The 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, which include Mona, Vieques, and Culebra. Of the latter three, only Culebra and Vieques are inhabited year-round. Mona is not inhabitated year long except for employees of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources. People can visit the island for hiking and camping by getting the required permits.
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 "Borinkén". The first European contact was made by Christopher Columbus, on his second voyage to the Antilles, on November 19, 1493. 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 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 and became briefly 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 Cristobal would be 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, with a partially elected parliamentary structure.
On July 25, 1898 at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico was invaded by the United States of America with a landing at Guánica. 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 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. Others, including Muñoz Rivera and Jose Celso Barbosa favored a closer integration into the U.S. and full-fledged statehood.
Change in the nature of governance of the island came about during the latter years of the Roosevelt-Truman 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.
Puerto Rico adopted its own constitution in 1952 which adopted a commonwealth relationship with the United States. 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.
Main article: Geography 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 . 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.
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.
The current Constitution of Puerto Rico was approved through refendum in 1952, and ratified by the US 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. 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.
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. In all, most Puerto Ricans have elected to maintain the current commonwealth status, but in the most recent referendum held in 1998 the commonwealth status prevailed by only a slight margin over statehood. Supporters for independence constitute less than 5% of the vote in referenda.
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. 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.
Main article: Demographics of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is said to comprise a White majority, an extinct Amerindian population, persons of mixed ancestry, Africans and a small Asian minority. Recent genetic research, however, contradicts that information.
Recent genetic research revealed a surprising picture about Puerto Rican heritage. It indicates that in relation to matrilineal ancestry as revealed by mtDNA, 61% of all Puerto Ricans possessed at least one female Amerindian ancestor, 27% showed to have at least one female African ancestor and 12% showed to have at least one female European ancestor. Conversely, patrilineal input as indicated by the Y chromosome, showed that 75% of all Puerto Ricans possessed at least one male European ancestor, 20% showed as having had at least one male African ancestor and less than 5% showed to have had a male Amerindian ancestor. Other smaller studies from the island have been done to further back up this evidence. []
A noticeable Asian minority also settled in Puerto Rico. Most of the Asians in Puerto Rico are Chinese Puerto Rican descendants of immigrant railroad workers. Other small groups of Chinese have also settled at various stages in history, including victims of World War II, those fleeing China under Mao Zedong, political immigrants after the handover of Hong Kong and Macau back to China, and some Chinese who had earlier settled in other parts of Latin America. Other Asians in Puerto Rico include Japanese and Koreans.
Emigration has been a major part of Puerto Rico's recent history as well. Starting in the 1950's, due to poverty and lack of opportunity, waves of Puerto Ricans moved to the United States, particularly New York City, beginning in the 1950's. This continued even as Puerto Rico's economy improved and the birth rate declined. Today, about half of ethnic Puerto Ricans live in the United States, and the other half in Puerto Rico itself. 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 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, 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 has been spoken as their first language, but English is also used in higher education, business, and government.
The Roman Catholic religion is dominant and the religion followed by most Puerto Ricans, although there the prescence of Protestant, Mormon, and Jehovah's Witnesses sects have increased while under American sovereignity. Taino 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, Mayombe, a fusion of African-Catholic beliefs, find some adherence among mainly individuals in the Northeast coast of the island.
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 peagents including Miss America and Miss Universe. Boxing, basketball, and baseball are popular.
Main article: Culture of Puerto Rico
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 (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.
- Central Intelligence Agency (USA). The World Factbook (2003). United States of America.
- United Nations. General Assembly Resolutions 8th Session (1953). United States of America.
 See http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/8/ares8.htm