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Puerto Rico

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is an archipelago in the eastern Caribbean of autonomous politics, in free association with the United States. 1

Puerto Rico is part of the Greater Antilles, located to the east of the Dominican Republic and to the west of the Lesser Antilles. The archipelago consists of a set of small islands, two island-municipalities and the main island; commonly called by Puerto Ricans as The Great Island (“La Isla Grande” in Spanish). The commonwealth is divided in 78 municipalities and its U.S. postal abbreviation is PR.

Puerto Rico was previously called Borikén by the indigenous Taínos before Christopher Columbus baptized it as San Juan Bautista. The current name Puerto Rico means rich port.

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 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
National Anthem La Borinqueña
Internet TLD .pr
Calling code 1

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Municipalities
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Colleges and Universities
8 Culture
9 Miscellaneous topics
10 External links
11 References
12 Notes


Main article: History of Puerto Rico

The island of Puerto Rico was originally inhabited by a group of Arawak Indians known as Tainos. European discovery was made by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage on November 19, 1493. It was the main stronghold of the Spanish empire in the Caribbean during the first years of the colonization of the Americas.

Since most Puerto Ricans wanted freedom but not independence from Spain, there was never a violent revolution against Spanish rule on the island; the only attempted uprising, in 1868 in the small mountain town of Lares, collapsed almost immediately due to lack of popular support. The Puerto Rican goal was to achieve personal freedom, the abolition of slavery, and full self-government, but without breaking the bonds with Spain. 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.

Within a year, Puerto Rico was invaded by the United States in the Spanish-American War on July 25, 1898 with a landing at Guánica Bay. Spain was forced to cede Puerto Rico to the U.S. under the Treaty of Paris (1898).


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 commonwealth freely associated with 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 Commissier in the U.S. House of Representatives and Puerto Ricans pay no federal income tax or U.S. sales tax. Citizens of Puerto Rico are also U.S. citizens.


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 Council elected for a 4 year term.

  • San Juan
  • San Lorenzo
  • San Sebastian
  • Santa Isabel
  • Toa Alta
  • Toa Baja
  • Trujillo Alto
  • Utuado
  • Vega Alta
  • Vega Baja
  • Vieques
  • Villalba
  • Yabucoa
  • Yauco


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

With the exception of pre-Castro Cuba, Puerto Rico is the only island in the Caribbean with a "white" majority. On the whole, the people of Puerto Rico represent a racially diverse population of mainly Spanish, Taino Indian and African strains. Throughout five centuries, the islanders have developed a harmonious blend of Spanish, African and Taino Indian traditions, however, the dominant culture has always been that of the Spanish settlers.

Of the European population, the most obvious are those descended from the families established by the colonizing Spaniards who mainly came from southern Spain and the Canary Islands. During the early period of colonization, intermarriage between the Spanish settlers and the native Tainos existed, but the Indian population was soon wiped out. Today the Tainos are an extinct people, however their contribution to the culture of the island can still be seen in the local cuisine, arts, and place names. With the indigenous population exterminated, many African slaves were imported to the island and today there are numerous Puerto Ricans with visible African features.

Later, Corsican, Italian, and French immigrants arrived along with numerous Spanish loyalists from Spain's former colonies in South America. Other settlers have included Irish, Germans and in recent years, immigrants from Cuba and Dominican Republic, but represent less than 5% of the population. According to the 2000 census 95% of the population consider themselves of Puerto Rican descent, making Puerto Rico one of the most homogeneous societies in the world.

Spanish is the primary language on Puerto Rico; estimates are that less than a quarter of the population is fully bilingual in English and Spanish. English is taught in public schools as a second language.

The Roman Catholic religion is dominant; about 65% of Puerto Ricans are Roman Catholics. Puerto Rico has its own Olympic team and has international representation in many events including the Summer Olympics, Winter Olympics, Pan-American Games, and Central American Games.

Colleges and Universities


Main article: Culture of Puerto Rico

Miscellaneous topics

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.


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