Two Cultures, One World: Comparing American and Puerto Rican Culture

Puerto Rico and the United States of America share a lot of history together; one of the most important moments was the colonization of Puerto Rico. The US tried to impose most of their customs and culture, mostly their language. In Public schools started teaching classes in English by Puerto Rican teachers that were not experts in the English language, this created controversy among the islanders. On March 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act. This law gave Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship. The Jones Act separated the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches of the Puerto Rican government provided civil rights to the individual and created a locally elected bicameral legislature. Because of this Some holidays that are celebrated in Puerto Rico, are not directly linked with Puerto Rican culture. Some holidays are celebrated in both places, but they are very different from each other. The family nuclei from both countries are very different, they use various methods for raising their families. Food diversity is found in every country, the US and Puerto Rico have differences and similarities in their diet. Both countries have a long history with various changes throughout time. American and Puerto Rican cultures differ in holiday celebrations, and family dynamics among other things; however, they share some aspects of cuisine and pop culture.

Christmas is the most popular holiday in the world, every country has a different way of celebrating it, the USA is all about the image of Santa Claus, meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, Christmas has a more cultural meaning and it is celebrated in a longer period of time. Many Americans, especially Christians go to church and celebrate the birth of Jesus, in Puerto Rico this is also a custom for all Christians, there is a special mass that is held at midnight that symbolizes the birth of Jesus Christ. Americans like to decorate the outside of their houses with big Santa Claus, Reindeer, and snowmen, they also leave cookies and milk as a snack for Santa on Christmas eve. In Puerto Rico, it does not snow, but people decorate the outside of their house with lights, miniature trees, and camels, the camels symbolize the 3 holy kings that bring presents to Jesus. One of the most popular things that people do in Christmas is caroling; in Puerto Rico Christmas carols are called “Parrandas” they are held throughout weeks around neighborhoods, and stores across the island. People are supposed to have food and drinks for the people doing “parrandas” as a sign of hospitality. Caroling in the US is held outside of people’s homes or in the city. Typical food for Christmas in Puerto Rico consists of, Pork, rice, and pigeon peas, “pasteles” (a dough made from mashed green bananas filled with meat and wrapped/cooked in banana leaves), and “Coquito” (traditional coconut milk-based drink mixed with spices and cinnamon). In the US traditional food might be considered as comfort food, items such as roast chicken, mashed potatoes, filling, and an egg-based drink called eggnog. During Christmas morning in the US most presents are placed under the Traditional pine tree placed in the living room, in Puerto Rico, presents are placed under the bed or laid down in the living room floor. The most traditional part of Puerto Rican Christmas is the celebration of the “three Kings” on January 6th. There is a festival in the city of Juana Diaz devoted to the history of the three kings, it is filled with folkloric music and a mass before the festival.

The Puerto Rican family structure is mostly composed of, Mother, father, child, aunts/uncles, cousins, and grandparents; on the other hand, US families do not consider uncles, cousins, and grandparents as close family. It is common in the Puerto Rican household to have more than one generation living in the same house, meanwhile, US families tend to tell their children to move out and become “independent” by age 18, when they are considered adults in the eyes of the law. American families communicate by phone call, or social media; family visits are reserved for holidays or special occasions such as a wedding, graduation, or funeral. Puerto Rican families are united and tend to live near each other and visit at least once a week. It is very important for Puerto Rican families to maintain a strong sentimental bond between everyone. Puerto Rican children are expected to contribute to the family, everyone has a function in order to help with all the family needs. In the US children are not expected to help their parents after they are independent since their parents raised them to help themselves first instead of helping others in their family. Placing elderly people in a nursing facility is very common in the united states, they send their relatives and come and visit them occasionally, but they are not their number one priority. In Puerto Rico this is almost never seen, they see their grandparents as wise people. Adults take their parents to live with them and care for them for the rest of their days, this creates a closer bond between grandchildren and their “abuelitos/abuelitas”.In Puerto Rico, “Family, kinship, and friendship play a major role in both social and business interactions”. The people of Puerto Rico are very giving and caring, they make everyone feel included. In family-owned businesses, customers feel the love that the owners are putting into their work. In the US business are more individual and interrelations are not very common, they go to work, do their job, and focus on their personal life outside of work. Individual work is not rewarded as highly as teamwork in Puerto Rico, on the contrary, in the US individual work is encouraged.

The United States and Puerto Rico share some interesting pieces of culture, such as tv shows, music, and some food. American cartoons are very popular in Puerto Rico and are watched throughout the whole island, at one point, “The Simpsons” was the most-watched show in the island. American music like pop and rap has influenced our own style of music called “Reggaeton”, now a worldwide phenom. Most foods influenced by American culture are fast-food chains such as Mcdonald's, Burger King, and Pizza Hut. Puerto Ricans love to take American-based foods and give them their own spin, some restaurants make burgers and place fried plantains inside or instead of a side of fries, people have “Mofongo” which is plantain-based fried mash mixed with garlic and, olive oil. Both countries have their differences and similarities and have unique lifestyles, the American lifestyle is closely related to the English European lifestyle. Puerto Rico has a mixture of 3 main races, White (Spain), Black (African slaves), and, Taino (the local tribe that lived on the island before Spain took over). This mixture of cultures influenced most of their current customs and lifestyle; the island’s official language is Spanish, but some of their words have African and Taino influences. The culture of every country is defined by their history, and influences from the pop culture around the world. The United States has influenced most of the holidays, music, and food, that is “popular”. With a simple click on your computer, you can find tons of information through social media about how they influence Puerto Rico’s culture and how the people are adapting and mixing American culture and Puerto Rican culture to create their own new customs. Differences or similarities, both countries have influenced the entire world with their unique characteristics, their music, food, and culture; for being such a small island, Puerto Rico is heard all around the world, as part of sports, political controversy, art, and in fields of study. What makes each country different from another is their people, the diversity of cultures in both countries helps make a new culture for the future.


  1. “Jones Act.” Jones Act - The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War (Hispanic Division, Library of Congress), Library of Congress, 22 June 2011,
  2. Serpa, Maria de Lourdes. “Puerto Rico. Cultural Differences. Family Structures.” LDLD, 8 Aug. 2015,
  3. Vinopal, Lauren. “This Crazy Infographic Breaks Down The 50 Most Common Family Types In The U.S.” Fatherly, 10 May 2017,
07 July 2022
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