Posted on April 1, 2011

PRico Sees Increase in Blacks, American Indians

Danica Coto, Buffalo News, March 31, 2011

The number of Puerto Ricans identifying themselves solely as black or American Indian jumped about 50 percent in the last decade, according to new census figures that have surprised experts and islanders alike.

The increase suggests a sense of racial identity may be growing among the various ethnic groups that have long been viewed as a blurred racial mosaic on the U.S. territory, although experts say it is too soon to say what caused the shift.


The growth in those calling themselves black or American Indian reduced the population share of Puerto Ricans who identify themselves solely as white. That group dropped nearly 8 percentage points to about 76 percent of the island’s 3.7 million people.

More than 461,000 islanders identified themselves solely as black, a 52 percent increase, while nearly 20,000 said they were solely American Indian, an almost 49 percent increase.

Experts said several factors could have influenced the rise in the number of people who identify themselves as black.

[University of Puerto Rico anthropology professor Jorge] Duany said the election of Barack Obama as U.S. president might have influenced some to call themselves black as the high-profile leader dispelled negative stereotypes about their race.

The jump in numbers of blacks also coincided with a push to highlight Puerto Rico’s black population, with the Department of Education offering for the first time a high school book that deals solely with their history.

In addition, there was a grassroots effort to target dark-skinned Puerto Ricans through social media websites including Facebook that urged them to identify themselves as “Afro-Puerto Rican” in the 2010 census.


Puerto Ricans are known as “boricuas,” a name derived from the Taino Indian word for the island’s indigenous people who were colonized by the Spaniards.

One possible reason for the increase in Puerto Ricans who identify themselves as American Indian is that the U.S. Census Bureau allowed responders to write down their tribe.

That was enough to get Naniki Reyes Ocasio to check the American Indian designation.

In previous censuses, the 63-year-old member of the United Confederation of Taino People refrained from picking that category. She didn’t identify with being an American Indian since it did not include the word “Caribbean” in its description.


“We can rewrite ourselves within history,” she said. “I used to check ‘Other’ because there was nowhere else I could place myself.”

9 responses to “PRico Sees Increase in Blacks, American Indians”

  1. Jay says:

    This is actually a good thing because then we can get a more accurate count of whites. Call yourselves indians and blacks and be happy. I want to know how far down the white population really is in this country dying of ‘vibrancy.’

    Some Puerto Ricans are white, most are mestizos.

  2. Seneca The Younger says:

    Hispanic is not a race. It was the name for the Iberian peoples of Roman time. Latins, too. That I especially cannot stand. Latins come from the region Latium (currently Lazio) near modern Rome. It pains mean that I am an original Latin and they give this proud name to a bunch of illiterate brown invaders. I always identify as Latin, and companies cannot fire me for doing so.

    But Puerto Ricans are learning. They know they weill get more money and it will be easier to get if they are black or especially Native American. They are just gaming the system like they have been for decades. Claim that people will get more handouts if they wear purple shirts and they all will.

    Move along, nothing new to see here.

  3. ATBOTL says:

    A recent DNA study put 2% of Puerto Ricans as being wholly of European ancestry.

  4. SKIP says:

    I can say a couple of things about PRs. One is that they are in fact mostly black, and of those that are not, the girls of that non black part are the prettiest and can throw things very fast, very hard and very accurate if they are angry at you. One need not know WHY they are angry either to be the target.

  5. Anonymous says:

    They really need to do away with self identification in the Census. I met a Puerto Rican once who had blond hair and green eyes but this is not the norm and I doubt that 76 percent of Puerto Ricans are White unless your using a Brazilian racial scale.

  6. Charles B. Tiffany says:

    Once again people accept the intelligentsia’s explanation of events when in reality nothing could be farther from the truth. Puerto Ricans were given citizenship not out of some liberal desire to provide them with rights but so they could be drafted in WW-1. Manpower shortages made their labor valuable to New York State vegetable and apple growers. Thousands came north and the local blacks saw how they were accepted more than they were. Out of nowhere thousands of blacks adopted Puerto Rican surnames so people would think they weren`t black. Ever wonder where all these black perps you see on local tv in NYC and are called Jimmie Garcia or Charlie Conteras came from? The Puerto Ricans in the City that never sleeps are striking back. They tell people they are black so they can get more benefits and have a better shot at beating a rap before jury panels that are 90% black. The same thing is going on Island side. As to claiming to be American Indian ,this is associated with con men who create Indian tribes to have casinos or get benefits from the BIA.

    Charles B. Tiffany

    Little San Juan Florida

    Kissimmee, Florida

  7. Anonymous says:

    76% of Puerto Ricans are white? That’s ridiculous.

  8. Mike H. says:

    The only Puerto Rican I’ve ever met could pass for a Spaniard any day of the week. Looks completely white.

    As for the Taino, didn’t the Spanish completely kill them off when they arrived? I’ve always thought that Puerto Rico was around 20% black/mixed and 80% white, with the blacks mostly concentrated in a few areas like they are here.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I was reading a study about the genetic makeup of Puerto Ricans which revealed that the average Puerto Rican has 29% African admixture.

    So how can 76% of Puerto Ricans be Caucasian when the average Puerto Rican has African admixture as high as 29%. Most people with 29% African admixture do not have Caucasian looking phenotypes, most of the time you can tell they are mixed with Black just by looking at them.