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1.the smallest and easternmost of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean
2.a self-governing commonwealth associated with the United States occupying the island of Puerto Rico
3.(MeSH)An island in the Greater Antilles in the West Indies. Its capital is San Juan. It is a self-governing commonwealth in union with the United States. It was discovered by Columbus in 1493 but no colonization was attempted until 1508. It belonged to Spain until ceded to the United States in 1898. It became a commonwealth with autonomy in internal affairs in 1952. Columbus named the island San Juan for St. John's Day, the Monday he arrived, and the bay Puerto Rico, rich harbor. The island became Puerto Rico officially in 1932. (From Webster's New Geographical Dictionary, 1988, p987&Room, Brewer's Dictionary of Names, 1992, p436)
Puerto Rico (n.) [MeSH]
Descripteurs EUROVOC (fr)[Thème]
Puerto Rico (pr. n.)
Puerto Rico (pr. n.)
mer et océan (fr)[ClasseParExt.]
Puerto Rico (pr. n.)
|Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico (Spanish)
Latin: Joannes Est Nomen Eius
Spanish: Juan es su nombre
English: John is his name
|Anthem: La Borinqueña
(and largest city)
|Official language(s)||Spanish and English|
|Ethnic groups||White (mostly Spanish origin) 75.8%, Black 12.4%, Asian 0.2%, Amerindian 0.5%, SOR 7.8%, other 3.3% (2010)|
|Government||Republic, three-branch government|
|-||President||Barack Obama (D)|
|-||Governor||Luis Fortuño (PNP/R)|
|-||Federal legislative branch||United States Congress|
|-||Lower house||House of Representatives|
|-||Cession||December 10, 1898 from
Kingdom of Spain
|-||Autonomy||November 25, 1897 Supreme Authority and Sovereignty was retained by the Kingdom of Spain.|
|-||Total||9,104 km2 (169th)
3,515 sq mi
|-||2011 estimate||3,706,690 (127th in the world; 29th in U.S.)|
|-||Density||418/km2 (21st in the world; 2nd in U.S.)
|GDP (PPP)||2009 estimate|
|-||Total||$ 108.441 billion (-)|
|-||Per capita||$ 27,384.27 (N/A)|
|GDP (nominal)||2010 estimate|
|-||Total||$96.26 billion (58)|
|-||Per capita||$24,229 (34)|
|Gini (2009)||53.2 (?th)|
|HDI (2004)||0,867  (Very High) (Not ranked)|
|Currency||United States dollar (
|Time zone||AST (UTC–4)|
|-||Summer (DST)||No DST (UTC–4)|
|Drives on the||right|
|ISO 3166 code||PR|
|Calling code||+1 (spec. +1-787 and +1-939)|
Puerto Rico (/ / or / /),[note 1] officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Spanish: Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, [esˈtaðo ˈlibɾe asoˈsjaðo ðe ˈpweɾto ˈriko]—literally, "Associated Free State of Puerto Rico"), is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rico (Spanish for "rich port") comprises an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands, the largest of which are Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. The main island of Puerto Rico is the smallest by land area of the Greater Antilles. However, it ranks third in population amongst that group of four islands, which also include Cuba, Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), and Jamaica. Due to its location, Puerto Rico enjoys a tropical climate and also experiences the Atlantic hurricane season.
Originally populated for centuries by indigenous aboriginal peoples known as Taínos, the island was claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain during his second voyage to the Americas on November 19, 1493. Under Spanish rule, the island was colonized and the indigenous population was forced into slavery and nearly wiped out due to, among other things, European infectious diseases. The remaining population was emancipated by King Charles I in 1520. Spain possessed Puerto Rico for over 400 years, despite attempts at capture of the island by the French, Dutch, and British. The Spanish Crown, in an attempt to keep Puerto Rico from gaining its independence, revived the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815. The decree was printed in three languages — Spanish, English and French — and it fostered the immigration of hundreds of non-Spanish European families.
The relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States dates back to the Spanish-American War, in which Spain, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1898, ceded the island to the United States. Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens in 1917, and the United States Congress legislates many aspects of Puerto Rican life. However, the islanders may not vote in U.S. presidential elections. Since 1947, Puerto Ricans have been able to elect their own governor. Its official languages are Spanish and English, with Spanish being the primary language. The island's current political status, including the possibility of statehood or independence, is widely debated in Puerto Rico. A referendum on statehood, independence, or continuance of the status quo will be held on November 6, 2012.
