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Juan Cruz-Barrios



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The Steps of Settlement in Puerto Rico
The experiment of Hispaniola served as experience for the colonization and conquering of other regions. The interest in permanently populating the Antilles and achieving the maximum benefit of human and material resources was the bases for the Spanish establishment in Puerto Rico.

From the beginning, we need to distinguish between the three occurrences in this process: exploration, colonization, and conquest. In general, an area was explored as a matter of investigation, and although the area could be occupied in the name of the Spanish crown, there was no predetermination to settle or dominate an indigenous population. On occasion products and symbols were exchanged without involving the establishment of a lengthy relationship with the inhabitants.

However, on other occasions, there was the intention of organizing stable communities with political, economical, and social institutions similar to Spanish metropolitan areas, which would respond to the needs of the Trans-Atlantic settlers. It is these settlers that would exploit the land and precious metal mines for their own enrichment. This process of transplanting this original way of life to the new region is known as colonization.

In order to establish control over lands previously occupied and to obtain its resources, such as mining and agriculture, an abundant labor force would be required. Therefore, a process of conquest over the indigenous population would be required. Any protest forthcoming, would be overcome with force. Once defeated militarily, forced labor would be obligatory. The objective would be to transform the manner of thinking in order to make the natives obedient to the Spaniard’s aspirations and needs. As a result of successfully carrying out this complex process, Spanish control and authority in America expanded rapidly.

Exploration and Initiatives of the Colonization
Although in 1505 the Spanish crown considered Vincente Yáňez Pinzón for the mission of colonizing the island, it wasn’t until 1508 that under a new grant, Juan Ponce de León formally initiated the activities of colonization. In several royal grants, considered to be rewards or compensation for commendable service, the vast interest in the permanent occupation can be seen, such as the emphasis on personal initiative, however, always under the control and sovereignty of the Spanish crown. For example, Yáňez Pinzón was compensated the same as Ponce de León, for his participation in the Spanish conquest and exploration of other areas. This new method of recompense tended to directly regulate life in the newly explored territories.

In light of the fact that the first officially signed accords with Juan Ponce de León weren’t conserved regarding the exploration of Puerto Rico, we are able to examine those given to Yáňez Pinzón. In his case, he was authorized to populate the Island of San Juan (known today as Puerto Rico) with the greatest number of inhabitants possible, both married and unmarried, to come and work without being paid a salary. He was instructed to organize from one to four towns, each comprised of fifty to sixty residents, and to parcel out horses, lands, and lumber among other things in the same manner that had been established in Hispaniola. The land nevertheless, would be property of the Crown because it was granted for use without ownership. In addition, if any person wanted to return to Spain before five years, they could not sell what had been received as allocated goods and the Crown remained at liberty to assign the distribution in question to another person. Further, it was conveyed that the conquistador had the obligation of constructing a defensive fort at his expense. Thus, it is the conquistador on the basis of his individual character, who was responsible for the actual cost of colonization, while the Spanish crown maintained its regulatory power over him. The economic relationships were also clearly established. The Crown had to be paid 10% of all that was cultivated and all commercial goods on the Island and a fifth of the gold and other metals excavated. Nevertheless, the state preserved its authority over the administration of civil and criminal justice affairs.

Since Yáňez Pinzón was not transferred to Puerto Rico within the two years stipulated by the agreement, Juan Ponce de León was given the authority to go to the Island. Ponce de León had participated, together with Nicolás de Ovando, who was the governor general of the Indies, in the conquest of Hispaniola. Nicolas de Ovando commissioned Ponce de León to organize an expedition to Puerto Rico in the name of the king. Although the Spanish population on Hispaniola was not abundant, Ponce de León was able to gather forty-two recruits to carry out his commission of exploration to the neighboring island, which Christopher Columbus had baptized with the name of San Juan.

