The history of African people in Puerto Rico begins with the immigration of African free men who accompanied the invading Spanish Conquistadors. The Spaniards enslaved the Tainos (the native inhabitants of the island), and many of them died as a result of Spaniards' oppressive colonization efforts. This presented a problem for Spain's royal government, which relied on slavery to staff their mining and fort-building operations. Spain's 'solution': import enslaved west-Africans. As a result, the vast majority of the African peoples who immigrated to Puerto Rico did so as a result of the slave tradefrom many different societies of the African continent.
When the gold mines in Puerto Rico were declared depleted, the Spanish Crown no longer held Puerto Rico as a high colonial priority, and the island became a garrison for naval vessels. Africans from British and French possessions in the Caribbean were encouraged to emigrate to Puerto Rico, thereby providing a population base to support the Puerto Rican garrison. The Spanish decree of 1789 allowed the slaves to earn or buy their freedom, however this did little to help their situation. Throughout the years there were many slave revolts in the island. Slaves, who were promised their freedom, joined the short lived uprisng against Spanish colonial rule in what is known as the "Grito de Lares". On on March 22, 1873, slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico. Their contributions to music, art, language, and heritage have become instrumental to Puerto Rican culture.