Corsican influence in Puerto Rican culture

In “La influencia corsa en la cultura puertorriqueña,” El Adoquín Times explores Corsican influence in Puerto Rican culture.

The history of Corsicans has been a fundamental part of the history of Puerto Rico, both socially and economically, and has helped many people from other countries establish new lives on the Island. Corsicans are originally from Corsica, an island located to the west of Italy and the southeast of France. Previously, it belonged to the Republic of Genoa, Italy, and in 1768 it was ceded to France to settle a debt. Therefore, the origin of these people is Italian.

Corsicans moved to live in Puerto Rico in the first centuries after the discovery of the Americas. With their arrival, they constituted the central nucleus of an enormous Italian migration to the country. But it was during the 19th century when close to 2,000 people left their native country in hopes of a better life.

Corsicans speak an Italic language similar to Tuscan and became part of present Puerto Rican society without any problem. This European population arrived on the Island, where they settled in areas such as Adjuntas, Lares, Utuado, Coamo, and Guayanilla.

According to Marie Jeanne Paoletti Casablanca in her book The Corsicans in Puerto Rico (Casa Paoli), the causes of the emigration of Corsicans to Puerto Rico “must first be sought in the environment of origin: Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea whose surface is similar to Puerto Rico’s… The mountains marked the life of the Corsican people, whose traditional activities revolved around working the land and raising sheep.”

In addition, the author indicates that the history of Corsica “was very tormented and that this stormy history, together with a hostile geography, created favorable conditions for emigration, which began very early in the Corsican past.” Corsica went through a lot of political changes, and the breakdown of relations with Italy, “forced merchant mariners to seek new routes west to America and the Caribbean. Sailors were the first to leave, their fellow farmers and artisans would follow later, especially in times of crisis,” added Paoletti.

The work of the Corsicans was based on the cultivation of coffee, sugar, and tobacco. They managed to make their fortune and ended up leading the coffee industry on the Island of Puerto Rico by 1870, especially in Yauco. Among their tactics to achieve favorable income was to establish connections with coffee buying centers to achieve the success and the economic evolution of Puerto Rico at a global scale.

A crossroads of cultures

Many years have passed since the Corsicans came to stay in Puerto Rico, and currently there is a hybridization between the two cultures. Based on the characteristics that identify Corsicans and Puerto Ricans, there is a mixture of traditions and practices that allow each one to establish a connection without losing their origin and idiosyncrasy.

Many families recognized as Antonini, Berlingeri, Santini, or Palmieri, have been part of Puerto Rican attributions; they have worked for the island, they have been integrated in it, and they have defended it as their own. Other surnames such as Franceschi, Mattei, Amill, and Negroni based their work in sugar production, with the aim of increasing their own profits and the economy of Puerto Rico.

The influx from Corsica was initially a shock to Puerto Rico, but far from being a mere invasion, it became a source of production and economic development. Their work increased to the point of becoming part of the economy that emerged and grew in Puerto Rico. The Corsicans truly constituted a group of immigrants who turned Puerto Rico around, creating solidarity and union between them and Puerto Ricans, for the good and enrichment of society.

Translated by Ivette Romero. For original article (in Spanish), see

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