History Files


The Americas

Central American Colonial Settlements




Puerto Rico / Boriken
AD 1509 - 1580

Puerto Rico lay to the east of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles chain. Its pre-Columbian history is very vague but archaeological evidence states that it was first occupied by the Ortoiroid people who probably originated in the Orinoco Valley in South America before 5230 BC. They migrated into the Antilles, where their last traces date to AD 190. The Taino people became dominant in the region by the eleventh century AD.

The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, was the first European to reach Florida. He also served in Spanish wars against the Moors of Granada, and in 1493 he accompanied Columbus on his second voyage to America. After helping to conquer Higuey on eastern Hispaniola he was made governor of that region. He was then sent out to conquer the island of Boriken or Boriquen (Puerto Rico) in 1508 after finding gold there. As the first governor of the island he made a fortune in gold, slaves and land.

3000 - 2000 BC

The Ortoiroid people migrate into the Greater Antilles chain of islands.

430 - 250 BC

The Ortoiroid people are replaced by the Saladoid, another tribe from the Orinoco Valley.

AD 200 - 400

The Saladoid people are replaced by the Igneri, yet another tribe from the Orinoco Valley.

c.AD 600?

The seafaring Taino people, a division of the Arawak group of American natives, probably arrive on the island around this date, mixing with the Igneri.

Taino native peoples
The Taino natives lived on Puerto Rico for over nine hundred years before the coming of the Spanish colonists


The viceroy of Hispaniola, Christopher Columbus, lands in Puerto Rico on his second voyage from Spain, making landfall on 19 November. He names the island San Juan Bautista (St John the Baptist). While this name is later retained for the capital, the island is renamed Rich Port (Puerto Rico) by the time a member of the expedition, Juan Ponce de Leon, becomes its first governor.


Vicente Yanez Pinzon

Failed to take up his office.

1504 - 1508

Following his arrival in the Americas in 1493 and a possible return to Spain, in 1504 Juan Ponce de Leon is made governor of part of eastern Hispaniola. Between 1506-1508, lured by reports of fertile land and rivers of gold, he explores Puerto Rico and is made its first governor to take up the post by the Spanish crown.

bef 1508 - 1510

Chief Agueybana I

Supreme Taino chief and friendly to Spain.

1509 - 1511

Juan Ponce de Leon

First Spanish governor of Puerto Rico. Later of Florida.


Harsh treatment and diseases introduced by the Europeans have made life for the native Taino unbearable enough so that a short-lived rebellion is staged in June 1511. It is put down with force by the governor. In the same year, Ponce de Leon is urged by the king of Spain to investigate rumours of undiscovered lands to the north of Hispaniola. The crown is eager to keep out Diego Columbus, the unwanted viceroy of Hispaniola, and reward Ponce de Leon for his efforts.

1510 - 1511

Chief Agueybana II 'The Brave'

Brother of Agueybana and leader of the rebellion against Spain.

1511 - 1513

Juan Ceron

1513 - 1514

The expedition to the north under Juan Ponce de Leon gets underway on 4 March. On 2 April land is sighted which is named Florida. Eventually they make landfall on the western coast, probably in the vicinity of Charlotte Harbour or Tampa Bay. After returning briefly to Puerto Rico and then Spain, Ponce de Leon is confirmed as governor of Florida.

1513 - 1514

Rodrigo Moscoso


Gonzalo de Ovalle

Failed to take office.

1514 - 1515

Cristobal de Mendoza

1515 - 1519

Juan Ponce de Leon

Second term. Also governor of Florida (1514-1521).


Sanchez Velazquz

1519 - 1521

Antonio de la Gama

1521 - 1523

Pedro Moreno

1523 - 1524

Alonso Manso

Archbishop of Puerto Rico.

1524 - 1529

Pedro Moreno

Second term.


The town of San German, in the south-west of the island, is sacked and burned by the French as part of their efforts to dislodge the Spanish from the strategically important location. Several more towns are subsequently attacked.

1529 - 1530

Antonio de la Gama

Second term. Also governor of Panama.

1530 - 1536

Francisco Manul de Lando

1536 - 1537

Vasco de Tiedra


Jeronimo de Ortal

1537 - 1544



Construction of fully-fledged fortifications around San Juan begin. Three major forts are included in the plans of construction for the defences, but San German on the opposite side of the island remains undefended.


Jeronimo Ledron de Quinones

1544 - 1546

Inigo Lopez Cervantes

1546 - 1550

Diego de Caraza

1550 - 1555

Luis de Vallejo


Alonso Estevez

1555 - 1561

Diego de Caraza

Second term.

1561 - 1564

Antonio de la Llama Vallejo

1564 - 1568

Francisco Bahamonde de Lugo

1568 - 1574

Francisco de Solis

1575 - 1579

Francisco de Obando y Mejia


Juan Ponce de Leon II

Acting governor and first native to hold the post.


