Beginning with Columbus' second voyage in 1493, Spanish mon-archs began sending priests to the New World to convert "heathen" Amerindians to Roman Catholicism. In 1519, Puerto Rico became the first papal see in the Americas and, for a short time, the New World headquarters for the Spanish Inquisition. But partly due to lack of funding, the Catholic Church in general failed to inspire the islanders, and in the process alienated many by denying them priesthood. Consequently, people took a relatively halfhearted view of it, and in some places characteristics of tribal rituals became woven into the established dogma. When the US gained control of Puerto Rico it separated the church from the state and allowed freedom to worship any faith. Officially, 85% of the population is still Roman Catholic and, although many are deep believers, the practice is generally less fervent than in the more dogmatic churches of Italy or Spain.

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