Hola amigos: Today I want to share with you an article about the German immigration to Puerto Rico during the early 19th century. The Germans were one of many immigrants of non- Hispanic origins who came to our island when Spain open our doors for them. ES
German Flag Image
German immigration to Puerto Rico increased when German businessmen immigrated to Puerto Rico during the early part of the 19th century. However, it was the economic and political situation in Europe during the early 19th century plus, the fact that the Spanish Crown issued the Royal Decree of Graces (Real Cédula de Gracias) which allowed the immigration of people of non-Hispanic origin to immigrate to the island, that contributed the most to the immigration of hundreds of German families to Puerto Rico in search of a better life. Puerto Rico was ceded by Spain to the United States under the terms of the 1898 Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish–American War and the U.S. established military bases there. Many soldiers of German-American descent stationed in the island intermarried with the locals and established their homes there. With the passage of the Jones Act of 1917 Puerto Ricans were required to service in the Armed Forces of the United States. Puerto Ricans fought in Germany during World War II and have served in U.S. military installations in said country since then. Many of these soldiers married German girls who eventually moved to the island with their husbands. Puerto Ricans of German descent have distinguished themselves in different fields among them the fields of science, business and military.
Early German immigration
According to Professor Ursula Acosta, several German immigrants arrived in Puerto Rico from Curaçao and Austria during the early 19th century. Many of these early German immigrants established warehouses and businesses in the coastal towns of Fajardo, Arroyo, Ponce,Mayagüez, Cabo Rojo and Aguadilla. One of the reasons that these businessman established themselves in the island was that Germany depended mostly on Great Britain for such products as coffee, sugar and tobacco. By establishing businesses dedicated to the exportation and importation of these and other goods, Germany no longer had to pay the high tariffs which the English charged them. Not all of the immigrants were businessmen, some were teachers, farmers and skilled laborers.
Spanish Royal Decree of Graces
The Spanish Crown had lost most of its possessions in the Americas. Two of its remaining possessions were Puerto Rico and Cuba, who were demanding more autonomy and had pro-independence movements. The Spanish Crown issued theRoyal Decree of Graces (Real Cédula de Gracias) which was originated August 10, 1815, with the intention of attracting European settlers to the islands. The Spanish government, believing that the independence movements would lose their popularity, granted land and initially gave German, Corsican, Irish, and French settlers who swore loyalty to the Spanish Crown and allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church ”Letters of Domicile”. After a period of five years, settlers were granted a “Letter of Naturalization” that made them Spanish subjects.
On December 10, 1898, Puerto Rico was ceded by Spain to the United States under the terms of the 1898 Treaty of Paris, which ended theSpanish–American War. The former Spanish military bases were transferred to the United States and many of the soldiers of German-American descent stationed in the island intermarried with the locals and established their homes there. With the passage of the Jones Act of 1917 Puerto Ricans were required to service in the Armed Forces of the United States. Puerto Ricans fought in Germany during World War II as members of Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry Regiment and continued to serve in said country as members of the regular Army after the war. Many of these soldiers married German girls who, as in the case of Dr. Ursula Acosta, eventually moved to the island with their Puerto Rican husbands. Dr.Ursula Acosta, who was born in Germany, is a psychologist and retired professor of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. As member of the Puerto Rican Genealogy Society, she has studied and written many works on genealogy and the German influence in Puerto Rico. Among her works are the following:
§ Familias de Cabo Rojo, 1983 (con David Enrique Cuesta Camacho)
§ Cabo Rojo: Notas para su historia (con Antonio “Mao” Ramos Ramírez de Arellano)
§ Cofresí y Ducoudray: Dos hombres al margen de la historia, Editorial Edil, Río Piedras, PR, 1991
§ New Voices of Old: Five Centuries of Puerto Rican Cultural History, 1987
By the beginning of the 20th century, many of the descendants of the first German settlers had become successful businessmen, educators, and scientists and were among the pioneers of Puerto Rico’s television industry. In recent years, two commercial establishments in Puerto Rico became gathering places for Puerto Rico’s German community, the more than half-century-old Zipperle’s Restaurant in San Juan, and the Casa Bavaria restaurant located in the central mountain range (Cordillera Central) in Morovis, visited in 2008 by President Bill Clinton.
Surnames of the first German families in Puerto Rico
The German element of Puerto Rico is very much in evidence and German surnames such as Herger and Rieckehoff are common in the island. The following are the surnames of the first German families to settle in Puerto Rico:
Surnames of the first German families in Puerto Rico
Baltmann, Behn, Bey, Bose, Bultmann, Christiansen, Degener, Elvers, Fritze, Fromm, Ganslandt, Haase, Hartmann, Hau, Herger, Hoffman, Hohl, Kleibring, Kifenhover, Koppel, Koppisch, Korber, Krammer, Küchler, Kupferschein (later changed to Cofresi), Kuster, Lange, Lameyer, Lassen, Lundt, Meyer, Miller, Müllenhoff, Müller, Nitsche, Oppenheimer, Overmann, Piterson, Pottharst, Raschke, Rauschenplar, Reichard, Rieckehoff, Riefkohl, Roehrs, Roller, Sanders, Schimk, Schink, Schmidt, Schnabel, Schomburg, Schröder, Schultze, Spieker, Stahl, Stege, Steffens, Steinacher, Stubbe, Tischer, Voigt, Völckers, Wedstein, Wiechers, Willenk, Wirshing, Wolff, Wolmart, Zaiter.