Jeronimo de Aguero Campuzano


Puerto Rico is reorganised into a more autonomous captaincy general.

Captaincy General of Puerto Rico
AD 1580 - 1896

In 1580, Puerto Rico became a captaincy general, headed for the most part by military figures. The move proved to be necessary due to the increased threat of piracy from the Caribbean, and the hope was that granting Puerto Rico administrative and military autonomy would effectively counter that threat, especially as Spain viewed it as the 'key to the Indies'. Ultimately, the changes failed to have a lasting effect.

1580 - 1581

Juan de Cespedes

1581 - 1582

Juan Lopez Melgarejo

1582 - 1593

Diego Menendez de Valdes

1593 - 1597

Pedro Suarez de Coronel


As part of the Anglo-Spanish War, English forces under Francis Drake and the earl of Cumberland attack and seize the island, holding it for several months until dysentery forces a withdrawal. The Spanish reoccupy and reinforce the island.

1597 - 1598

Antonio de Mosquro

1598 - 1599

Pedro Suarez de Coronel

Second term.

1599 - 1602

Alonso de Mercado

1602 - 1608

Sancho Ochoa y Castro

1608 - 1614

Gabriel de Rojas Parano

1614 - 1620

Felipe de Beaumont y Navarra

1620 - 1625

Juan de Vargas

1625 - 1630

Juan de Haro y Sanvitores


Dutch forces under Boudewijn Hendrick attack San Juan, but are forced back by Juan de Haro, although they set fire to the city as they retreat.

1631 - 1635

Enriqu Enriquz de Sotomayor

1635 - 1641

Inigo de la Mota Sarmiento


Agustin de Silva y Figuroa

1642 - 1643

Juan de Bolanos

1643 - 1648

Fernando de la Riva Aguero

1649 - 1655

Diego de Aguilera y Gamboa

1655 - 1660

Jose Novoa y Moscoso Perez

1660 - 1664

Juan Perez de Guzman y Chagoyen

1664 - 1670

Jeronimo de Velasco

1670 - 1674

Gaspar de Arteaga y Aunoavidao


Diego Roblandillo


Baltasar de Figuroa y Castilla

1675 - 1678

Alonso de Campos y Espinosa

1678 - 1683

Juan de Robles Lorenzana

1683 - 1685

Gaspar Martinez de Andino

1685 - 1690

Juan Francisco Medina

1690 - 1695

Gaspar de Arredondo y Valle

1695 - 1697

Juan Francisco Medina

Second term.

1697 - 1698

Tomas Franco

1698 - 1699

Antonio de Robles Silva

1699 - 1700

Gaspar de Arredondo y Valle

Second term.

1700 - 1703

Gabriel Gutierrez de Riva

Died 1703.


A minor attack by the English on the town of Arecibo is unsuccessful.


Diego Jimenez de Villaran

Acting governor (Jul-Oct).


Gaspar de Olivares

Mayor (October only).


Andres Montanez

Mayor (October only).

1703 - 1705

Francisco Sanchez Calderon

Acting governor.

1705 - 1706

Pedro de Arroyo Gurrero

Acting governor.

1706 - 1708

Juan Lopez de Morla

Acting governor.

1708 - 1711

Francisco Danio Granados

1711 - 1716

Juan de Rivera


Jose Francisco Carreno

Acting governor.

1716 - 1720

Alberto Bertodano

1720 - 1724

Francisco Danio Granados

Second term.


Antonio de Isasi

1724 - 1731

Jose Antonio de Mendizabal y Azcu

1731 - 1743

Matias de Abadia


Domingo Perez de Mandares

Acting governor (Jun-Oct).

1743 - 1750

Juan Jose Colomo


Agustin de Pareja

Died 1751.

1751 - 1753

Esteban Bravo de Rivero

Acting governor.

1753 - 1757

Felipe Ramirez de Estenos

1757 - 1759

Esteban Bravo de Rivero

Second term as acting governor.

1759 - 1760

Mateo de Guazo Calderon

Died 1760.


Esteban Bravo de Rivero

Third term as acting governor (Mar-Nov).

1760 - 1766

Ambrosio de Benavides

1766 - 1768

Marcos de Vergara

1768 - 1769

Jose Tentor

Acting governor.

1769 - 1776

Migul de Musas

1776 - 1783

Jose Dufresne

1783 - 1789

Juan Andres Daban y Busterino


Francisco Torralbo

Acting governor.

1789 - 1792

Migul Antonio de Ustariz

Died 1792.

1792 - 1794

Francisco Torralbo

Second term as acting governor.

