Untouchability in Other Country

Puerto Rico, People

According to the 2000 census, Puerto Rico had 3,808,610 inhabitants, an increase of 8.1 percent over the 1990 figure of 3,536,910. The population estimate for 2002 was 3,957,988. The average population density in 2001 was 439 persons per sq km (1,138 persons per sq mi), a higher density than in any state. In 2000 whites constituted 80.5 percent of the population, blacks 8 percent, Asians 0.2 percent, Native Americans 0.4 percent, and those of mixed heritage or not reporting race 11 percent. Hispanics, who may be of any race, were 98.8 percent of Puerto Rico’s population. Spanish and English are the official languages of the commonwealth, but Spanish is the primary language. Almost 75 percent of the people are Roman Catholic.
During most of the nearly 400 years of Spanish colonial rule, Puerto Rican society was legally divided into castes. The highest caste consisted of whites. The middle caste was composed of free blacks and mulattos (individuals of mixed European and African descent). Slaves made up the lowest caste. Puerto Rican society was also divided into social classes. Within these classes, there was more fluidity. In the upper class were plantation owners, other large landowners, wealthy merchants, and leading bureaucrats. The middle class included small-scale farmers, merchants, artisans, and bureaucrats. The lower class included unskilled laborers, artisans, and small storekeepers. Whites were found in the upper, middle, and lower classes, but they were never slaves. The clergy also spanned all three classes and were generally white. Free people of color were generally in the middle and lower social classes with a few ascending to the upper class. Slaves did not have any social mobility; they consistently remained at the bottom of the society.
Following the abolition of slavery in 1873, Puerto Rico’s social structure changed. The sharp division between classes began to blur. This process accelerated after the economy industrialized in the 1940s and 1950s. By the early 21st century, Puerto Ricans had increased social mobility and much greater opportunities because of universal access to education and a more developed economy. Although some vestiges of the traditional social structure still persisted and not all remnants of racial prejudice were eliminated, modern society in Puerto Rico by and large permitted a great deal of social and economic mobility.

The Curious Case of Racism In Puerto Rico

After living and working in PR for some years, I am still always perplexed when a friendly Puerto Rican brings up the issue of racism and how it does not exist in PR.  Perhaps this is an attempt to try to portray PR in its best light, or it could be wishful thinking.  Whatever the case, it could not be further from the truth.

So what accounts for this disconnect of whether PR is racist or not?  I believe most PR have an overly simplistic notion of what constitutes racism.  Sure, the KKK does not exist in PR, there is no history of lynching, and the mixed population of people get along relatively peacefully.

But what the Puerto Rican misses is that its variant of anti-black racism is WORSE than that of the US mainland.  How could I say that, you ask?  Well, racial discrimination is an everyday phenomenon in PR.  This finally was brought to light by Reggaeton star Tego Calderon who hails from Loiza, PR, the town most associated with black Puerto Ricans.  Calderon wrote that racism is worse in PR because it is universally denied.

This denial comes in the form of Black Puerto Ricans claiming there is no racism, yet they consider themselves white on self-identification forms.  It comes in the form of Black Puerto Ricans claiming there is no racism, yet they usually do not even consider attending university in PR as it "is just not for them."  It comes in the form of Black Puerto Ricans claiming there is no racism, yet they know that the highest paying professions and most lucrative jobs are reserved for "Los Finos," or the white elite Puerto Ricans.

One other fallacy in Puerto Rico is the "We are all Puerto Ricans, whatever our color so we have not racism here."  This may be true, but most Americans consider themselves "all Americans" regardless of color, but that does not preclude the existence of racism there.  The family of all Puerto Ricans still has a color caste system that treats people differently according to color, regardless of their status as a Puerto Rican.

Yet another fallacy from the island is "Puerto Ricans are not racist because most of us have some level of black blood."  How ridiculous is that notion?  Adolf Hitler is said to have Jewish ancestors, yet he was more anti-Jewish than any other person in history.  Further, many white Americans have native American and even African blood, but that never stopped them from killing natives or discriminating against blacks over the years.

