Puerto Rico – early 1900’s Slideshow
This is my site Written by Cumba on January 31, 2009 – 2:07 pm

These images are from the Library of Congress website. Most of the images were stereo view cards that were popular from the late 1800’s until the 1930’s. They were the predecessors of view masters. Stereo cards were comprised of two images that when viewed through the viewer gave a sense of seeing the images in 3D. These images were edited to only show one of the sides so they can be seen clearer.

One thing to keep in mind as you are browsing through the images is that these were the views that were being presented to the world of Puerto Rico, some of the captions (that for the most part I kept as they were, with a couple of commentaries added), were quite disturbing. In particular is the photo of the two poor children in Aibonito, the caption was “Porto Rican boys in their Sunday dress.” The other image that threw me was the one with the image of the 4 naked children on the beach. The caption was “Waiting for Uncle Sam – on the beach.”

The feeling that I get from looking at these images is that they were, for the most part, intentionally portraying Puerto Ricans as savages in need of the United States to civilize them.

On a personal note, the first image is from Cayey, Puerto Rico, where I was born.

Please leave your comments regarding these photos.

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15 Responses »

  1. Hola – You are so gonna be my best friend – loved the photos – and to think my home town Yauco was among the photos – hmmm hasn’t changed much either, Gracias a Dios – it still has that innocent quality of mi casa su casa. Thanks for sharing such clear historical pictures. Cuidate Edmee

  2. Hi Edmee – Thanks for the comment. I am searching for more photos to post, I also have some political cartoons to post, not the most positive images but I want to show the perspective of the times.
    I love looking at these old photos, the one one the military road from Cayey to Aibonito reminds me of the place where my mother was born. Their one room house lasted for many years and we used to visit it every Dia de los Reyes. A hurricane tore it down but we still visit there when I go to PR.

  3. Oh, I forgot to mention – I chose to disregard the captions and only allow the essence of their content enter my mind. I also have an old Rand McNally map that identifies Puerto Rico as Porto Rico and I find it interesting that such a small island has had so many adjectives linked to it; isla del encanto, borinquen, prima de cuba borinken to name a few – Take Care Edmee

  4. When I get a bit more technically friendly in my home I hope to scan some of the old photos my mom has – they are only a few but I want to preserve them for the family. The house where I was born still stands (minus a few shingles – smile) but we go and visit it also since my great Titi’s still live close by. I have some from the late sixties and early 70′s when I lived there and truth be known very little has changed. See, now you made me home sick. Take care. Edmee

  5. I left the captions as they appeared in the photos, I went back and forth but for historical purposes I chose to keep them as is.

  6. Edmee, very nice selection. If you have a source for photo’s of Maunabo, PR please let me know.

  7. Hi Dolphin,

    There are a few photos on the Library of Congress site.

    The link is


  8. Yes we have all those thanks.
    Always looking for more!

    Visit our photos at

  9. Stereoviews, as conventional photographies, were use extensively to construct and disseminate colonial discourses.
    These and many other stereos were systematically used in schools to teach geography and history lessons, thus helping
    In creating a cultural image of the “colonial other”. I’m finishing a doctoral thesis on this subject.

  10. I was appalled at the dire poverty of an island that was raped by the Spanish for so many years, then by the Americans. How we survived is anyone’s guess.

  11. Thank you for bringing these to our attention. We must never forget what our ancestors went through and how far we as individuals have come.

  12. I am in the process of writing a novel about Puerto Rico titled, The Women in White, and it was interesting for me to see that what I write about is not so far-fetched. The pictures tie in very well with my description of the island.

  13. Thank you for posting Sylvia and Jorge. It is appalling the poverty that Puerto Rico has endured and still continues to endure. It is a shame but so true that these were the views that the world knew of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans.
    Looking forward to seeing the finished product, Sylvia. Good luck with the project.

  14. I’m so glad to have discovered this website. My parents were born in Mayaguez & San German, and I’m trying to find information on what life was like for both poor and middle class in the 1900′s. I’m writing a novel that begins during this era, so I’m looking for background information. The pictures are wonderful, and I’m wondering if there are any more of them that you could share. Any suggestions for cultural information would be appreciated.

    Thanks so much.

  15. WoW i love them all ive been looking for pic for months and i was luckie enough to finally find these .thank you for shareing im interested in finding pic of lares during these years or earlyer if you can help let me know im doing the fam tree and i might be lucky and find something fantastic ..thanks

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