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Puerto Rico
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Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a self-governing unincorporated organized territory of the United States, in the eastern Caribbean, consisting of the island of Puerto Rico and some smaller islands. Its official name is The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico's ultimate legal status is a subject of continuing debate.

Puerto Rico is part of the Greater Antilles, located to the east of the Dominican Republic and to the west of the Lesser Antilles. It consists of the main island, commonly called by Puerto Ricans as "the Great Island" (La Isla Grande) and a number of smaller islands, of which only Vieques, Isla de Culebra are inhabited. It is divided in 78 municipalities and its U.S. postal abbreviation is PR.

Puerto Rico was called Borikén by the indigenous Taínos before Christopher Columbus named it San Juan Bautista (after John the Baptist). The name Puerto Rico means "rich port" in Spanish.

Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico
In Detail Coat of Arms
Motto: Joannes Est Nomen Eius
Official languages Spanish, English
Capital San Juan
Largest City (largest in population) San Juan
Governor Sila M. Calderón
- Total
- % water
(Not ranked)
9,104 km2
- Total (2002)
- Density
(Not ranked)
Independence None
Currency U.S. Dollar (USD)
Time zone UTC -4/ (No DST)
National Anthem La Borinqueña
Internet TLD .pr
Calling code 1

Table of contents
1 Political Status
2 History
3 Politics
4 Municipalities
5 Geography
6 Economy
7 Demographics
8 Colleges and universities
9 Culture
10 See also
11 External links
12 References
13 Notes

Political Status

Puerto Rico is a US territory which has been given self-governing "commonwealth" status. (The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, located in the western Pacific Ocean, has a similar relationship to the United States.) What this means has never been absolutely clear; however, Puerto Rico has more latitude over its internal affairs than the US territories of Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or American Samoa.

Puerto Rico's current constitutional arrangements are the result of a treaty signed in 1952, so presumably it could become independent in the same way—a right not possessed by the states of the United States. Alternatively, it could be admitted as a state of the United States by a vote of the Congress, in the same way that Hawaii was in 1959.

Puerto Rico has approximately the same degree of authority over its internal affairs as an American state. The United States federal government controls interstate trade, foreign commerce, customs, aviation and navigation, immigration, currency, all military and naval matters, radio and television communications, mining and minerals, highways, the postal system, social security, and other areas generally controlled by the federal government in the United States. United States courts have the final say over the constitutionality of Puerto Rican laws. Puerto Rico may not conclude treaties with other sovereign states, although it does belong to some international bodies.

Puerto Rico's elected governor and legislature control all other internal affairs. The major differences between Puerto Rico and the states are greater financial autonomy (it levies its own taxes and is exempt from the Internal Revenue Code), its lack of voting representation in either house of the Congress and the ineligibility of Puerto Rican residents to vote in presidential elections.


Main article: History of Puerto Rico

The island of Puerto Rico was originally inhabited by a group of Arawak Indians known as Taínos. The first European contact was made by Christopher Columbus, on his second voyage to the Antilles, on November 19, 1493. The island was originally named San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon became the island's first governor of Puerto Rico to take office, while Vicente Yáñez Pinzón was the first appointed governor, though he never arrived at the island.

The island was soon colonized becoming the most important stronghold of the Spanish empire in the Caribbean. Concerned about threats from its European enemies, Spain began construction of massive defenses around the city of San Juan. Fortresses such as La Fortaleza, Fort San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Cristobal would be built. The French, Dutch and English made attempts to capture Puerto Rico, but failed.

In 1809, Puerto Rico was recognized as an overseas providence of Spain with the right to send representatives to the Spanish Court. Puerto Rico was granted its first constitution, allowed to engage in free commerce and continued to develop its own identity in aspects such as culture, music, and arts.

Toward the end of the 19th century, poor economic and political situations with Spain led to an attempted 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. Champions of this autonomist movement were such political leaders as Ramon Baldorioty de Castro, and towards the end of the century, Luis Muñoz Rivera. In 1897, Muñoz Rivera persuaded a liberal Spanish government to agree to an Autonomic Charter for the island. The following year Puerto Rico's first autonomous government was organized with Muñoz Rivera as leader.

On July 25, 1898 Puerto Rico was invaded by the United States of America with a landing at Guánica Bay. Spain was forced to cede Puerto Rico to the United States under the Treaty of Paris (1898). 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 United States Congress granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship. Natural disasters and the Great Depression impoverished the island. Political leaders demanded change, some like Pedro Albizu Campos would lead a nationalist movement in favor of independence. Later, José T. Piñero became the first Puerto Rican governor designated by United States. 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.

Puerto Rico adopted its own constitution in 1952 adopting a commonwealth relation with the United States. During the 1950s Puerto Rico experienced a rapid industrialization, with such projects as Operation Bootstrap which aimed to change Puerto Rico's agicultural-based economy into an economy based on other industries such as manufacturing. Present-day Puerto Rico has become a major tourist destination and a leading pharmaceutical and manuacturing center. Still, Puerto Rico continues to struggle to define its political status.


Main article: Politics of Puerto Rico

The government is 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 the Spanish civil code.