On 8/12/1508, Juan Ponce de León arrived in the territory of the cacique Agueybana, in the vicinity of the port of Guánica. According to the chronicler Gonzalo Fernádez de Oviedo in his writings General History and Nature of the Indies, this first encounter of Spaniards and natives in the lands of the Island of San Juan was passive. The natives feasted and offered the Spaniards the products they used in their daily existence. Meanwhile, they exchanged names, according to Taino custom as a sign of friendship.

Afterwards, Ponce de León explored the northern part of the island, arriving near to what today is known as the bay of San Juan. In relationship to his first journey to San Juan, Ponce de León said that after exploring the region he constructed a grand bohio, roads, and a seaport. However, the severity of the times and the humid climate forced him to move inland, to a place where the ruins of Caparra now actually stand. His first activities consisted of building a stone house and searching for gold extraction, which was very much in line with the intentions the Crown had established for the colonization of the islands located in the northern Caribbean Ocean, primarily comprised of the Greater Antilles, Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic), Jamaica, and Puerto Rico.

There are no details available as to armed conflicts between the Tainos and Spaniards, regarding their initial contacts. However, this peacefulness failed to last very long. It didn’t take long for Ponce de León to begin complaining that the conditions were inappropriate for colonization, in that they were suffering from hunger and a lack of manpower. Upon returning to Santo Domingo in 1509, he asked for modification of the existing contract terms in order to facilitate the colonization of Puerto Rico.

The Legal Basis for Colonization
The modified agreement permitted Ponce de León to continue the colonization under improved terms as follows: 1) permission to make use of the indigenous labor for agriculture and mining; 2) the authorization to seize some of the harvest produced by the indigenous population; 3) the participation of royal officials and other persons designated by Ponce de León in the extraction of gold from the mines, as agreed that a fifth of the gold is paid to the Crown; 4) the transport from Hispaniola of the families of some inhabitants, provisions and animals, as well as the shipment of a friar to administer the sacraments to the colonists and to baptize the indigenous natives; 5) and finally, to officially give the name of Caparra to this new foundation. Additionally, from these concessions, Juan Ponce de León obtained the personal benefit that of the extracted gold from the mines, he could divide it into two parts: one part for himself and the other for the king, although the exception was known that a fifth of the gold was owed to the king. The royal contracts also reflected the preoccupation of affirming its imperial authority on the Island. As such, for example, not only was the payment of a fifth of the gold required, but also the creation of a harvest for the king.

Given the royal contracts, Ponce de León headed for Puerto Rico as lieutenant governor, that is to say, subordinate to the governor of Hispaniola, with the power to attend to the defense of the territory. The administration of the colony marched on without major obstacles until the son of Christopher Columbus, Diego, having restored in the Court the rights inherited from his father, except the charge of viceroy, arrived to Hispaniola as the governor of the Indies. The Crown had recommended that the new governor respect the royal agreements granted Ponce de León and to offer him the necessary assistance to continue with the colonization of the Island. But Diego Colón, upon organizing the government of Hispaniola, failed to follow the royal instructions made new administrative appointments for San Juan. In this manner, Juan Ponce de León had to concede command to Juan Cerón as the commanding mayor and his brother Martin as the constable. This obligation by the Cerón brothers, however did not last long. Martin was quickly replaced by Miguel Diaz. A royal document also arrived on the same boat that transported Diaz t the Island, which confirmed Ponce de León with the title of Captain-Governor and gave him jurisdiction over all matters of civil and criminal justice and the authority to name the mayor and constable. As such, Ponce de León acquired the political administrative power necessary to immediately depose Cerón and Diaz and shipped them back to Spain as prisoners.

