History of Puerto Rico: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States located in the Atlantic Ocean. In this lesson, learn about the original inhabitants of Puerto Rico, the history of this island, and its modern significance.

Islands in the Atlantic

If you hopped on a boat and traveled southeast from Florida, you would sail through tropical areas and come to a group of islands known as Puerto Rico. These islands have a pretty special history, full of conflict and change.

Puerto Rico is a group of islands located southeast of the United States.
Puerto Rico

Original Inhabitants

Long before explorers landed on Puerto Rican shores, there were natives living there called Taíno Indians. These Indians were a small subgroup of the Arawak Indians. These were people who had come to the islands from South America. They lived off of many of the natural resources in Puerto Rico, including native fruit trees and seafood.

Spanish Discovery

You've probably heard of a famous explorer named Christopher Columbus, right? He was born in Italy, but sailed ships for the country of Spain: he headed expeditions to discover and claim lands for the Spanish king and queen. He had a pretty successful trip in 1492, finding the area that is now the Bahamas.

Spain sailor

A few years later, he took another group back to what he and others called the New World. This time he landed on what is now Puerto Rico, and here he met the native Taíno Indians. And guess what they showed Mr. Columbus? Gold nuggets! Gold was naturally found on the islands, and this was very tempting for the explorer.

He claimed the area for Spain, and named the island 'San Juan Bautista' in honor of a biblical figure, John the Baptist. Eventually, the name of the island was changed to Puerto Rico, and its major city and capital today is called San Juan.

History of Turmoil

After the discovery of the islands, Spain sent a man named Juan Ponce de León to colonize the land. This meant that Spain was in charge of the land and could claim all of its natural resources. In 1510, the native Taíno Indians revolted against these new residents, but they were not successful.

The natives were not the only threat to the Spanish colony in Puerto Rico. Hurricanes often pounded the shores of the islands, and other European countries like France tried to fight for control of the area. The Spanish built great walls around the coastlines of what is now San Juan, and these walls are still present today.

Large walls were built to protect San Juan from hurricanes and possible attacks from other countries.
Puerto Rico

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