Puerto Rico

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Template:Infobox CountryThe Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Spanish: Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico) is a self-governing unincorporated organized territory of the United States located east of the Dominican Republic in the northeastern Caribbean. Puerto Rico, the smallest of the Greater Antilles, includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands and keys, including Mona, Vieques, and Culebra.


Main article: History of Puerto Rico

When Europeans first arrived, the island of Puerto Rico was inhabited by a group of Arawak Indians known as Taínos. The Taínos called the island "Borikén." The first European contact was made by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage to the Antilles, on November 19, 1493. Some say that Puerto Rico was not discovered by Columbus but by Martín Alonso Pinzón in 1492 when he separated from Columbus and went exploring on his own. The Pinzón family was given one year by the Spanish court to start a settlement in Puerto Rico which would give them a claim to the island. However, they did not succeed. Originally named San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John the Baptist, the island ultimately took the name of Puerto Rico (Rich Port); while the name San Juan is now delegated to its capital and largest city. Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León became the island's first governor to take office, while Vicente Yáñez Pinzón was the first appointed governor, though he never arrived on the island.

The island was soon colonized and briefly became an important stronghold and port for the Spanish empire in the Caribbean. However, colonial emphasis during the late 17th–18th centuries, focused on the more prosperous mainland territories, leaving the island impoverished of settlers. Concerned about threats from its European enemies, over the centuries various forts and walls were built to protect the port of San Juan. Fortresses such as La Fortaleza, El Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Cristóbal were built. The French, Dutch and English made attempts to capture Puerto Rico, but failed to wrest long-term occupancy of the island.

In 1809, while Napoleon occupied the majority of the Spanish peninsula, a populist assembly based in Cadiz recognized Puerto Rico as an overseas province of Spain with the right to send representatives to the Spanish Court. The representative Ramon Power y Giralt died soon after arriving in Spain; and constitutional reforms were reversed when autocratic monarchy was restored. Nineteenth century reforms augmented the population and economy, and expanded the local character of the island. After the rapid gains of independence by the South and Central American states in the first part of the century, Puerto Rico and Cuba became the sole New World remnants of the large Spanish empire.

Toward the end of the 19th century, poverty and political estrangement with Spain led to a small but significant uprising in 1868 known as "El Grito de Lares." The Puerto Rican goal was to achieve personal freedom, the abolition of slavery, and full self-government. The uprising was easily and quickly crushed. Leaders of this independence movement included Ramón Emeterio Betances, considered the "father" of the Puerto Rican nation, and other political figures such as Segundo Ruiz Belvis. Later another political stronghold was the autonomist movement originated by Roman Baldorioty de Castro, and towards the end of the century, by Luis Muñoz Rivera. In 1897, Muñoz Rivera and others persuaded the liberal Spanish government to agree to a Charters of Autonomy for Cuba and Puerto Rico. The following year Puerto Rico's first, but short-lived autonomous government was organized. The charter maintained a governor appointed by Spain, who held the power to annul any legislative decision he disagreed with, and a partially elected parliamentary structure.

On July 25, 1898 at the outbreak of the Spanish–American War, Puerto Rico, being a colony of Spain, was invaded by the United States of America with a landing at Guánica. Spain was forced to cede Puerto Rico, along with Cuba and the Phillippines, to the United States under the Treaty of Paris (1898) [1]. The twentieth century began under the military regime of the United States with officials, including the governor, appointed by the President of the United States. In 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act approved by the United States Congress granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship. Natural disasters and the Great Depression impoverished the island. Some political leaders demanded change, some like Pedro Albizu Campos would lead a nationalist (The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party) movement in favor of independence. He would eventually die by what he claimed was a conspiracy set in place by the U.S. Federal Government. Muñoz Rivera initially favored independence, but saw a severe decline of the Puerto Rican economy, as well as growing violence and uprisings, at the hands of the U.S. government and opted to create the "commonwealth" option as an eventual stepping stone to full out independence. While that option survived several decades and had its benefits, it has proven to be stagnating the economy rather than setting it free.

Change in the nature of governance of the island came about during the latter years of the RooseveltTruman administrations, as a form of compromise spearheaded by Luis Muñoz Marín and others, and which culminated with the appointment by President Harry S. Truman in 1946 of the first Puerto Rican-born governor, Jesús T. Piñero. In 1948, the United States granted the right to democratically elect the governor of Puerto Rico. Luis Muñoz Marín would become the first elected governor of Puerto Rico.