People from Hispaniola and Spain gradually began arriving to populate and establish themselves in Puerto Rico. Ponce de León was ordered to parcel out land and distribute natives among the Spaniards and commence with the mining of gold, cattle rearing, and the planting of some crops. Among those coming to the Island, was Cristóbal de Sotomayor, a nobleman, who brought along natives and merchandise from the neighboring Island. He was named the commanding mayor, with jurisdiction over the cacique Agueybana de Guanica. The small town of Tavara was established in the proximity of Guanica, where according to Oviedo there was a bay “believed to be one of the best in the world: five rivers of gold were discovered there”. The environmental conditions did not work out favorably there, so therefore, they moved further to the north on the west coast and organized the Villa de Sotomayor. Although the exact location of this town is debated, further investigations apparently indicate that it was located on the coast near the Aňasco river outlet. Thus in 1511, there were two Spanish towns: Caparra, dominating the eastern side, and the Villa de Sotomayor on the western side. The indigenous natives for there part, as has been indicated in the last chapter, lived in the yucayeques, throughout the length of the Island, each one governed by a cacique.

Some historians have signified that the American conquest also had three phases: the military conquest, the conquest of labor, and the ideological conquest. In Puerto Rico these phases occurred simultaneously. The military and labor conquest was interrelated. The fact that the initial contact was friendly does not signify that the indigenous community passively accepted the rupture of their society. In reality, it was the intention of subjugating the indigenous labor force that created a rebellion by the inhabitants of Puerto Rico which was suppressed by the Spaniards, who with their technological advantage were able to dominate the Tainos.

The Labor Conquest
On September of 1509, King Fernando el Catolico authorized Juan Ponce de León to give to the royal officials100 indigenous natives, along with the accustomed estates and lands granted in such cases. Some days later he was ordered to give a housing neighborhood to 30 persons, along with land grants and a distribution of natives. In the same manner, upon obtaining power, Juan Cerón had provided a new distribution of natives and lands, which were modified by Ponce de León upon being named captain on March of 1510. What reasons justified the ability of the Spaniards to take the natives under their tutelage and make them work?

As has been noted before, initially the natives were enslaved, with many of them carried off to Spain. However, theologians and letrados (university graduates with advanced degrees in theology or law) supported the notion that the natives could only have been slaves given that “the unfaithful were to be made prisoners in a justified war and the passive inhabitants of the new world should be free subjects of the Spanish kings”. The question then emerges as to when and how is a war justified. To this effect, in 1513 a required edict (requerimiento) was put in writing and read to the natives by an interpreter, in which after giving some explanations about the creation of the world and the power of the Spanish Crown, the natives were extorted to submit to the kings and adopt themselves to Christianity. If they failed to submit, they were subjected to war and slavery. Many indigenous natives were enslaved using this mechanism, especially those that did not submit passively or those already haven submitted then rebelled. For example, close to Puerto Rico many Caribe Indians were being enslaved, because as fierce warriors, they didn’t passively accept the Spaniards. In 1511, in the face of the resistance of the Caribe Indians, the Crown gave permission to wage war and convert them into slaves. There are notes from various expeditions forged against the Caribe Indians, indicating that they were captured and transported to Puerto Rico and forced to work. Similarly, many of those that rebelled in Puerto Rico were also enslaved. Afterwards, the Crown attempted to limit slavery and consistently encouraged good treatment regarding the natives. Nevertheless, such a practice demonstrated the difficulty in reconciling the interest of the colonists to use the natives for work purposes with the assurance of the protective laws desired by the Crown. As such, the politics of the Crown dealing with the indigenous problem would wander back and forth. In one way, it wanted to maintain the liberty of the indigenous natives, while in another way it felt the pressures of the colonists for guarantees as to the provision of an abundant and stable work force. For this reason, between 1500, the indigenous natives were legally recognized for the first time as free subjects of Spain, and 1542, in which new laws requested for are adopted, resulting in an abundance of legislation regulating obligatory work, leading to practices of multiple abuses. Two systems of obligatory work were developed: the repartimiento and the encomienda.

