The Religious Beliefs of Puerto Ricans

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The most common religion in Puerto Rico is Catholicism, which is the official faith of between 70 percent and 90 percent of the population. Protestant sects have come to represent close to 10 percent, under United States influence, and the remainder of the people follow Judaism, some Islam, and some practice santería. Santería practices, which are of African origin, may overlap with Christian beliefs.

1 Catholicism

Puerto Rican church
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Pope Julius II founded the Catholic Church on the island in 1511, after the original Europeans had begun converting the indigenous Taíno population. Catholicism was the only religion permitted under the Spanish Monarchy, including in its American colonies. Most towns have a church in the center and celebrate patron saints in festivals. In general, the major religious practices of the island are rooted in Catholicism. One of these practices is the celebration of Christmas through the Day of the Three Kings, or Epiphany.
Puerto Ricans' identity and political views are intertwined with their religious beliefs. Often their Latino roots -- and this includes the Spanish language -- are associated with Catholicism, as in other Latin American regions, and the takeover by the United States is associated with Protestantism.

2 Protestantism

Protestant sects began to appear in the last quarter of the 19th century. In 1872, the Anglican Church was the first of these. In 1898, with the Treaty of Paris, the Spanish monarchy gave up its control of Cuba and Puerto Rico, terminating the relationship between church and state. At the turn of the century, various Protestant Churches established missionary areas. These churches continue to serve portions of the population.

3 Other Religions in Puerto Rico

The first Jewish synagogue was established in 1942. In 1968, Hinduism was established under Jiddu Krishnamurti. Islam and Buddhism also have followers. In the 1970s, Pentecostal groups emerged with greater force. A number of new spiritual groups coexist with the more numerous Catholic and Protestant ones, which make up about 96 percent of the Puerto Rican population according to some sources. Other sources set the number of Protestants at a much higher percentage and suggest this sector is growing.

4 Santería

Around 1530, African slaves began to arrive in Puerto Rico, bringing with them some of their original forms of worship. Their polytheism and worship of their ancestors survive in the Santería practices that some trace to Yoruba groups. These beliefs are also known as the "regla lucumí" or "the way of Osha." Some remnants of Taíno beliefs also survive in the practices of espiritismo, which is considered a healing religion. Both espiritismo and santería are syncretic religions, combining Christian (Catholic) beliefs and practices with those of other ethnic groups.

Kathleen March has been a writer for 40 years. A professor and translator of Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician, she has studied several languages and uses them for travel and research. She enjoys medieval architecture and avant-garde poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous critical journals in the U.S. and Spain.