this wake was to be with the family in the midst of pain, express their condolences and show solidarity in a difficult time. Once buried, the novenas were performed. For nine days after death, prayers and chants were made to ask for the soul of that deceased and his eternal rest. Over the years that tradition has been lost and it is more common for them to choose to hold shorter wakes at funeral homes or in certain cases not hold wakes at all.
In 1695, Juan Fernández Franco de Medina (Soldier, from La Laguna, Tenerife) transferred 20 Canarian families in exchange for the Government of the island (he was Governor between 1695 and 1698). Several families arrived with surnames such as: Marrero, Morales, Vera, Mora, Amador, Correa, Acosta, Osorio, Moya, Alonso, Lorenzo and Martínez among others who remained forever on the island. From that moment waves of emigrants followed one another. 

The Canarians signed a contract before an authorized person who could well be the captain of the ship, through which they were given passage, food, accommodation, clothing and insurance. In exchange, they had between 10 and 20% of their salary deducted. Between 1720 and 1730, 882 Canarians were transferred. 60% were married and the rest were married in Puerto Rico. This meant a spectacular increase in the demographic data of the island.

Map of the 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico

The first Canarians settled in the eastern part of Puerto Rico (Humacao, Yabucoa, Guayama). The growing concentration made possible the foundation, in 1745, of Toa Baja, followed in 1751 by Toa Alta. One of the consignments of Canarians brought many people named “García” to Puerto Rico.

At that time, the peninsular Spaniards occupied the most prominent positions on the island, political positions and of influence. However, they never integrated. When they got enough fortune they would return to Spain. However, the Canarians not only settled but also took root in the new land, providing an exchange of customs with the inhabitants of the island that had welcomed them. 

By 1729 Mayagüez, Añasco and Rincón were established. They founded a hermitage in Mayagüez to Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (now Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (Mayagüez, Puerto Rico) and another in Rincón in honor of Santa Rosa. The first image of Candelaria that was worshiped in ancient times in Mayagüez, was dressed similarly to the one in Tenerife. 

On July 19, 1760, Don Faustino Martínez de Matos, presented on behalf of the inhabitants settled on the banks of the Mayagüez River, a request to found the town. It would bear the name of Our Lady of Candelaria on the banks of Mayagüez. On July 30 that year, then governor, Don Esteban Bravo de Rivero, signed the decree that gave way to the town's foundation. And on August 21, 1760, the site was chosen and the residents agreed to build the temple.

Currently, the whites of the country also have mestizaje traits, that is to say that, under genetic tests, they would also carry various percentages of Taíno blood, and Guanche (Canarian aborigine), as well as sub-Saharan Africa.

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