In 1503, Queen Isabel had established that the indigenous natives had to work for the Spaniards. The caciques were ordered to place a number of their natives under the supervision of the Spaniards, obligated to work as deemed necessary. It was also indicated, that the natives were obligated to work as free subjects and not subjected to servitude, expected to get paid a salary and nourishment. This system was known as a repartimiento de Indios (native redistribution policy). Notice that only the labor of the natives is awarded, not the natives themselves. These natives would continue living in their communities under the direction of their caciques, although they were obligated to work for the Spaniards. In addition, this system was used to compensate government officials for their services to the Crown. For example, in 1510, the King grave the royal secretary Lope Conchillos “the honor of being named the…founder of the island of San Juan and give him a good cacique with his naborias”. This cacique was known as Aracibo and the Puerto Rican territory of Arecibo was named after him.

The system of encomienda existed together with the redistributions of Indians. Part of the Spanish mission was to Christianize the inhabitants, so a group of natives were commissioned to a land owning Spaniard, who would take on the charge of watching over them and teaching them the Christian faith. This commissioning of indigenous natives was known as the encomienda. The number of natives in each encomienda could fluctuate between 30 and 300 individuals. Although originally the encomienda was not part of the labor system, in its practice it was confused with the repartimiento, since the indigenous natives commissioned were being put to work. Under this system infamous abuses were committed which were criticized severely by various personalities of the era. The chronicler Friar Bartolomé de Las Casas, in his History of the Indies, comments that “in reality natives were never given to the Spaniards to be taught, instead to use them and their sweat and suffering and to take advantage of their labor”.

As a member of the religious order of dominicans, Las Casas stood out as one of the defenders of the conditions of the indigenous natives. This religious order had established a convent on Hispaniola in 1510, repeatedly condemning the conduct of those abusing the system of encomienda on the Island, particularly against one of the more valiant preachers, friar Antonio de Montesinos. This caused an enormous disturbance in the colony, and resulted in representatives from both parties being transported to Spain in order to explain their respective positions before the King. As a consequence, a board was created in the city of Burgos, comprised of religious authorities and representatives of Hispaniola. The extensive discussions and debates of the board resulted in the approval of the Laws of Burgos of 1512. These laws were aimed at regulating the relationships between the Spaniards and the indigenous natives, establishing some principles which remained in force for three centuries.

Although the liberty of the natives was acknowledged, the encomiendas were not eliminated, but instead specific directives were offered to facilitate the relationship between those in charge of the encomiendas and the entrusted natives. Those in charge had various obligations: construct a house which at times would also serve as a church; meet there with the natives to pray in the morning and in the evening; attend to the instruction in the Christian religion and the corresponding articles of faith; make sure all newborns are baptized within eight days following their birth; take charge of providing Christian burials for the deceased; and make the indigenous natives particularly able and all the children of the caciques, learn to read and write, so they can teach others. They were also obligated to see that native bachelors getting married did so in accordance to Christian customs, and with the woman dressed appropriately. Each native was to receive an adequate nutritional diet and to be paid one dollar in gold each year to buy clothing. Natives proven to have converted to good Christians, capable of governing themselves, would be liberated to live in their own village.

The Laws of Burgos however, served to maintain the system of labor intact, without change. At least a third of the natives had to be on hand to work in the mines, with the rest dedicated to other work, such as agriculture. They were not asked to work excessive hours, nor were pregnant women obligated to labor in the mines. In order to supervise the relationships with the natives, the post of Visitor was created. In practice, for most part, these laws shaped the politics of the governor regarding the compliance of the habitants as a resource of manpower.

In addition to repartimiento, other forms of personal service were in existence. Many of the conquistadors took on indigenous natives for domestic jobs. Since the very beginning of the colonization of Puerto Rico, there are notes that indicate that Juan Ponce de León requested “Indians and noborias” from the caciques near the area of Caparrra. As per the documents of the era we know that this institution was different then the repartimiento, since occasionally Ponce de León was instructed to provide officials with Indians and noborias. For example, in January 4, 1511 the King’s secretary, Conchillos ordered governor Ponce de León to give Diego González de Malpartida “fifty Indians and another twenty noborias” at the port of Caparra. The fact that Indians and noborias were noted separately appears to reflect that they are distinct classifications. Although noborias were not slaves, their condition was deplorable, having to serve the Spaniards without compensation. Many abuses were committed under this system, since on occasion some were sold as if they were slaves while others were prohibited from changing property owners. The Spanish Crown unsuccessfully tried to regulate this situation by prohibiting the sale of natives and emphasized their right to be able to freely select their proprietor. Beyond the repartimiento, noborias and indigenous natives were authorized to work on public works such as roads, bridges, and piers.