From a personal standpoint, a friend of mine came to Puerto Rico as a manager of a pretty big organization.  His status as an African American was a bone of contention when he began instituting changes in an under-performing institution.  He was resisted tooth and nail, falsely accused of managerial misconduct, and even stereotyped as creating fear in the office.  After a tumultuous year, my friend had enough documented evidence to begin firing people and replacing them with high performers with integrity.  But his ordeal of insubordination from a few subordinates was based on his skin color as most whites in PR could not handle a black person in a position of authority over them.

Finally, when a PR gentleman proudly boasted to me how PR has no racism, I asked him, "Could a black Puerto Rican ever be elected Governor of PR?"  He thought for a moment, and said, "Probably not, I see your point."

So for all of the racist history of the US mainland, African Americans are well represented in the middle and upper classes, attend university in the thousands and increasingly obtain advanced degrees.  They have multi-millionaires who are not associated with sports or entertainment, and even the current President of the USA is African American.  In contrast, black PR languish in isolation on the island and they are shunned from partaking in the means of social mobility reserved for non-blacks there.

There is indeed racism in Puerto Rico, and it is high time to stop the charade down there.  Having said that, black Puerto Ricans themselves have the onus of stopping the denial and starting the move to educate themselves and build institutions that increase their progress.  Until that happens, they will remain the ridiculed demographic group that does not realize that the joke is on them.  

The Hutu /ˈht/, also known as the Abahutu, are a population inhabiting the African Great Lakes region. They mainly live in Rwanda,Burundi, and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they form one of the principal population divisions alongside the Tutsi and theTwa.


The Hutu is the largest of the four main population divisions in Burundi and Rwanda. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, 84% of Rwandans and 85% of Burundians are Hutu, with Tutsis the next largest ethnic group at 15% and 14% of residents in Rwanda and Burundi, respectively.
The Twa pygmies, the smallest of the two countries' principal populations, also share language and culture with the Hutu and Tutsi. However, they are distinguished by a considerably shorter stature.


The Hutu are believed to have first emigrated to the Great Lake region from West Africa in the great Bantu expansion.[5] Various theories have emerged to explain the purported physical differences between them and their fellow Bantu-speaking neighbors, the Tutsi. One such thesis, largely based on oral tradition, posits that the Tutsi experienced some admixture with or were partially descended from migrants of Caucasoid stock, who usually were said to have arrived in the Great Lakes region from the Horn of Africa and/or North Africa. These pastoralists were then reckoned to have established aristocracies over the sedentary Hutu and Twa. Through intermarriage with the local Bantus, the herders were gradually assimilated culturally, linguistically and racially.
An alternate theory is that the Hutu and Tutsi originally belonged to the same Bantu population, but were artificially divided by German and then Belgian colonists so that the Tutsi minority could serve as local overseers for Berlin and Brussels. The latter view has received support among proponents of Rwandan national unity, but has been criticized as an attempt at historical revisionism.
Still others suggest that the two groups are related but not identical, and that differences between them were exacerbated by Europeans, or by a gradual, natural split, as those who owned cattle became known as Tutsi and those who did not became Hutu.[4] Mahmood Mamdani states that the Belgian colonial power designated people as Tutsi or Hutu on the basis of cattle ownership, physical measurements and church records.
There is an ongoing debate as to whether the Hutu and Tutsi are really separate groups or not; the government of Rwanda seems to no longer use any such distinction.


Y-DNA (paternal lineages)

Modern-day genetic studies of the Y-chromosome suggest that the Hutu, like the Tutsi, are largely of Bantu extraction (83% E1b1a, 8% E2). Paternal genetic influences associated with the Horn of Africa and North Africa are few (3% E1b1b and 1% R1b), and are ascribed to much earlier inhabitants who were assimilated. However, the Hutu have considerably fewer Nilo-Saharan paternal lineages (4.3% B) than the Tutsi (14.9% B).

