FIRST DECADE 1893 a 1903

Puerto Rico

  • The decade 1893 to 1903 was transcendental. For 400 years, Puerto Rico had belonged to Spain; our language, our daily life, traditions, religion… everything was done in the Spanish custom.
  • Sugarcane was the principal source of sustenance of the economy, although tobacco, coffee, and various other crops were cultivated.
  • Poverty was extreme for most residents, and usury was common on the part of unscrupulous lenders who would tie the borrower to debt without end.
  • In 1898, because of the Spanish-American War, Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States, and shortly after there was a currency devaluation that put Puerto Rico and its institutions on the brink of bankruptcy.
  • To make the situation worse, in 1899 hurricane San Ciriaco caused devastation across the island.
Puerto Rico map


  • On the island, people sang and danced to music by local composers and adaptations of folklore.
  • Another popular genre was traditional jíbaro music, bomba and plena, while in the city people listened and danced to waltzes, mazurkas, danzas, and contradanzas.
  • Manuel Gregorio Tavárez and Juan Morel Campos were acclaimed danza composers.
  • The aguinaldos, lullabies, rosary prayer songs… all were part of our Spanish traditions. Others, like the baquiné, came from African influences.
  • Whenever possible, upper-class islanders would send their children to study in Spain.
  • The tenor Antonio Paoli was the first Puerto Rican artist to reach international fame in classical music when he sang in the Paris Opera in 1897.
Musical notes

Christmas Tree

  • The custom of making Christmas trees was originated in Germany and it was introduced to the United States in 1804, but the first printed image of a Christmas tree in the United States dates to 1836.
  • In Puerto Rico (1866), Dr. Agustín Stahl, an Aguadilla native with a German father and Dutch mother, installed the first Christmas tree after returning from his medical studies in Germany and moving to Bayamón. He decorated his tree outside his house for the Holidays; the townsfolks called it “Doctor Stahl’s tree”.
  • In 1895, a tree was placed in the White House, illuminated by electricity.

Until the 1890s, in the Victorian Era, many Christmas trees had wax ornaments in the shape of angels and children. They also had ornaments made of cotton and wool, with paper in relief that formed human faces, along with glass and crystal ornaments blown in Germany. By the end of the decade, people began to use glamor and place a star at the top of the tree. The first Christmas lights were invented in 1882, in Thomas Edison’s assistant’s home. They were mass produced for the first time in 1890, and in 1985 they were available in color.