Monumento al Jíbaro Puertorriqueño


Jíbaro is a term meaning "hill" or forest people, commonly used in Puerto Rico to refer to mountain dwelling peasants, but in modern times as a broader cultural meaning. Its original use is often attributed as a Taíno Indian word; however, some claim that it originated from Spain as a combination of the ancient Castilian words Jiba, meaning hill, and Ero, meaning man as this word is also used by other spanish speaking people of other Spanish speaking countries like Ecuador,Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela.


When Spanish control ended in 1898, "jíbaros" who were generally working-class agricultural land tenants, sharecroppers, and hired fieldworkers-came to represent the authentic Puerto Rican people in all their ethnic and cultural complexity, the soul of "la gran familia puertorriqueña." Certain kinds of music (such as seis and aguinaldo) have also become associated with jíbaro traditions.

When Luis Muñoz Marín founded the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) in 1938, the party adopted the jíbaro hat, the pava, as its symbol. The PDP seal shows the pava with the words "Pan, Tierra, y Libertad", which translates to "Bread, Land, and Freedom" in English.

Modern usage of the word

In modern times, the word jíbaro has become a dyslogism, somewhat similar to the American english word, hillbilly or hick in definition, but not in application. Jibaros in Puerto Rican culture as seen in a more positive light often times, defining the identity of Puerto Ricans. They can be seen as being the pioneers of Puerto Rico. However, there is also a negative connotation to the term, that a jibaro is someone ignorant, who is "dumb" or impressionable due to their lack of education. It is used to denote a resident of the countryside or the mountains who lives away from major towns or cities, is ignorant towards modern society and usually maintains an aggressively conservative point of view.

A good many Jíbaros are of Spanish, and/or other European heritage, and although some may have a bit of Taíno ancestry, you will find many Jibaros having blond, or red hair, with blue and/or green eyes.

Jíbaros are stereotypically seen as being members of the PDP and of Catholic faith hence the common humoristic phrase católico y popular, Catholic and popular (Popular is the common way to refer to someone of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP)). Although other common religions stereotypically adopted by jibaros are Protestant faiths, Pentecostal being the most common one.

However, in some other ways, jíbaros are seen to represent the true Puerto Rican: hard-working, simple, humble and ever-lastingly wise and independent. The image of jíbaro culture has frequently been romanticized and portrayed in a sympathetic light. Many see the jíbaro as the roots of Puerto Rican people today, and many songs express feelings of quiet rebellion that has originated in the farmhouses that jíbaros have so long been portrayed to live in.

The jíbaro is also seen as symbolizing the strength of traditional values through the idealistic love of their land and nostalgic treatment of the “old days".

In Cuba there exists a word similar to jíbaro, Guajiro.

Uses of the word in other countries

  • Xivaro, which is pronounced similarly to jibaro, was a name given to the natives of Colombia and Venezuela by the Spaniards.
  • The Shuar people of the amazonic regions of South America are sometimes called "jíbaros". *The word is commonly used in Ecuador and is usually considered an insult."Jíbaro" can also be considered as an insult (referring to a person being a backward country, uneducated, hill billy),depending on the context, in Puerto Rico as well.

Notes and references

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