Puerto Rico


The coat of arms of Puerto Rico is the oldest in its native symbols. Among the national coats of arms in the Americas, it is also the one that has had official validity for the longest time. At the request of the neighbors of the village of Caparra –first settlement in Puerto Rico—the monarchs Don Fernando II of Aragon –the Catholic, regent of Castile—and his daughter Doña Juana, sovereign of the same kingdom, granted the Island its coat of arms 8 November 1511. At its center stands out the heraldry’s main figure: A silver Lamb, sitting on a red book and sustaining a flag –also silver—intersected by a red cross. The Lamb –also known as the Lamb of God or Easter Lamb, symbolizes Saint John the Baptist, the Precursor of the Lord. It was he who announced Christ's presence among his people by exclaiming: «Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world». The Lamb was chosen as the main figure in the coat of arms to remind and reaffirm Saint John the Baptist’s name, after which the discoverer of the Island, Christopher Columbus, named it. The Lamb is also one of oldest symbols of Christ the Redeemer. The field or green background of the escutcheon is surrounded by the heraldic emblems of the kingdoms on which Don Fernando and Doña Juana exercised their sovereignty or alleged to have domain titles. These emblems form the heraldic piece known as bordure. The order in which the emblems appear in it is as follows: 1. Heraldry of Castile: Against a red background, a golden three-tower castle (the center tower bigger) with blue doors and windows. 2. Heraldry of León: Against a silver background, a violet-colored, gold-crowned rampant lion (i.e., standing or raised with extended paws). 3. Flag with the heraldries of Aragón and Sicily: The first one consists of four vertical red stripes on a golden background, and the second, four-triangled, two of which triangles bear the same escutcheon of Aragón and the other two (those on the sides), the old heraldry of Sicily, i.e., against a silver background, a gold-crowned black eagle, with red beak and claws. 4. Heraldry of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, whose description is as follows: In a silver field, a golden tau cross (i.e., a T-shaped cross), accompanied in each one of its angles by a simple, also golden, small cross. To the sides of the escutcheon there are (one on each side) the personal emblems of the Catholic monarchs, Fernando and Isabel. These are a gold-crowned “F” on a yoke; and a “Y”, also golden and crowned, on a sheaf of arrows. It must be borne in mind that, by the time in which the heraldry was granted, Isabel was spelled with an initial “Y”. Both the yoke and the arrows are hieroglyphics (ancient scriptures in which words were represented by symbols or figures), signifying the wedlock of the Catholic monarchs and, in turn, that of the kingdoms that, by virtue of their marriage, they united under their crowns. The word yoke (yugo) also refers –because of its initial—to the name Ysabel; whereas the word arrows (flechas), also because of its initial, refers to the name Fernando. The presence of the “F” and of the “Y”, with their respective emblems, in the escutcheon, recalls –according to royal concession documents—that Puerto Rico was discovered during the reign of these monarchs. On the heraldry rests a royal crown, uncovered the medieval way. The crown is an symbol of sovereignty. Under the escutcheon, on a flying ribbon, should appear the motto, but because the original drawing of the heraldry it was painted on was lost, it is not known. Since 1905, replacing the motto, the sentence «Joannes est nomen ejus», taken from Saint Luke's Gospel (1:63), and that, translated to English, means: «John (Juan) is his name».