The Constitution of Puerto Rico was approved through refendum in 1952, and ratified by the U.S. Congress, which maintains ultimate sovereignty over Puerto Rico. Under this constitution, Puerto Rico is a territorial commonwealth of the United States and is permitted a high degree of autonomy. Although Puerto Rico does not have representation in the U.S. Electoral College or U.S. Congress, it is permitted a non-voting Resident Commissioner in the U.S. House of Representatives and Puerto Ricans pay no federal income tax on income from island sources. Citizens of Puerto Rico are also U.S. citizens. The Jones Act of 1917 imposed citizenship on the island in order to draft many Puerto Rican men into the armed services.


Main article: 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 at the second order. Each municipality has a Mayor and a Municipal Legislature elected for a 4 year term.


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, and Mona. 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.


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 US government, today local industries must compete with those in more economically depressed parts of the world where wages are not subject to US minimum wage legislation.


Main article: Demographics of Puerto Rico

It has been stated that everyone in Puerto Rico originated somewhere else as they are a people comprised primarily of Taino, African aand European origin.

Recent Mitochondrial and Y-chromosome analyses have shown that at least 61% of Puerto Ricans have an Amerindian ancestry (said to be "from our Taino mothers"), 27% from African genes and 12% from European (mostly Hispano-Arab/Canary Islander). Y- Chromosome analysis have shown that well OVER 70% of our fathers where WHITE (or to be more politically correct "West Eurasion"). The African input was measured at LESS then 20% and, ironically enough, the indigenous contribution (from our fathers) is LESS then 10%. In orther words, the Mestizo is the ancestry that most permeates the Puerto Rican identity. http://www.puertorico-herald.org/issues/2003/vol7n50/PRGenePool.shtml

European and Spanish men set root on the island for over 4 centuries. Spaniards came from the regions of Extremadura and Andalucia during the 16th to 18th century. This is and area in which an incredible ethnic mixture had taken place over the regions past, this would explain why our “white” ancestry is so genetically spread out throughout this “West Eurasian” region. It was only until the 19th century that Spaniards, from farther north (i.e. Asturias, Galicia, Basque, Leon…), starting arriving on the island in great numbers. Previous to that large migration the early Spanish settlers and soldiers mated with Amerindian women in a LARGER THEN EXPECTED degree. So although pure Taínos do not exist today their Mestizo descendants are still here.

Although pure Taíno numbers had dwindled due to disease, warfare and forced intermarriages...many, if not most, of the marriages between Spanish men and Amerindian women were actually quite amicable. The "Limpeza de Sangre" documents on the island (used until the 1870's) sheds light on this reality. This document was used by Mestizos and Amerindians to move up in their society ---becoming "whiter" was the only way they could achieve that status. Later, waves of Corsican, French and Portuguese Europeans, along with a large amount of immigrants from the Canary Islands, arrived in Puerto Rico. Many other persons from Spain's other colonies migrated into the island as well. The mestizos (Taino mixed with European) were fully absorbed into the general population. Other settlers have included Irish, Germans and many others who were granted lands from Spain during the Cedula de Gracias of 1815. This decree allowed "white" European Catholics from anywhere in Europe to settle in the island with a certain amount of free land and enslaved persons.

According to the 2000 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 unified societies in the world. Since its colonization, Puerto Rico has become the permanent home of over 100,000 legal residents who immigrated from not only Spain, but from other Latino Nations as well. Cubans, Dominicans, Colommbians, Panamanians, Curacaoans, and Santomeños can also be accounted for as settlers. The variety of surnames which exist in Puerto Rico attests to the presence of many other nationalities within our own.

The Roman Catholic religion is dominant and the religion followed by most Puerto Ricans, although there is a notable Protestant presence imported from the United States during the American Invasion of 1898. Puerto Ricans practice a forced Christianity which came from the days of Spanish colonization like most latin american nations. Taino spirituality is gradually being re-discovered by a culture seeking to regain its sense of true Caribbean identity. 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, Mayombe is the most widely practiced African-derived religion, but still a minor religion in this country.

Puerto Rico currently has its own Olympic team, as well as international representation in many other sporting events including the Summer Olympics, the Pan-American Games, the Central American Games, and the Caribbean World Series. Boxing and baseball are considered to be strong amongst Puerto Ricans. This is probably traceable back to the days when Boriken, the island's original indigenous name, was especially known for its bateyes (ceremonial arenas in which a game was played with a rubber ball).

Colleges and universities


Main article: Culture of Puerto Rico

See also

External links

Official sites



  1. Central Intelligence Agency (USA). The World Factbook (2003). United States of America.
  2. United Nations. General Assembly Resolutions 8th Session (1953). United States of America.


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

[ Edit {}] Countries in West Indies
Antigua and Barbuda | Bahamas | Barbados | Cuba | Dominica | Dominican Republic | Grenada | Haiti | Jamaica | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Trinidad and Tobago
Dependencies: Anguilla | Aruba | Bermuda | British Virgin Islands | Cayman Islands | Guadeloupe | Martinique | Montserrat | Netherlands Antilles | Puerto Rico | Turks and Caicos Islands | U.S. Virgin Islands