Puerto Rico celebrates Discovery of Puerto Rico Day every 19 November to remember the day in 1493 when Christopher Columbus caught sight of, and landed on, an island he named San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist). In the 1520’s, the island became known as Puerto Rico instead.
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When the Spanish first settled in Puerto Rico, it was inhabited by as many as 50,000 Taino Indians. The Taino did not realise the danger they were in and how they would later be overcome by the newcomers. Therefore, they were not shy about showing off golden nuggets in a river, which led to the Spaniards choosing that site for a colony and naming it Puerto Rico (Rich Port). Later, the city took the original name of the island (San Juan).
Due in part to efforts of the famed Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon, who sailed with Columbus and later became Puerto Rico’s first governor, San Juan was developed into Spain’s most valuable military base in the whole Caribbean. Juan Ponce de Leon’s remains are still in Puerto Rico to this day, kept in the Cathedral in San Juan that bears his name.
After four long centuries of being a Spanish colony, in 1898, U.S. forces landed on the island to liberate it, or occupy it, depending on your point of view. The hundred years or so of association with the Unites States have greatly influenced the island, but the culture is still today more grounded in its 400-year-old Spanish roots.
Every year, Discovery of Puerto Rico Day is celebrated with fairs, cultural activities, and a grand parade. It also is the traditional beginning, in Puerto Rico, of the Christmas season, so you will see Christmas trees put up, decorations put out on private and public buildings, and stores getting ready with Christmas inventory and sales.