Puerto Ricans often call the island Borinquen, from Borikén, its indigenous Taíno name, which means "Land of the Valiant Lord". The terms boricua and borincano derive from Borikén and Borinquen respectively, and are commonly used to identify someone of Puerto Rican heritage. The island is also popularly known in Spanish as la isla del encanto, which means "the island of enchantment" in English.
Christopher Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Eventually, traders and other maritime visitors came to refer to the entire island as "Puerto Rico", and "San Juan" became the name of the main trading/shipping port.
The ancient history of the archipelago known today as "Puerto Rico" before the arrival of Christopher Columbus is not well known. Unlike other larger more advanced indigenous communities in the New World (Aztec, Inca) which left behind abundant archeological and physical evidence of their societies, the indigenous population of Puerto Rico left scant records. What is known today about them comes from scarce archaeological findings and early Spanish scholarly accounts. Today, there are few and rare cave drawings, rock carvings and ancient recreational activity sites that have been identified with some degree of speculation as to who left them behind. The first comprehensive book on the history of Puerto Rico was written by Fray Íñigo Abbad y Lasierra in 1786, almost three centuries after the first Spaniards arrived on the island.
The first settlers were the Ortoiroid people, an Archaic Period culture of Amerindian hunters and fishermen. An archaeological dig in the island of Vieques in 1990 found the remains of what is believed to be an Arcaico (Archaic) man (named "Puerto Ferro Man") dated to around 2000 BCE. The Igneri, a tribe from the region of the Orinoco river, in northern South America, arrived between 120 and 400 CE. The Arcaicos and Igneri co-existed on the island between the 4th and 10th centuries, and perhaps clashed.
Between the 7th and 11th centuries the Taíno culture developed on the island, and by approximately 1000 CE had become dominant. At the time of Columbus' arrival, an estimated 30 to 60 thousand Taíno Amerindians, led by cacique (chief) Agüeybaná, inhabited the island. They called it Boriken, "the great land of the valiant and noble Lord". The natives lived in small villages led by a cacique and subsisted on hunting, fishing and gathering of indigenous cassava root and fruit. This lasted until Columbus arrived in 1493. However, Puerto Rican culture today exhibits many Taíno influences within its music and vocabulary.
When Christopher Columbus arrived in Puerto Rico during his second voyage on November 19, 1493, the island was inhabited by the Taínos. They called the island "Borikén" or, in Spanish, "Borinquen".[note 2] Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John the Baptist. The first Spanish settlement, Caparra, was founded on August 8, 1508 by Juan Ponce de León, a lieutenant under Columbus, who later became the first governor of the island.[note 3] Eventually, traders and other maritime visitors came to refer to the entire island as "Puerto Rico", and "San Juan" became the name of the main trading/shipping port.
Soon thereafter, the Spanish began to colonize the island. The indigenous population (Taínos) came to be exploited and forced into slavery. Within 50 years they were reduced to near extinction by the harsh conditions of work and by European infectious diseases to which they had no natural immunity. For example, the smallpox outbreak in 1518–1519 wiped out much of the Island's indigenous population. In 1520, King Charles I of Spain issued a royal decree collectively emancipating the remaining Taíno population. Essentially, the Taíno presence while not completely extinct had almost vanished.
The importation of Sub-Saharan African slaves was introduced to provide the new manual work force for the Spanish colonists and merchants. Following the decline of the Taíno population, more slaves were brought to Puerto Rico; however, the number of slaves on the island paled in comparison to those in neighboring islands. African slavery was primarily restricted to coastal ports and cities, while the interior of the island continued to be essentially unexplored and undeveloped. Spanish and other European colonists were concentrated in island's seaports. Puerto Rico soon became an important stronghold and a significant port for Spanish Main colonial expansion. Various forts and walls, such as La Fortaleza, El Castillo San Felipe del Morro and El Castillo de San Cristóbal, were built to protect the strategic port of San Juan from numerous European invasion attempts. San Juan served as an important port-of-call for ships of all European nations for purposes of taking on water, food and other commercial provisions and mercantile exchange.
In 1607, Puerto Rico served as a port provisioning the English ships Godspeed, Susan Constant and Discovery, which were on their way to establish Jamestown, Virginia, the first successful English settlement in the New World. The Netherlands and England made several attempts to capture Puerto Rico but failed to wrest it from the long-term possession by Spain, which held tenaciously onto its increasingly prized island colony.