The perception of the indigenous natives’ obligated manual labor was converted into something that was viewed as a normal and commonly excepted way of life. By now, out in the mines, in the fields, in the Spanish colonies and in the public works, the natives had to render their services to the towns dominating them. Little-by-little they felt obligated to abandon their families, communities, and cultivated areas.

The Military Conquest
While the indigenous natives had welcomed the earliest Spanish conquistadors submissively, they did not accept their intent to transform them into a submissive work force in a similar way. The first distribution of Indians caused a profound unrest which eventually pushed them into the rebellion of 1511.

The first demonstration of indigenous discontent was manifested at the end of November in 1510. The Spaniard Diego Salcedo, when traveling through the Villa de Sotomayor, asked the cacique Urayoán to provide some natives to transport him across the river Guaorabo so he wouldn’t get wet. During the crossing, the Indians picked him up, but on reaching the middle of the river, they let him fall and held him under the water until he drowned.

Unfortunately, there is no written account by the indigenous Indians as to this incident. The version of what transpired comes to us through the interpretation of the Spanish chroniclers, whom believed the purpose of this incident was to test the mortality of the Spaniards, since the Indians perceived them to be Gods. The significance of this event is that afterwards there was no divine deterrent to the war. From then on the conflicts between the Indians and the Spaniards escalated. Close to the region of Aymaco (Aguadilla) a group of Indians captured the young Spaniard Diego Suárez. They took him before the cacique Aymamón, who according to the chronicler Oviedo, offered him up as a trophy in a ball game. Since the Spaniards were friendly with some of the Indians, Diego Suárez was lucky to have been accompanied by an indigenous child who went to the Spanish captain Diego de Salazar. Salazar surprised the Indians, overpowered Aymamón, and liberated Suárez. The superiority of the Spanish weapons began to yield results, being that Salazar defeated Aymamón with one stroke of his sword. Once defeated, the cacique took on the name of Salazar, believing that this would transmit the Spaniard’s qualities to himself. Salazar did not waste one moment in recognizing Spanish superiority. He accepted that Aymamón would take on his name as long as he agreed to be baptized in the catholic faith. This entire incident not only illustrates the military conquest, but also the ideology, which will be discussed further on. In this matter, Salazar imposed his armaments as much as he did his beliefs.

At the start of 1511 the indigenous natives, under the direction of Agueybana II, planed an attack against the Villa de Sotomayor. While the cacique Agueybana I lived, as the principal chief upon the arrival of Ponce de León, relationships were cordial between the indigenous natives and the Spaniards. Upon the death of Agueybana I, he was succeeded by his nephew Agueybana II, who had been assigned to Cristobal de Sotomayor. Having personally suffered the abuses of the work system imposed by the Spaniards, Agueybana II initiated an armed military campaign. He summoned the island caciques to an areyto, in which an attack against the Spaniards was agreed to. However, the attitude of the chiefs was divided. Some caciques, such as those from the Otuao and Caguax in the Turabo region, felt sympathetic toward the Spaniards, while others, led by Agueybana II, Guarionex and Mabodomoca, actively resisted the conquest.

Unfortunately for the indigenous natives, the Spaniard Juan González, who knew the indigenous language, had been present at the areyto. He ran to inform Sotomayor who at the time was at his dwelling, a long distance from the village. Prior to the threat of the indigenous attack, Sotomayor decided to return to the village to plan and prepare his defense. However, he made the error of asking Agueybana II to provide him with some natives to carry equipment. Upon realizing Sotomayor’s plan, Agueybana decided to attack the group on the way to the village. All the Spaniards were killed except Juan González, who in spite of being badly wounded, as the story goes, crossed a (mountain) range to warn Ponce de León.

