Attracted by tales of gold and wealth, Christopher Columbus and Juan Ponce de León arrived in Puerto Rico in 1493. These explorers enslaved the native Tainos and forced them to work in the gold mines and many of Tainos died as a result of poor treatment. The Spanish,however, were still in need of laborers in order to build forts and dig in mines and so they began to import African slaves to the island. These slaves came from all over Africa, making contributions to Puerto Rican music, art and culture. It was not until 1789 that the slaves were allowed to purchase their own freedom, but even then this practice was very rare. As a result of the unrest of the slave population there were many slave revolts on the island. It was not until 1873 that slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico. Slaves were incorporated into Puerto Rican society and received fair wages for their work.
The bomba is the only specifically black music in Puerto Rico and is traditionally associated with plantation workers. The bomba is a style of music and dance that originated in West Africa and was brought to Puerto Rico during the time of slavery.
The bomba is usually sung about the continual search for a Puerto Rican identity. It is improvised with a call-and-response led by a female singer (the “Cantaor”). Drums called buleadores and subidores provide the driving rhythms. The name is inspired by a large wooden drum covered with goatskin called the “bomba,"" which accompanied the music.
Contemporary Puerto Rican music covers a wide variety of styles, including Pop, Latin House, Freestyle, Reggaeton and Puerto Rican Rap. Puerto Rico has become widely known for its reggaeton, and it is believe that the style may have originated in Puerto Rico itself. Regardless, the majority of reggaeton singers do come from Puerto Rico. Reggaeton is Jamaican inspired reggae, with spanish lyrics and latin rhythms. In Puerto Rico, reggaeton was first referred to as "Underground", mainly because of its often coarse lyrics and language, but also because it used to be passed along secretly among young people.