The Early Days
In the early 1930’s, there was just one Witness in Puerto Rico, Brother John Dahlberg. He was 70 years old and had very little knowledge of Spanish.
In 1935, two pioneer sisters, Lillian Carr and Marie Hawkins, arrived to share the life-saving Kingdom message with the warmhearted Puerto Ricans. Although the sisters were not fluent in Spanish, they preached and placed literature across the island for more than a decade.
In 1938, Sister Hawkins placed a booklet with a man who, in turn, gave the booklet to his friend Ambrosio Rosa Garcia. Mr. Rosa was deeply impressed with what he read and requested more literature from the Society’s New York office. He began to share what he was learning by preaching from house to house, despite opposition from the local clergy and from the police. Brother Rosa preached to Santiago Rodriguez, Sr., who joined Brother Rosa in preaching.
Jehovah blessed their efforts, and a small group of interested persons began to gather together. Soon the two men realized that they needed to dedicate themselves to Jehovah and get baptized. Since they knew of no other Witnesses in Puerto Rico, on January 18, 1940, they gathered the group together and all went to the river. There, Ambrosio first baptized Santiago and then Santiago baptized Ambrosio. They became the first native baptized Witnesses in Puerto Rico. Shortly afterward, on June 8, 1940, the Arecibo Company (or congregation) of Jehovah’s Witnesses was established as the first congregation in Puerto Rico.
In March 1944, the first Gilead graduates to serve in Puerto Rico arrived: Leo and Eunice Van Daalen, Leo’s brother Emil, and their cousin Donald.
The first convention was held in 1945 in Old San Juan. There were 250 people present. The branch office was established on April 1, 1946.
In 2014, there was a peak of 26,295 publishers in Puerto Rico and there were 3,308 pioneers. There were 610 persons baptized. The ratio of publishers to population is one to 140 people.