Thursday, June 16, 2022

Salvador Brau's 19th Century Book Review "Puerto Rico and its History" (in Spanish)

Studying Columbus’ primary sources led me to go back and read some of the historians we studied or heard about in school when I was growing up in Puerto Rico. One of them is Salvador Brau and his work titled, “Puerto Rico y su Historia” (PR and its History- 1892). 

Brau’s Appendix at the end of the book includes a letter by Columbus (1493), a portion of Gomara’s Historia on the discovery of PR, a letter on how Ponce de Leon became the Governor, etc., However, I would suggest this work only to those who are already familiar with Columbus and other primary sources. The reason is that the book is not the story of Puerto Rico per se, but Brau’s insights and opinions on the subject, including the claims of many other historians who lived before him. 

He discusses the long-time debates on where Columbus exactly arrived in 1493 when he discovered the island. The same about the debates on how PR’s original name was supposed to be pronounced: Was it Buriquén, Boriquén, BoriNquén, or Boriquén?

Brau talks a little bit about the first Governors and bishops of PR during the16th century, along with the names of the first towns founded on the island. 

Brau informs the reader that there were many white Europeans who were slaves in the Americas. He debunks the claim that Spaniards exterminated the Taino race (in PR) since the number of Spaniards was small, to begin with. He discusses scientific evidence of Indigenous cannibalism (by the Caribs) and observes the importance of the word “Gua” often used by the natives. For example Guacanagari (the name of a chief Columbus met), Guanica (a place in PR), Guatios (a word meaning “friend”), etc. 

The most interesting thing to me was Brau’s interpretation of Columbus’ enigmatic signature: 


.S. A. .S.

X  M  Y 

Xpo Ferens .

According to him it means: Servus Supplex Altissimi Salvatoris. Jesus, Maria, Joseph, Christo ferens. Or Humble Servant of the Highest Savior. Jesus, Mary, Joseph. The Christ Bearer.

Salvador Brau was born in Puerto Rico in 1842 and died in 1912. He was a “journalist, poet, dramatist, novelist, historian, and sociologist.” [1]

“Puerto Rico y su Historia” ebook version is available free on Google books.

1. Wikipedia- Salvador Brau's Work

#SalvadorBrau #PuertoRico #History #Historia #CristobalColon #ChristopherColumbus #BookReview #19thCentury

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