The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

Indigenous American and African Interaction in Puerto Rico, A Comparative Analysis


1Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University, 2Vanderbilt Genetics Institute, Vanderbilt University

April 18, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

The high amounts of Indigenous American ancestry found among the Puerto Rican general populace has instigated a debate on the interactions and supposed extinction of native populations within the Caribbean. Although some historical narratives detail the interactions between European settlers and Indigenous peoples, much less is known about the interactions between Indigenous and African-descended peoples, specifically the extent of Indigenous and African admixture in Puerto Rico. To this end, we used whole mitochondrial sequences in order to examine the potential for Indigenous American and African interaction and to illuminate more about the histories of both Indigenous and African peoples in the wake of European colonization of the Americas.

Building on previous work, we expanded our sample from 31 to 53 Afro-Puerto Ricans. Based on sequence data we found that 14 were identified as possessing an Indigenous American haplogroup with a distribution as follows: A2=57%, B2=21%, C1=14%, D1=7%. We performed a series of Fischer-Friedman analyses that showed significant differences in Indigenous haplogroup distribution when compared to sampled populations in Cuba and the Dominican Republic (p<.05), with a similar distribution to that of sampled populations of Venezuela and Mexico. The distribution of Indigenous American haplogroups within Afro-Puerto Ricans relative to subsets of larger populations with Indigenous ancestry suggests that Afro-Puerto Ricans have comparable haplogroup distributions to that seen in other groups regardless of identification as African-descendants. Further research is recommended to examine the extent of the interaction between Indigenous populations and specific Afro-descended groups throughout the Americas.

The research was supported by a grant from the Office of Equity, Diverisity, and Inclusion at Vanderbilt University.

Slides/Poster (pdf)