On November 1, 1950, Puerto Rican nationalists Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo attempted to assassinate President Harry S. Truman. In response, Truman allowed for a genuinely democratic referendum in Puerto Rico to determine the status of its relationship to the United States [2].

Puerto Rico adopted its own constitution in 1952 which adopted a commonwealth relationship with the United States [3][4]. During the 1950s Puerto Rico experienced a rapid industrialization, with such projects as Operation Bootstrap which aimed to industrialize Puerto Rico's economy from agriculture-based into manufacturing-based.

Present-day Puerto Rico has become a major tourist destination and a leading pharmaceutical and manufacturing center. Still, Puerto Rico continues to struggle to define its political status. A number of plebiscites have been held over the last decades to decide whether Puerto Rico should request independence, enhanced commonwealth status, or statehood. Narrow victories by commonwealth supporters over statehood advocates have not yielded substantial changes in the relationship between the island and United States. However, commonwealth, which once had the support of well over 75% of the population, now has less than 50% support. This decrease has been met with an expanded support for statehood for the island, with both groups holding an equal share of support. The independence ideal, once the second leading ideology on the island in the general elections, is now supported by 3–6% of the population.


Main article: Geography of Puerto Rico

Map of Puerto Rico

The archipelago of Puerto Rico consists of the main island of Puerto Rico and various smaller islands, including Vieques, Culebra, Mona, Desecheo and Caja de Muertos. Of the latter five, only Culebra and Vieques are inhabited year-round. Mona is uninhabitated through large parts of the year except for employees of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources.

The mainland measures some 170 km by 60 km (105 miles by 35 miles). It has a population of approximately 4 million. The capital city, San Juan, is located on the main island's north coast and has a population of approximately 430,000.

The mainland is mostly mountainous with coastal areas in the north and south regions of the island. The main mountainous range is called "La Cordillera Central" (The Central Range). The highest elevation point of Puerto Rico, Cerro de Punta (1338 meters), is located in this range. Another important mountain range is the El Yunque National Forest with a maximum elevation of 1,065m.

Some beautiful beaches on the western side of the island are Jobos Beach, Maria's Beach, Domes Beach and Sandy Beach.

Puerto Rico has nine lakes and more than 50 rivers. Most of these rivers are born in the "Cordillera Central." The rivers in the northern region of the island are bigger and with higher flow capacity than those of the south region.


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Geology of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is composed of Cretaceous to Eocene volcanic and plutonic rocks, which are overlain by younger Oligocene to recent carbonates and other sedimentary rocks. Most of the caverns and karst topography on the island occurs in the northern Oligocene to recent carbonates. The oldest rocks are approximately 190 million years old (Jurassic) and are located at Sierra Bermeja in the southwest part of the island. These rocks may represent part of the oceanic crust and are believed to come from the Pacific Ocean realm. Puerto Rico lies at the boundary between the Caribbean and North America plates. This means that it is currently being deformed by the tectonic stresses caused by the interaction of these plates. These stresses may cause earthquakes and tsunamis. These seismic events, along with landslides, represent some of the most dangerous geologic hazards in the island and in the northeastern Caribbean.


Main article: Politics of Puerto Rico

The island government is based on the U.S. Republic system composed of 3 branches: the Executive branch headed by the Governor, the Legislative branch consisting of a bicameral Legislative Assembly (a Senate and a House of Representatives) and the Judicial branch. The legal system is based on a mix of the Civil Law and the Common Law systems. The governor as well as legislators are elected by popular vote every four years. Members of the Judicial branch are appointed by the governor and approved by the senate. The island is divided into 78 municipalities, which elect a mayor and municipal assembly. Puerto Rico's formal Chief of State is the President of the United States; however, most of the executive functions are carried out by the governor.

