Pentecostalism in Puerto Rico Marks a Century: A Movement Birthed by Refugees Now Includes 25 Percent of Island Residents


Iglesia Asamblea Pentecostal (Bayamon, Puerto Rico), 1969

This Week in AG History — December 16, 1916

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 15 December 2016

Puerto Rico is home to a vibrant, growing, and indigenous Pentecostal movement, consisting of an estimated 25 percent of the island’s population. Pentecostalism first came to Puerto Rico in 1916 via Hawaii, where a number of Puerto Rican families had migrated in search of employment on sugar plantations. After many Puerto Ricans living in Hawaii surrendered their lives to God during a Pentecostal revival in the early 1910s, several of them — including Salomon Feliciano, Juan Lugo, and Francisco and Panchito Ortiz — felt called to bring the Pentecostal message to their homeland.

The four Puerto Rican missionaries became credentialed with the Assemblies of God and helped spark a spiritual hurricane that reshaped the religious contours of the island. Feliciano and Lugo arrived in Puerto Rico in the fall of 1916, followed shortly afterward by the father-and-son team of Francisco and Panchito Ortiz. Lugo initially ministered in the barrio of Santurce, located in the capital city of San Juan. After a month, he moved his ministry focus to Ponce, a large city in the southern part of Puerto Rico.

The Pentecostal Evangel published numerous letters by the four missionaries. One letter by Feliciano and Lugo, published in the Dec. 16, 1916, issue, recounted both successes and challenges. They reported 43 converts and many others who felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Mainline Protestant ministers viewed the newcomers as a threat and tried to discourage them from starting a new church. Hostile government officials also interfered with the Pentecostals’ missions efforts. But the Pentecostal prayer meetings soon outgrew the home where they were held, and believers overcame public cynicism and hostility and organized the first Pentecostal church in Puerto Rico. Within several years, Pentecostal churches began popping up all over the island.

The Pentecostal movement in Puerto Rico, now 100 years old, was birthed by refugees who left their island homeland and who migrated across the world in search of a better life. In Hawaii, they experienced a spiritual awakening, which changed the trajectory of their lives and propelled them to return to Puerto Rico as missionaries. While they faced opposition to the gospel, the missionaries did not shrink back. Indeed, Feliciano and Lugo concluded their letter by expressing confidence in God’s provisions in the face of trials: “When the world is against us, Jesus is with us.”

Read the article by Salomon Feliciano and Juan Lugo, “Salvation Coming to Many in Porto Rico,” on page 12 of the Dec. 16, 1916, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “I Fell in Love with the Nazarene,” by Sarah Haggard Payne

* “The Bible,” by D. W. Kerr

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200

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