Puerto Rico is a small island located in the northeast Caribbean sea about 1,000 miles south of Miami, Florida. Colonized by the Spanish, its name means “Rich Port,” most likely due to the abundance of natural resources found there. The interesting thing about Puerto Rico is that it is not a country, but is actually an unincorporated territory of the United States. Puerto Ricans are born as American citizens, with almost all the rights that all Americans have.
In 1493, Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Rico, which was originally inhabited by the Taíno people. The island then spent the next 400 years under Spanish control. In 1898, after the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico was acquired by the United States as part of the Treaty of Paris. The history of Puerto Rico has shaped the culture to what it is today. It is easy to see how the history has influenced the music, dance, architecture, and cuisine of Puerto Rico, but perhaps the two most important aspects of their culture are from the Spanish.
Firstly, the language. Although Puerto Rico recognizes two main languages, English and Spanish, Spanish is spoken almost exclusively in the home and less than 20% speak English as a second language. Puerto Ricans, greatly influenced by their history have developed a distinct way of speaking Spanish. They have integrated thousands of Taíno words, pronunciation habits from African dialects, and English words or phrases (known as “Spanglish”) into the language.
Secondly, for many Puerto Ricans, “to be Puerto Rican is to be Catholic.” 56% of the population still claim to be Catholic. The Catholic Church, brought to the island soon after Columbus arrived, has been the predominant religion for most of the last 500 years. Under Spanish rule it was illegal to be Protestant or to preach against the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Because of this, there was very little Christian influence outside of the Catholic Church until 1874 when the Anglican Church was established . Today, non-Catholic Christians make up 33% of the population ,with 78% claiming Pentecostal church attendance.
In 1901, Evangelicals made up less than .1% of the population but have steadily grown over the last 100 years to over 25%. In recent years, however, the growth of church attendance has plateaued. There are very few churches being planted in recent years, and the existing churches are not evangelizing like they did before. Also, current churches are not contributing towards helping social issues such as poverty and poor healthcare. And, like most countries in Latin America, irreligion is steadily growing, with 8% now claiming no religion.
With atheism and irreligion growing, and the need for help in social issues, there is a growing need for gospel-preaching churches on the Island of Puerto Rico. Would you pray for Puerto Rico? Pray that the Lord might raise up workers to work in the harvest of Puerto Rico.