Meanwhile, the indigenous natives continued with their plan. The cacique Guarionex, of the Otuao region, attacked the village of Sotomayor. Many Spaniards died and the village was destroyed as the result of the attack. The Spanish retreat to Caparra was organized by Diego de Salazar, who feared the Indians. Following this incident the indigenous uprising became common practice. Generally speaking, the natives struggled to defend their territories and liberate themselves throughout the entire island.

The Spaniards, led by Ponce de León, set out across the mountain range (la cordillera) in the direction of the territory controlled by Agueybana II, in order to attempt to prevent an attack against Caparra. The first encounter occurred in the valley of Coayuco. Ponce de León surprised Agueybana by attacking his village, where they had been celebrating the recent victory over Sotomayor and his forces. The Spanish swords and lances managed to kill many natives. The Spaniards then quickly withdrew to Caparra. Since the indigenous combatants continued, Ponce de León prepared for another attack against Agueybana in the region of Yagűeca (Mayagűez-Aňasco). Salazar and Mabodomoca confronted each other here, and in this encounter the indigenous natives once again were defeated. Still remaining in the region of Yagűeca, Ponce de León was informed that Agueybana II was coming to battle him. The Spaniards took up strategic positions from where they released the weapons they had: one firearm (Arcabuz) and three crossbows (ballesta).

This was the definitive defeat, given that the principal chief Agueybana II was slain. After defeating the indigenous natives, Ponce de León withdrew to Caparra, where he offered pardons to the caciques whom made peace with the Spaniards, but continued pursuing the rebels. It was Ponce de León the victor, who from a position of superiority, was disposed to continue the other phases of the conquest.

The cacique of Caguas who in due course would be known as don Alonso, along with another cacique from the Otuao zone, were the only ones to accept Ponce de León’s proposal. A substantial part of the other chiefs retracted to the mountain range of Luquillo and sporadically attacked the Spaniards. Others immigrated to neighboring islands, from where attacks could be launched against the Puerto Rican coastline.

Notice in this confrontation how the level of technological development and organization of the Spaniards was superior. They dominated with the use of firearms and horses, and the execution of a centralized, political-military organization which they could depend on to make rapid decisions. Furthermore, they had in their favor, an attitude of ethnic and religious superiority from which they treated the indigenous culture and their beliefs with contempt. All of these elements contributed to the Spanish victory, while the indigenous population counted on the superiority of their numbers.

In order to prevent future uprisings, an order was issued for the transport of 40 to 50 indigenous natives as slaves to Hispaniola in 1511, to serve as an example in inducing the natives to avoid future rebellions. Not withstanding, this was not a common occurrence, since the politics which the Crown had established was the ideological submission of the indigenous populace not slavery.

The Ideological Conquest
In a royal decree announced in 1511, king Fernado expresses his understanding of the immediate proposal for the colonization of Puerto Rico is: to populate, to ennoble, to grow and appease. For this reason, although the King considered that the indigenous traitors deserved punishment, he preferred that they be used for the benefit of the Spaniards, “by intimidating and diminishing them to our service”.

Defeated in war, it was necessary to convert the natives to the language, religion, and the values of the dominant society. In the instructions for colonization, the Crown exhorted the settlers to take care in the good treatment of the natives and to instruct them in the catholic faith.

The missions of Christianizing and educating were mixed from the beginning. It has already been noted that in the primary reporting regarding the exploration of Puerto Rico, Ponce de León requested the clergy for the Christianizing of the indigenous natives as much as for the religious necessities of the Spaniards. It is indicated in the second capitulations of 1509, a friar would be coming to Puerto Rico to baptize converts to Christianity. A church was constructed as soon as edification commenced in the community of Caparra.