Autosomal DNA (overall ancestry)

In general, the Hutu appear to share a close genetic kinship with neighboring Bantu populations, particularly the Tutsi. However, it is unclear whether this similarity is primarily due to extensive genetic exchanges between these communities through intermarriage or whether it ultimately stems from common origins:
[...]generations of gene flow obliterated whatever clear-cut physical distinctions may have once existed between these two Bantu peoples – renowned to be height, body build, and facial features. With a spectrum of physical variation in the peoples, Belgian authorities legally mandated ethnic affiliation in the 1920s, based on economic criteria. Formal and discrete social divisions were consequently imposed upon ambiguous biological distinctions. To some extent, the permeability of these categories in the intervening decades helped to reify the biological distinctions, generating a taller elite and a shorter underclass, but with little relation to the gene pools that had existed a few centuries ago. The social categories are thus real, but there is little if any detectable genetic differentiation between Hutu and Tutsi.
Tishkoff et al. (2009) found their mixed Hutu and Tutsi samples from Rwanda to be predominately of Bantu origin, with minor gene flow from Afro-Asiatic communities (17.7% Afro-Asiatic genes found in the mixed Hutu/Tutsi population).


A traditional Hutu throwing knife.
Hutus speak Rwanda-Rundi as their native tongue, which is a member of the Bantu subgroup of the Niger–Congo language family. Rwanda-Rundi is subdivided into the Kinyarwanda and Kirundi dialects, which have been standardized as official languages of Rwanda and Burundi respectively. It is also spoken as a mother tongue by the Tutsi and Twa.
Additionally, many Hutu speak French, the other official language of Rwanda and Burundi, as a lingua franca.

Post-colonial history

Hutu and other Rwandan children in Virunga National Park.
Hutu militants
Rwandan Genocide (1994)
Rwandan Armed Forces
Refugee crisis
RDR (1995–1996)
1st and 2nd Congo War
ALiR (1996–2001)
FDLR (2000–present)
The Belgian-sponsored Tutsi monarchy survived until 1959, when Kigeli Vwas exiled from the colony (then called Ruanda-Urundi). In Burundi, Tutsis, who are the minority, maintained control of the government and military. In Rwanda, the political power was transferred from the minority Tutsi to the majority Hutu.
In Rwanda, this led to the "Social revolution" and Hutu violence against Tutsis. Tens of thousands of Tutsis were killed and many others fled to neighboring countries, such as Burundi, Uganda and expanding the Banyamulenge Tutsi ethnic group in the South Kivu region of theBelgian Congo. Later, exiled Tutsis from Burundi invaded Rwanda, prompting Rwanda to close its border with Burundi.
In Burundia campaign of genocide was conducted against Hutu population in 1972, and an estimated 100,000 Hutus died. In 1993, Burundi's first democratically elected president, Melchior Ndadaye, who was Hutu, was believed to be assassinated by Tutsi officers, as was the person constitutionally entitled to succeed him.
This sparked a genocide in Burundi between Hutu political structures and the Tutsi military, in which an estimated 500,000 Burundians died.[citation needed] There were many mass killings of Tutsis and moderate Hutus; these events were deemed genocide by the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi.
While Tutsi remained in control of Burundi, the conflict resulted in genocide in Rwanda as well. A Tutsi rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, invaded Rwanda from Uganda, which started a civil war against Rwanda's Hutu government in 1990. A peace agreement was signed, but violence erupted again, culminating in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, when Hutu extremists killed an estimated 800,000 Rwandans, mostly Tutsis.
About 30% of the Twa pygmy population of Rwanda were also killed by the Hutus. At the same time, the Rwandan Patriotic Front took control of the country and is still the ruling party as of 2015. Burundi is also currently governed by a former rebel group, the Hutu CNDD-FDD.
As of 2006, violence between the Hutu and Tutsi had subsided, but the situation in both Rwanda and Burundi was still tense, and tens of thousands of Rwandans were still living outside the country (see Great Lakes refugee crisis)

Afro-Puerto Rican

Afro-Puerto Rican(Afro-Boriquin, Afroborincano) are Puerto Ricans of African descent. The first blacks arriving with the Spaniards were free. Puerto Rico has always had a larger free black population than slave population, through-out the 500 years of black occupation. 

The Puerto Rican government stopped reporting ethnicity in 1950, so it was difficult to verify Afro-Puerto Rican numbers. They are sometimes confused with Dominicans living on the island. World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples put them at a range of 22-65%. CIA Factbook put the number at 6.5% Black and 4.4% mixed. According to recent 2010 census, 461,000 identify themselves as solely black making them 11.58%(461,000/3,978,702) of the population, an increase of 50%. Afro-Puerto Ricans tend to concentrate in the eastern part of the island, the coastal lowlands around cities like Ponce and San Juan, areas such as Cangrejos (Santurce), Carolina, Canóvanas, and Loíza Aldea.