1794 - 1795

Enriqu Grimarest

1795 - 1804

Ramon de Castro y Gutierrez


As part of the Napoleonic Wars, France and Spain declare war on Britain, so a British force of 7,000 troops and sixty-four ships under General Ralph Abercromby invades Puerto Rico, attempting to conquer the strategically important island. The captain general leads his forces in a successful defence.

Governor Ramon de Casto
Ramon de Castro y Gutierrez successfully defended Puerto Rico in 1797

1805 - 1809

Toribio de Montes

1809 - 1820

Salvador Melendez y Ruiz


Juan Vasco y Pascual


1820 - 1822

Gonzalo de Aristegui y Herrera

1820 - 1821

In 1820, a restoration of the Spanish Constitution of 1812 is achieved in Cuba, but the following year Spain loses vast sections of New Spain to revolution and newly independent states. Puerto Rico remains loyal.


Jose de Navarro

Acting governor (Feb-May).

1822 - 1823

Francisco Gonzalez de Linares

1823 - 1837

Migul Luciano de la Torre


Francisco Javier de Moreda y Prieto


1837 - 1840

Migul Lopez de Banos

1840 - 1844

Santiago Mendez de Vigo

1844 - 1847

Rafael de Aristegui y Velez

1847 - 1848

Juan Prim de Prats y Gonzalez

1848 - 1851

Juan de la Pezula y Cevallos

1851 - 1852

Enriqu de Espana y Taberner

1852 - 1855

Fernando de Norzagaray y Escudero


Andres Garcia Camba


1855 - 1857

Jose de Lemery Ibrarrola Ney

1857 - 1860

Fernando Cotoner y Chacon

1860 - 1861

Sabino Gamir Maladen

Acting governor.

1861 - 1862

Rafael Echague y Bermingham


Rafael Izquierdo y Gutierrez

Acting governor (Mar-Apr).

1862 - 1865

Felix Maria de Messina Iglesias

1865 - 1867

Jose Maria Marchesi y Oleaga

1867 - 1868

Julian Juan Pavia Lacy


Between 24 September until October the island is gripped by the Lares Rebellion, which declares Puerto Rico to be a republic. The rebellion is quickly suppressed.


Francisco Ramirez Medina

Rebel leader in Sep-Oct.

1868 - 1870

Jose Laureano Sanz y Posse

1870 - 1871

Gabriel Baldrich i Palau

1871 - 1872

Ramon Gomez Pulido


Simon de la Torre


1872 - 1873

Joaquin Enrile Hernan


Juan Martinez Plowes


1873 - 1874

Rafael Primo de Rivera y Sobremonte

1874 - 1875

Jose Laureano Sanz y Posse

Second term.

1875 - 1877

Segundo de la Portilla Gutierrez

1877 - 1878

Manul de la Serna Hernandez y Pinzon


Jose Gamir Maladen

Acting governor (Apr-Jun).

1878 - 1881

Eulogio Despujol y Dussay


President Buenaventura Baez of the Dominican Republic is deposed in yet another coup in the country and this time he is exiled to Puerto Rico where he lives out his few remaining years.

1881 - 1882

Segundo de la Portilla Gutierrez

Second term.

1882 - 1884

Migul de la Vega Inclan y Palma


Carlos Suances Campos

Acting governor (Jul-Sep).


Ramon Fajardo Izquierdo



Carlos Suances Campos

Second term as acting governor (Nov only).

1884 - 1887

Luis Daban y Ramirez de Arellano


Juan Contreras Martinez



Romualdo Palacios Gonzalez


1887 - 1888

Juan Contreras Martinez

Second term. Acting governor.

1888 - 1890

Pedro Ruiz Dana


Jose Pascual Bonanza

Acting governor.

1890 - 1893

Jose Lasso y Perez

1893 - 1895

Antonio Daban y Ramirez de Arellano

1895 - 1896

Jose Gamir


Emilio March

Acting governor.

Governor General of Puerto Rico
AD 1896 - 1898

In 1896-1897, autonomy was granted to the island in order to satisfy demands for greater freedom. This involved the establishment of local government and parliament which was headed by a governor general. Unfortunately the move was too late, and the changes lasted less than two years before Spain lost all control of its territories in the Americas.

1896 - 1898

Sabas Marin Gonzalez


Ricardo de Ortega y Diez

Acting governor (Jan only).


Andres Gonzalez Munoz

(11 Jan only). Died.


Ricardo de Ortega y Diez

Second term as acting governor (Jan-Feb).


Manul Macias Casado



Ricardo de Ortega y Diez

Third term as acting governor (14-18 Oct only).


Following a US invasion of Puerto Rico, Spain loses the Spanish-American War. With that it also loses much of the Spanish Caribbean, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Spanish East Indies (including Guam, the Marianna Islands, and the Philippines). Puerto Rico becomes an unincorporated territory of the USA.