In defining the responsibilities of the encomenderos (Those responsible for converting and educating the natives assigned to them), indicated in the Laws of Burgos, specifically included was the obligation to build a place liken to a church for the natives to pray in and to receive the holy sacraments. In line with this there is in existence indications that chapels were constructed in the ranches and plantations. Also mentioned were unspecified laws related to teaching the children of the caciques to read and write. The institution of marriage was also imposed according to Spanish tradition, along with attempts at gradually changing indigenous habits of dress and diet. In this way, little-by-little, the manner in which the Spaniards thought began to be incorporated into the indigenous way of thinking.

Although there are discrepancies between historians as to when the first priests actually reached Puerto Rico and what were their first actions, it is believed that possibly beginning in 1509, there were monks here being paid by the Spanish colonists. Ponce de León himself mentioned the obligation of the settlers as it related to paying for the needs of the monks, by asking that contributions come from the tithe (church contribution equal to a tenth of one's income) for this end. The frequent references to religious acts conducted confirm the presence of a priest since the commencement of the colonization.

In tune with the interest of the Crown that the indigenous natives get Christianized, so they would be better subjects, in 1511 king Fernando ordered that the Franciscans create a convent, where the children of the principal caciques would be housed and indoctrinated for a period of four years. Therefore, these children, known as indoctrinated Indians, would return “to whom they were assigned to, so they would indoctrinate the other Indians, better than us”.

One year later the King gave permission for forty friars of the religious order mentioned to be transferred to Hispaniola and San Juan. The royal bill of exchange indicated that payment would be made for passage and other expenses, such as clothing, missals, holy images, farm instruments and utensils, since the intention of the friars to preach among the indigenous natives was, according to the King, admirable. In this matter, the representatives of the Catholic Church placed themselves at the service of the Crown, as much as in the pacification of the natives, in the indoctrination duties and confronting the abuses committed by the conquistadors.

In 1511 the Dioceses of San Juan was created, naming Alonso Manso as the first bishop, who arrived in Puerto Rico on June 1513. The bishopric of San Juan was created by a papal bull (charter issued by the pope) of July 11 in order to “preach the holy Gospel and to teach the unbelievers, and convert them with kind words to worship the Catholic faith; and once converted instruct them in the Christian religion”. Provisions were also made to construct churches and organize parochially.

Along with the job of funding churches and parishes, the task of educating was also integrated with these objectives. Studies regarding this aspect however, are rare. Although the existence of other examples is suspected, we have specific information of three places where it appears that attempts at educating natives actually occurred: 1) the Island of La Mona, when in 1548 there was talk of “a poor church, but well decorated”; 2) the country house of Toa, since it was directly supervised by the Crown, and watched over not only for “its maintenance and décor”, but for its religiosity as well, and 3) the plantations of Bayamon.

In accordance with the Laws of Burgos, as 1520 came to an end, villages populated by Indians, were created under the direction of caciques. These villages should not be confused with the towns in existence now. They were villages of bohios adjacent to lands being farmed. The Spaniards were showing the natives how to till the land and raise livestock. They were also provided with religious instruction. This new politics followed the directives already formulated in the Royal Provisions of 1513 over the ordinances for the Indians of San Juan, in that it was signaled that with the passage of time, the indigenous would sufficiently learn from the Spaniards to be Christians and to govern themselves and then be permitted to live alone. This political perspective demonstrated the Spanish ethnocentric attitude, in thinking that their culture was superior, thus interested in pacifying the indigenous natives in order to subjugate them and control their labor.

Nevertheless, this phase of the conquest in Puerto Rico failed to obtain the success achieved in other areas of the Americas where it was able to incorporate large masses of indigenous natives into the life of the colony. In Puerto Rico the mistreatment and the abuses, the physical displacement, the diseases and the mixing of races, had rapidly reduced the indigenous population. However, the references as to the indigenous natives in the census of the 18th century and their great number of words and symbols which we still conserve, makes us think that in reality the indigenous community had not totally extinguished itself by the decade of 1530, in the way that some pretended, but rather they had mixed with the Spaniards and gradually acquired the Spanish culture.