The current Constitution of Puerto Rico was approved through referendum in 1952, and ratified by the U.S. Congress, which maintains ultimate sovereignty over Puerto Rico. Under the 1952 constitution, Puerto Rico is a territorial commonwealth of the United States and is permitted a high degree of autonomy. Still, Puerto Rico does not have voting representation in the U.S. Congress; neither does it have any delegates to the U.S. Electoral College, and therefore Puerto Rican citizens have no representation in the U.S. Presidential elections. A non-voting Resident Commissioner is elected by the residents of Puerto Rico to the U.S. Congress. Residents of the island do not pay federal income tax on income from island sources, however, island residents do pay social security taxes and other federal taxes. The island was also exempt from the national 55 mph speed limit that was mandated on the rest of the U.S. from 1974 to 1995.

Puerto Rico's three major political parties are most distinguished by their position on the political status of Puerto Rico. The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) seeks to maintain or improve the current Commonwealth status, the New Progressive Party (PNP) seeks to fully incorporate Puerto Rico as a U.S. state, and the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) seeks national independence.

Three Puerto Rico status referenda have been held since the ratification of the 1952 constitution. Support for the commonwealth has eroded from over 60% in 1967 to about 48%, while support for statehood has grown to about 46%. The constituency of supporters for independence is unclear, since many independentistas feel that voting for the PIP in the general elections or independence in referendums is a waste of a vote since support for independence is scarce and instead vote for the PPD; those people are called melones. In the 1998 referendum independence received 2.5%, but the "None of the above" option received more than 50%. The latter option is widely recognized on the island as a protest vote by the PPD and the PIP and a blockade against statehood promoted by then-Governor Dr. Pedro Rosselló.

Puerto Ricans living on the island are not counted among the Hispanics residing in the U.S.; in fact, they are not included in the U.S. population count at all, although all Puerto Ricans are U.S. Citizens. Puerto Rico also is not included in the Current Population Surveys that the Census Bureau conducts to update its decennial census.

U.S. Commonwealth

Although Puerto Rico is, politically speaking, a Commonwealth of the United States, Puerto Ricans and people from other nations refer to the Puerto Rico as a país, the Spanish word for country. This is a very common and accepted international status given to all dependent territories, also called dependent "states" by the UN. This is highlighted by the fact, for example, that Puerto Rico is an independent country in the sports world, even having their own Olympic teams. In the jargon of international law, an inhabited territory that is not a first-order administrative division, but rather forms an external, non-sovereign territory governed by a sovereign one, is both a "state" and a "country". But none of these cases —neither U.S. "states" nor dependent "states/countries"—are considered sovereign international entities.


Main article: Economy of Puerto Rico

The economic conditions in Puerto Rico have improved dramatically since the Great Depression due to external investment in capital-intensive industry such as petrochemicals pharmaceuticals and technology. Once the beneficiary of special tax treatment from the U.S. government, today local industries must compete with those in more economically depressed parts of the world where wages are not subject to U.S. minimum wage legislation. In recent years, some U.S. and foreign owned factories have moved to lower wage countries in Latin America and Asia. Puerto Rico is subject to U.S. trade laws and restrictions.

Puerto Ricans had a per capita GDP estimate of $17,700 for 2004 [5] , which demonstrates a growth over the $14,412. level measured in the 2002 Current Population Survey by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund [6]. In that survey, Puerto Ricans have a 48.2% poverty rate. By comparison, the poorest State of the Union, Mississippi, had a median level of $21,587, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, 2002 to 2004 Annual Social and Economic Supplements [7].


Main article: Demographics of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has sometimes been said to have a White majority, an extinct Amerindian population, persons of mixed ancestry, Africans and a small Asian minority. However, broad US census categories have disallowed the mixed ancestry of most Puerto Ricans to be officially acknowledged; and most on the island tend to agree that what is "Puerto Rican" is generally a mixture between Spanish, Amerindian, and African genetic heritage. According to a recent study funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, 61 percent of all Puerto Ricans have Amerindian mitochondrial DNA, 27 percent have African and 12 percent Caucasian [8].

During the 1800s hundreds of Corsican, French, and Portuguese, along with a large numbers of immigrants from the Canary Islands and numerous Spanish loyalists from Spain's former colonies in South America, arrived in Puerto Rico. Other settlers have included Irish, Scots, Germans, and many others who were granted land from Spain during the Cedula de Gracias of 1815, which allowed European Catholics to settle in the island with a certain amount of free land.