National Anthem

La BorinqueñaThe earth of Borinquen where I’ve been born. Is a garden full of flowers of magical splendor. An ever-clear sky serves her as baldachin. And peacefully the waveslull at her feet. When her beaches Columbus reachedIn admiration he exclaimed: Oh! Oh! Oh! This is the lovely land That I’ve been looking for. Borinquen the daughter, the daughter of the Sea and the sun. of the Sea and the Sun, of the Sea and the Sun, of the Sea and the Sun, of the Sea and the Sun! «The land of Borinquen where I’ve been born is a garden full of flowers of magical splendor.»... With these beautiful words, the first verse is sung of what is known as the Puerto Rican anthem: La Borinqueña. But the anthem was not sung originally this way; it was not even an anthem just as we know it today. There are different versions on who composed the original melody. We will speak of the three versions that exist on the origin of the Puerto Rican anthem. Francisco Ramírez, an amateur musician from San Germán, composed for his sweetheart a melody that he accompanied with the guitar. The song was greatly accepted and it soon became popular in parties and serenades. Ramírez met Spanish tenor Félix Astol Artés and struck up a friendship with him. When Astol heard the melody, he liked it a lot. As he knew music, he made the necessary arrangements, turning it into a danza. It was named La bella trigueña (The beautiful brunette girl). During this time, late 19th century, pro-independence sentiments grew in many Puerto Ricans, promoting the wish to fight against Spain. There was an atmosphere of revolution. In a musical soiree, San Germán’s poetess Lola Rodríguez de Tió heard the danza and she liked. Then she proceeded to write for it lyrics with verses in a revolutionary tone. These verses were subversive in the eyes of the authorities. Mrs. Lola Rodríguez de Tió’s lyrics became very popular and that primitive love song became a combat anthem. During this time, Puerto Rico was governed by General Laureano Sanz who, furious over what had happened with the danza, inquired about their author. Ramírez, fearful that he might be pursued and banished, denied having written it. He also surrendered Astol’s manuscript who, being Spanish, was safe from reprisals. The people of San Germán are convinced that Francisco Ramírez is the author of La Borinqueña. In this regard, 23 December 1945, the city place a memorial plaque at the site where there was Ramírez’s house had been, recognizing him as the author of La Borinqueña. According to several historians, the author of La Borinqueña was Spanish musician Félix Astol Artés (1813-1901), who lived in the town of Mayagüez. The words of the danza started as follows: «Beautiful brunette girlimage of the Borinquen garden’s naivety pure and fragrant flower» In a gathering at the place of journalist Bonocio Tió Segarra, his wife, poetess Lola Rodríguez de Tió, heard the danza. She found Astol’s song drab and improvised it some verses. These were not romantic, but revolutionary. The new lyrics won great popularity and the Spanish government prohibited it to be sung. In time, the romantic lyrics were used again and the melody started to be played at balls and social functions. Don Félix Astol Artés never belied those that said that he was not the author of La Borinqueña. Don Manuel Fernández Juncos, a Spaniard who was raised in Puerto Rico and loved it very much, wrote new lyrics for La Borinqueña. Those are the lyrics that we know today. There were attempts at creating other anthems that replaced La Borinqueña, but none succeeded. People identified with Fernández Juncos’ lyrics. For years, it was the Puerto Rican anthem was a danza, not a march. It was the anthem by wish of the people, who identified with it. In 1952, the Puerto Rico’s Legislative Assembly passed a law establishing La Borinqueña as the official anthem of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Don Ramón Collado made the necessary musical arrangement to turn the danza into a march. That march is the anthem that we know today. In 1977, the Legislative Chambers and the Governor approved as official lyrics of the anthem, those written by Manuel Fernández Juncos.

National Dance

The typical dance of Puerto Rico is the Plena. The rhythm of plenas has very strong African roots; they are a mixture of various cultures, influenced by music genres such as Taíno, jíbaro, danzas, and other European styles.

National Flora

Maga Flower (Thespecia grandiflora; Maga grandiflora; Montezuma) An evergreen tree – wild or grown—original of the humid calcareous forests of Puerto Rico. The Maga tree is broadly extended throughout the Island. It was introduced in several Caribbean countries and south Florida. It grows to be between 9 and 15 meters (30 to 50 feet) tall. The external bark of the Maga tree is thick and rough, with many deep grooves. It is a tree with a big trunk, heart-shaped leaves, slightly thick, flat edges; big, solitary, open, red-colored five-petal flowers. The Maga tree yields a round, sharp-tipped, green-colored fruit that can be fleshy or hard and does not open up when ripe. It yields flowers and fruit the whole year. Hard, heavy and durable wood that has been used to make furniture and musical instruments. It appears in almost every Puerto Rican public forest and is plentiful, especially in the municipalities of Morovis and Patillas . The Maga tree’s flower is the flower that symbolizes Puerto Rico.

National Animal

The coquí is without a doubt the king of the Puerto Rican fauna, not because of its rarity –it is plentiful everywhere—but because of the peculiarity of its croak, which makes it very popular. The coquí is a tree-frog that you can hear at night anywhere. It is called like this because its croak is a constant kaw-kee, kaw-kee... And in spite of its small size, its voice is strong and loud. During the day it remains silent in the foliage, but when the night comes, its croak begins. The coquí does not go through the tadpole stage but it develops directly in the egg. Most coquíes are brown-colored, although there is also a species that is green. They lose abundant water through the skin; therefore, they need to live in very humid places. Legend holds that the coquí only croaks in Puerto Rico and that it dies of sadness outside the island. When Puerto Ricans wants to express their nationality, they say “I’m as Puerto Rican as a coquí."

National Poet

Luis Llorens Torres, lawyer, political, and renowned poet. He wrote the “Canción de las Antillas” (Song of the Antilles). Juan Antonio Corretjer, national poet par excellence. His poetry is innate, it is product of its faith in Borinquen. His aesthetic work is the result of his dedication, in body and soul, to the cause of Puerto Rico and to updating those things that are indigenous of the island. He was born in Cuales, March 3, 1908. He is one of the most genuine and unique poetic voices produced by Puerto Rican poetry. The big themes of his poetry have been love, the homeland, the indigenous thing. His extensive literary work is compiled in several poem books, among which stand out: Agüeybana (1932), Ulises (1933), Amor de Puerto Rico (1937), Cántico de Guerra (1937), El leñero (1944), Los primeros años (1950), Tierra nativa (1951), Alabanza en la Torre de Cuales (1953), Don Diego en el cariño (1956). Others, like: Genio y figura (1961), Pausa para el amor (1967). Of his works in prose, we must mention the following: El buen borincano (1945), Llorens: juicio histórico (1945), La revolución de Lares (1947), Nuestra bandera (1947), Contestación al miedo (1954), Futuro sin falla (1963), Hostos y Albizu Campos (1965), among other works of significant literary excellence. His dedication to personal sacrifices for the independence of Puerto Rico makes him historical figure. His excellent poetic work ensures him an eternal place in Puerto Rican literary history as one of the most original poets.

