At least some of the instruments used in traditional Puerto Rican music are believed to have originated with the Taíno people. Most noteworthy is the güiro, a notched hollowed-out gourd, which was adapted from a pre-Colombian instrument. Others maintain that similar instruments were also used in other parts of Central and South America and brought to Puerto Rico by the Arawak indians.

The güiro is made by carving the shell of the gourd and carving parallel fluting on its surface. It is played by holding the güiro in the left hand with the thumb inserted into the back sound hole to keep the instrument in place. The right hand usually holds the scraper and plays the instrument. The scraper is more properly called a "pua". A rhythmic, rasping sound like this sample audio clip, is produced. Playing the güiro usually requires both long and short sounds, which are made by scraping both up and down in long or short strokes. The güiro, like the maracas, is usually played by a singer. The instrument's rasping sound adds counterpoint to folk music but is less often used in salsa bands.

Modern güiros are also made of metal, plasic or even fiberglass. The scaper is typically made with metal tynes attached to s small block of wood but may be made entirely of wood, metal, bamboo, shell, bone, ceramic or plastic. The size of the güiro can vary widely although it typically ranges from 25 - 35 cm long.

The earliest known reference to the güiro is in the writings of Fray Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra in 1788. He described the güiro as one of several instruments that were used to accompany dancers. The other instruments would typically include maracas, tambourine and one or more guitars.

The güiro is known as Calabazo, Guayo, Ralladera, Rascador, and is considered a percussion instrument.