Emigration has been a major part of Puerto Rico's recent history as well. Starting in the Post-WWII period, due to poverty, cheap air fare, and promotion by the island government, waves of Puerto Ricans moved to the mainland United States, particularly New York City. This continued even as Puerto Rico's economy improved and the birth rate declined. Emigration continues at the present time, and this, combined with Puerto Rico's greatly lowered birth rate, suggests that the island's population will age rapidly and start to decline sometime within the next couple of decades.

According to the 2000 US Census, 95% of the population consider themselves of Puerto Rican descent (regardless of race or skin color), making Puerto Rico one of the most culturally homogenous societies in the world [9]. Since its colonization, Puerto Rico has become the permanent home of over 100,000 legal residents who immigrated from not only Spain, but from Latin America as well. Cubans, Dominicans, Colombians, Panamanians, Curacaoans, and Santomeños can also be accounted for as settlers. The variety of surnames which exist in Puerto Rico suggests widespread immigration to the island from many regions.


The official languages of the island are Spanish and English. Spanish is the primary language in business and government; English is taught as a second language in schools.


The Roman Catholic religion has been historically dominant and is the religion of the majority of Puerto Ricans, although the presence of Protestant, Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) and Jehovah's Witnesses denominations has increased under American sovereignty, making modern Puerto Rico an interconfessional country.

Taíno religious practices have to a degree been rediscovered/reinvented by a few handfuls of advocates. Kongo belief, known as Mayombe or Palo, has been around since the days of the arrival of enslaved Africans. Although, Santeria (stronger and more organized in Cuba) is practiced by some, Palo Mayombe (an African belief system which originated with Bantu tribes brought into Puerto Rico as slaves for over 500 years) finds more adherence among individuals who practice some form of Afican Traditional Religion.

See also Protestants in Puerto Rico.


Main article: Culture of Puerto Rico


Education in Puerto Rico is divided into four levels. These are elementary, intermediate, high school and the university level. Students can attend either a public or a private school. Public schools are run by the state while private schools are run by private institutions, predominantly the Roman Catholic Church. The only public university system in Puerto Rico is the University of Puerto Rico.


Main article:Sports in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico currently has its own Olympic team, as well as international representation in many other sporting events including the Summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics, the Pan-American Games, the Central American Games, and the Caribbean World Series. Further, it has its own representatives in beauty pageants including Miss World and Miss Universe.

Boxing, basketball, and baseball are popular. They have their own professional baseball leagues, though San Juan hosted the Montréal Expos for several series in 2003 and 2004 before they moved to Washington, D.C. and became the Washington Nationals.

On September 29, 2005 Major League Baseball announced that opening rounds of the newly formed World Baseball Classic, a 16-country tournament featuring top players, would be held in San Juan in March 2006.


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Municipalities of Puerto Rico

For a complete list of the municipalities of Puerto Rico see: List of municipalities in Puerto Rico

As a commonwealth associated with the United States, Puerto Rico does not have any first-order administrative divisions as defined by the U.S. Government, but there are 78 municipalities (as well as Isla Mona, a non-municipality that belongs to Puerto Rico) at the second order. Each municipality has a mayor and a municipal legislature elected for a 4 year term.

The first municipality (back then called town) of Puerto Rico, San Juan, was founded in 1521. In the 16th century two more municipalities were established, Coamo (1570) and San Germán (1570). Three more municipalities were established in the 17th century. These were Arecibo (1614), Aguada (1692) and Ponce (1692). The 18th and 19th century saw an increase in settlement in Puerto Rico. 30 municipalities were established in the 18th century and 34 more were established in the 19th century. Only six municipalities were founded in the 20th century. The last municipality was Florida, founded in 1971 [10].

See also

See also

See also: List of Puerto Rico-related topics

External links

Official sites


  1. ^  Treaty of Paris (1898).
  2. ^  Act of July 3, 1950, Ch. 446, 64 Stat. 319.
  3. ^  Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico - in Spanish (original).
  4. ^  Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico - in English (translation).
  5. ^  CIA - The World Factbook -- Puerto Rico.
  6. ^  PRLDEF.
  7. ^  U.S. Census - Median Family Income.
  8. ^  Indian Country Today, October 6, 2003.
  9. ^  Puerto Rico DP-1 Profile of General Demographics Characteristics : 2000.
  10. ^  LinktoPR.com - Fundación de los Pueblos.
  11. ^  General Assembly Resolutions 8th Session United Nations.


[1] See http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/8/ares8.htm

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