US Marines land on Cuba in 1898
The first US naval attack on Puerto Rico as part of the Spanish-American War took place on 6-10 June 1898, during which US Marines also took Guantanamo Bay on Cuba

Modern Puerto Rico (Borinquen)
AD 1898 - Present Day

Together with Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, the island of Puerto Rico and several smaller islands which surround it form part of the Greater Antilles chain in the Caribbean. The capital is located at San Juan, which was founded by Spanish settlers in 1521. The country is neighboured by the British Virgin Islands, the Lesser Antilles, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and by the Dominican Republic to the west. The Caribbean Sea divides it from Venezuela to the south.

The modern state is called the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a self governing entity which is an unincorporated territory of the USA. The term 'territory' was used to describe thirty-one areas of North America which applied to become states between 1789-1959, such as Florida and Louisiana. Since 1898 and the Spanish-American War, the US has also administered unincorporated territories, these being overseas possessions which are under US jurisdiction but to which only selected parts of the US constitution are applied. The local name which is sometimes applied to the island, Borinquen, originates from the native Taino name of Boriken.

When originally conquered from Spain by the USA in the 1898 war, the US appointed its own governors to administer the island under military rule until 1935. From 1900, the Foraker Act allotted Puerto Rico with some of the elements of democratic government.

(Additional information by Alvin J Martinez.)


Nelson Appleton Miles

First of several US military governors.


John Ruller Brooke

1898 - 1899

Guy Vernor Henry

1899 - 1900

George Whitefield Davis


After being administered by US military governors for two years, the Foraker Act gives Puerto Rico some of the elements of democratic government, including a US-style House of Representatives. The judicial effect also follows US practice.

Puerto Rico in 1900
The Puerto Rico of the early twentieth century was still largely centred around an agrarian economy, although this gradually changed after the Second World War as the US drove development and industrialisation on the island

1900 - 1901

Charles Herbert Allen

First US civilian governor.

1901 - 1904

William Henry Hunt

1904 - 1907

Beekman Winthrop

1907 - 1909

Regis Henry Prost

1909 - 1913

George Radcliffe Colton

1913 - 1921

Arthur Yager


The House of Delegates votes unanimously in favour of independence from the USA, but this is rejected by the US Congress as being unconstitutional and in violation of the Foraker Act of 1900.

1917 - 1918

Puerto Rico plays its own role as an ally of the USA during the First World War against Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire. Also in 1917, the country's populace gain US citizenship under the Jones-Shafroth Act.


Jose E Benedicto

Acting governor (May only).

1921 - 1923

Emmet Montgomery Reily


Juan Bernardo Huyke

Acting governor (Mar-Apr).

1923 - 1929

Horace Mann Towner


James R Beverly

Acting governor.

1929 - 1932

Theodore Roosevelt

Son of US President Roosevelt.

1932 - 1933

James R Beverly

Second term as acting governor.

1933 - 1934

Robert Hayes Gore


Benjamin Jason Horton

Acting governor (Jan-Feb).

1934 - 1939

Blanton C Winship


In the past few years several calls have been made in support of independence from the USA. Now the political party of Albizu Campos organised a protest in which numerous people in Ponce are killed by police. The country's 'Insular Police', a form of reservist army, opens fire on cadets and bystanders alike, despite their being unarmed. The attack is investigated by the US Hays Commission and is declared to be a massacre and 'police mob action' (it becomes known to history as the Ponce Massacre).


Jose E Colon

Acting governor (Jun-Sep).

1939 - 1940

William D Leahy

1940 - 1941

Jose Migul Gallardo

Acting governor.


Guy J Swope

Acting governor (Feb-Jul).


Jose Migul Gallardo

Second term as acting governor (Jul-Sep).

1941 - 1946

Rexford Guy Tugwell

1941 - 1945

Puerto Rico joins the Second World War in association with the USA and as an ally of Great Britain on 8 December 1941, against Japan, Germany and Italy.


In the aftermath of the Ponce Massacre, a bill is introduced to the US Congress on 2 April 1943 calling for independence for Puerto Rico. Ultimately the bill is defeated.

1946 - 1949

Jesus Toribio Pinero

1947 - 1948

The US grants Puerto Ricans the right to democratically elect their own governor, which they do so the following year. Luis Munoz Marin is the first victorious incumbent.

1949 - 1965

Jose Luis Alberto Munoz Marin

First democratically-elected Puerto Rican governor.


Demands for change by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party result in a three-day revolt known as the Jayuya Uprising which begins on 30 October. Martial law is declared by the US authorities and the military is sent in to pacify the town. At the end of the revolt, two nationalists attempt to assassinate the US president, Harry Truman. One is killed, the other is taken alive.

Jayuya Uprising
The Jayuya Uprising lasted for three day from 30 October 1950


Following a request by the USA, a local constitution is approved for Puerto Rico on 25 July.