Early History

The first blacks who arrived in Puerto Rico arrived as freemen called libertos. They arrived with Columbus in 1493. Prominent liberto was Juan Garrido, who arrived with Juan Ponce de Leon, first president of Puerto Rico. Another prominent liberto was Francis Gallego, the first black entrepreneur in Puerto Rico. Most libertos came from Seville, Spain. They came seeking work and were mostly domestics. Libertos assisted the Spaniards in conquering the Tainos.


The early slave population of Puerto Rico was very small. More free blacks than slaves existed in Puerto Rico for most of her history. Slavery was authorized in 1510. In 1530, 1,500 slaves were on the island of Puerto Rico, by 1555 15,000 existed. These figures don't include the illegal slave population, which was very much present. More African slaves were brought in to replace the native Taino population, which had been greatly diminished via disease, warfare, and slavery at the end of the 1500s.

After the introduction of the sugar industry, slave importation increased immensely. Between 1776 to 1818, the slave population increased from 6,573 to 31,874.

 Year Population % of Pop.
 177665,37  8.1%
 181217,536 9.6%
 182021,730  9.4%
 182731,874  10.5%

The slave population reached its peak in the 1840s. The slave population was at 51,265 versus free colored at 175,000. Slave importation began to diminish because Puerto Rican haciendas could not compete with the Cuban haciendas in the international slave markets.  

The treatment of slaves were harsh. Slaves were branded like cattle with hot irons called carimbo. Female slaves were highly sought because holders could replenish labor stock locally. Females were often the objects of sexual and physical abuse. Some would be punished even while pregnant and expected to lay flat while being whipped. 

Slaves could be set free by purchasing themselves, which was rare. Slaves could also get their freedom by reporting conspiracies and revolts and receive 500 pesos, a much encouraged method. Cimarrones were encourage to return escaped slaves, for their freedom. Slaves could also be set free for good behavior. Since Puerto Rico had a large free black population, some slaves posed as free workers moving from town to town.

In 1826, governor Miguel de La Torre, pass laws regulating the treatment of slaves, largely due to the numerous revolts and conspiracies. It required slaves be fed properly. Slaves with acute illness had to be provided for . Domesticated slaves had to be baptize. It dispensed harsh treatment to rebellious slaves. 

Slavery was abolished in the Spanish Crown in 1870, by the Moret Law. It set slaves, born between 1868-1870, free. Slaves over 60 were also set free. The Moret Law set free 10,000 slaves. Slavery was officially abolish completely in Puerto Rico March 22, 1873, largely due to economic and the independence movement tied to anti-slavery movements in Puerto Rico. In the latter 1800s, most planters in Puerto Rico were in debt. The sugar industry was not profitable.

By the 1850, Puerto Rico was demanding independence and with that the abolition of slavery. Puerto Rico's independence movement worked hand in hand with the abolition movement. In 1855, Ramon Emeterio Betances founded the Sociedad Abolicionista Espanol(Spanish Abolitionist Society). In 1867, Betances was implicated in the Grito de Lares revolt against Spain. This revolt solidified opposition to slavery.


Slaves would revolt periodically. The first slave revolt took place in 1514, organized by blacks and Taino. Between 1775-1873, Puerto Rico saw numerous revolts. 22 conspiracies were reported between 1795-1848. Towns like Guayama and Ponce were known for revolts. Slave would runaway findingcimarrones on mountainous regions on the island. Some would flee to other islands like the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Marcos Xiorro was Puerto Rico's most famous conspirator, who planned to attack multiple plantation but whose plot was aborted. Rumors had it he requested military aid from Haiti.


Puerto Rico had a large free colored population. They lived very restricted lives. Even with restricted opportunities some were able to purchase homes and own businesses. In 1838-1868, the Puerto Rican government enacted laws the required all men between 16-60 to carry la libreta, a notebook stating job status, employed or unemployed. If the book stated unemployed and lazy, the individual had to move to another town. It was one way of controlling the free population. 

In 1848, Governor Juan Prim passed an excessive laws aimed at controlling not just the slave population but the free black population, the Bando Contra La Raza Africana (Proclammation Against the African Race). Its penalties were harsh for minor offenses. A black could have his hands cut off for raising it against a white man, even in self-defense. Long prison terms were issued for insulting or threatening a white person. The law did not last long, it was repealed the same year.