National Sports

The national sport of Puerto Rico is baseball.The traditional Puerto Rican is an athlete by birth. The first athletes can be traced back to the time of the Taíno indians, who used to train using a special ball. Baseball was introduced officially in 1896. The first games took place in the Bases Redondas League. The first three teams were the Almendares, Borinquen and Habana. Entities like the Federación Deportiva del Norte, Liga Semi-Profesional, Circuito Superior de Béisbol Aficionado and the Liga Profesional, have sponsored amateur and professional tournaments. Major League baseball has had distinguished Puerto Rican representatives in its organization. Other sports are also practiced, such as: basketball, golf, surfing, marathon, tennis, swimming, skating, among others. As a baseball player, it is necessary to highlight the history of the great athlete Roberto Clemente. From his humble roots in the town of Carolina, “El Grande” (The Big One) reached fame in his right-field position with the Pirates of Pittsburgh. In 18 seasons playing in the Big Leagues, he was named to 12 All-Star teams. He won four titles as a batter, and earned 12 Gold Glove Awards. In 1966 he was named Most Valuable Player in the National League, and in 1971 led the Pirates to their victory in the World Series with a .414 batting average. He earned the Most Valuable Player award in the World Series. December 31, 1972 on a mission to assist the victims of the earthquake in Nicaragua, Roberto Clemente died in an air accident on the Puerto Rican coast. The following year, he became the first Latino inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Clemente left his indelible mark in baseball, inside and outside stadiums. As a player, he was the first Latin superstar, paving the way for many other outstanding players today, such as Sammy Sosa and Manny Ramírez. It was a great inspiration for his Puerto Rican colleagues, many of whom, like Juan Gonzalez, Bernie Williams and Roberto Alomar, are perennially among baseball’s best. Clemente's children have headed the efforts to preserve their father's legacy. More and more frequently, Puerto Rican and Latin American baseball players are following Roberto Clemente's example. They have created community centers and sports clinics for the purpose of keeping youths busy and out of the streets, while they receive instruction in the fundamental skills for success. Carlos Baerga of the Indians of Cleveland, another outstanding Puerto Rican player, has gone farther than that. He is the sponsor of the world’s biggest charitable baseball event: a big-star game that is carried out every year in San Juan. 27 years after his death, Roberto Clemente's memory keeps shining on.


Pedro Albizu Campos: Born September 12, 1891 in Machuelo Abajo, Ponce. His parents were Alejandro Albizu Romero and Juliana Campos. He did primary and secondary school in Ponce. He suffered the privations and the evils of poverty caused by the military invasion of his country in 1898. But these were not insurmountable impediments for a blessed with a superior intelligence. He was granted an engineering scholarship at the university of Vermont in 1912. After his first year, Albizu satisfied some Harvard University professors, who were so highly impressed by the young scholar’s brilliant mind that they offered him a place at that university. Thus began one of the most extraordinary intellectual careers. In Harvard, Albizu demonstrated remarkable intelligence and extraordinary qualities as a leader. He was recognized by many academic honors and countless degrees in the fields of humanity, chemical engineering, military sciences and law. He also acquired extensive knowledge of history and politics, as well as ease for language learning. This incredible conventional teaching was achieved by Albizu in seven years. Albizu was a speaker of great reach. During the 30’s and 50’s, many in Puerto Rico gathered around his podium in public squares to listen to his eloquent speeches on emancipation and to vibrate with the patriotic passion of his message. In 1921 he assembled the Partido de la Unión de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Union Party). In 1925 he was elected vice-president of the organization. From 1927 to 1930, he traveled extensively through South America, where he requested assistance from countries of the region in solidarity with the Puerto Rican independence movement. In 1930 he was elected president of the party. In 1936 he was arrested with the use of force and was accused of conspiracy against the government the United States. He was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Thus began a long life in prison that lasted 22 years and that would end only some months before his death. He returned to the island in 1947. This time he lived with his wife in San Juan. After the violent episodes of 1950 in which the nationalist party was involved in ferocious battles with the police, he was arrested him again. Some time later and due to his health condition, he was pardoned by the governor. After the famous incident in which the Puerto Rican nationalists stormed the United States Congress, and in spite of the fact that his direct link to the incident was never proven, Albizu was arrested and sentenced again. This time he only left prison for his death April 21, 1965 in San Juan. The university of Havana granted him the doctorate in Political Sciences, honoris causa, April 24, 1965. Albizu is considered today a patriotic symbol for his dedication and sacrifice for his country.