Puerto Rico had developed into a color caste system, where skin tone and hair texture determined social and economic worth. The lighter one was the more opportunities and worth, in the society. many freed blacks contended with that system. Individual could advance by marrying lighter. Darker skin and very coiled hair became synonymous with low status and slaves. Among the whites, mixing became associated with illegitimacy and low status. They shunned mixing as violation of the Limpeza de Sangre( Purity of Blood).  

In 1815, Ferdinand VII issued the Real Cedula de Gracias(Royal Decree of Graces)  to increase the white population in Puerto Rico( engage in "whitening") and stimulate commerce via increased African slave importation. By 1820,  there were 104,000 free blacks in Puerto Rico. Between 1820-1840, the mulatto and black population was greater than the white population, but in the latter half the white population began to increase. Some scholars attribute the latter to fluid definition of race, not just to immigration. Whiteness could be bought. At this time, those who had accumulated wealth could have records change, declaring themselves white. This whitening went on straight into the 20th Century. In 1899, Puerto-Rico was 61.8% white and by 2000, 80.5% white. In 2010, the percentage of the white population has gone down, due to more Puerto-Ricans declaring themselves solely as black and indian.


Puerto Rico on December 10, 1898 was ceded to the United States after the Spanish-American War. American racial views impacted Puerto-Rican society in multiple directions. Among those who were considered white, now were viewed as black. Some were offended. They were forced to served with all black segregated regiments. Some scholars believe, the latter was an incentive to "whitening" Puerto Rico, presenting Puerto Rico as a predominantly white island. Second, the racism experienced in the United States by Afro-Puerto Ricans caused many to advocate for Puerto Rican independence and fight racism at home, preserve and teach Afro-Puerto Rican culture.

Afro-Puerto Ricans continue to exist at the lowest strata of Puerto-Rican society, lowest paying jobs, poorest neigborhoods. Color bigotry remains rampant but rarily admitted.

Cultural Influence

The African element in Puerto Rican identity is inseparable. Africa has left an immense mark on Puerto Rican culture. It is reflected in her language, cuisine, religion, and people.

Puerto Ricans speak a spanish creole call bozal. When Puerto Ricans speak, they drop the R and S sound. The R and S sound did not exist in African languages. The habit of dropping consonant and the up and down intonation of Puerto Rican speech are an African features. Africans added to the vocabulary of Puerto Rican Spanish: changobernbemangorumba.

African influences can be seen in her cuisine. African influences can be seen in the following dishes: bacalaoarroz con gandulesplantanospasteles,sancochomofongo (green bananas with meat), gandinga (stewed or marinated pork livers with vinegar and garlic), funche (mushed cornmeal),guanimos (cornmeal croquettes),  and sambumbia (an elaborate salad).  

The African influences can be seen in her music.The bomba and plena musical forms reflect african influences. The latter forms utilizes african derived instruments such as bongos, timbales, marimbas, etc. Dances such as themariyanda and candungue all reflect African influences. 

Lastly, Puerto Rican religious practices have been impacted. Syncretism has occurred with the Roman Catholic religion and African religions. Saints can represent and correspond to African gods.

Famous Afro-Puerto Ricans

  • Arturo Alfonso Schomburg 
  • Antonio Broccoli -artist
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Felipe Luciano
  • Felix Tito Trinidad
  • Giancarlo Esposito
  • Ismael Rivera
  • José Campeche
  • José Celso Barbosa
  • Jesus Colon
  • La La Vasquez
  • La India
  • Lauren Velez
  • Lloyd Banks
  • Maxwell
  • Mayra Santos Frebbes
  • Miguel Nunez
  • Nore
  • Pedro Albizu Campos
  • Pedro Telemaco
  • Pilar Barbosa
  • Rafael Cordero
  • Roberto Clemente-baseball player
  • Rosario Dawson
  • Rosie Perez
  • Ruth Fernandez-singer
  • Samuel Lind -artist
  • Shar Jackson
  • Sylvia del Villard
  • Tego Calderon- Rapper
  • Tite Curet
  • Tito Trinidad
  • Lazario


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