During the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Spanish colonial emphasis continued to be focussed on the more prosperous mainland North, Central, and South American colonies. This continued distraction on the part of the Spanish Crown left the island of Puerto Rico virtually unexplored, undeveloped, and (excepting coastal outposts) largely unsettled before the nineteenth century. But as independence movements in the larger Spanish colonies grew successful, Spain began to pay attention to Puerto Rico as one of its last remaining maritime colonies. Amidst the attacks, Puerto Rican culture began to flourish. In 1786, the first comprehensive history of Puerto Rico—Historia Geográfica, Civil y Política de Puerto Rico by Fray Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra—was published in Madrid, documenting the history of Puerto Rico from the time of Columbus' landing in 1493 until 1783. The book also presents a first hand account of Puerto Rican identity, including music, clothing, personality and nationality.
In 1779, citizens of the still-Spanish colony of Puerto Rico fought in the American Revolutionary War under the command of Bernardo de Gálvez, named Field Marshal of the Spanish colonial army in North America. Puerto Ricans participated in the capture of Pensacola, the capital of the British colony of West Florida, and the cities of Baton Rouge, St. Louis and Mobile. The Puerto Rican troops, under the leadership of Brigadier General Ramón de Castro, helped defeat the British and Indian army of 2,500 soldiers and British warships in Pensacola.
In 1809, in a further move to secure its political bond with the island and in the midst of the European Peninsular War, the Supreme Central Junta based in Cádiz recognized Puerto Rico as an overseas province of Spain with the right to send representatives to the recently convened Spanish parliament with equal representation to Mainland Iberian, Mediterranean (Balearic Islands) and Atlantic maritime Spanish provinces (Canary Islands). The first Spanish parliamentary representative from the island of Puerto Rico, Ramon Power y Giralt, died after serving a three-year term in the Cortes. These parliamentary and constitutional reforms, which were in force from 1810 to 1814 and again from 1820 to 1823, were reversed twice afterwards when the traditional monarchy was restored by Ferdinand VII. Nineteenth century immigration and commercial trade reforms further augmented the island's European population and economy, and expanded Spanish cultural and social imprint on the local character of the island.
Minor slave revolts had occurred in the island during this period, However the revolt planned and organized by Marcos Xiorro in 1821, was the most important of them all. Even though the conspiracy was unsuccessful, Xiorro achieved legendary status among the slaves and is part of Puerto Rico's folklore.
In the early 19th century, Puerto Rico had an Independence movement which, due to the harsh persecution by the Spanish authorities, met in the island of St. Thomas. The movement was largely inspired by the ideals of Simón Bolívar of establishing a United Provinces of New Granada which included Puerto Rico and Cuba. Among the influential members of this movement was Brigadier General Antonio Valero de Bernabe, a Puerto Rican military leader known in Latin America as the "Liberator from Puerto Rico" who fought alongside Bolivar and María de las Mercedes Barbudo, a businesswoman also known as the "first Puerto Rican female freedom fighter". The movement was discovered and Governor Miguel de la Torre had its members imprisoned or exiled.
With the increasingly rapid growth of independent former Spanish colonies in the South and Central American states in the first part of the century, Puerto Rico and Cuba continued to grow in strategic importance to the Spanish Crown. In a very deliberate move to increase its hold on its last two new world colonies, the Spanish Crown revived the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815. This time the decree was printed in three languages: Spanish, English and French. Its primary intent was to attract Europeans of who were not of Spanish origin, with the hope that the independence movements would lose their popularity and strength with increase of new loyalist settlers with strong sympathies to Spain. As a consequence hundreds of families, mainly from Corsica, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Scotland, immigrated to the island.
In 1858, Samuel Morse introduced wired communication to Latin America when he established a telegraph system in Puerto Rico. Morse's oldest daughter Susan Walker Morse (1821–1885), would often visit her uncle Charles Pickering Walker who owned the Hacienda Concordia in the town of Guayama. Morse, who often spent his winters at the Hacienda with his daughter and son-in-law, who lived and owned the Habienda Henriqueta, set a two-mile telegraph line connecting his son-in-law's hacienda to their house in Arroyo. The line was inaugurated on March 1, 1859 in a ceremony flanked by the Spanish and American flags. The first lines transmitted by Morse that day in Puerto Rico were:
"Puerto Rico, beautiful jewel! When you are linked with the other jewels of the Antilles in the necklace of the world's telegraph, yours will not shine less brilliantly in the crown of your Queen!"
As an incentive to immigrate and colonize, free land was offered to those who wanted to populate the two islands on the condition that they swear their loyalty to the Spanish Crown and allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church. It was very successful and European immigration continued even after 1898. Puerto Rico today still receives Spanish and European immigration.
Poverty and political estrangement with Spain led to a small but significant uprising in 1868 known as "Grito de Lares." It began in the rural town of Lares, but was subdued when rebels moved to the neighboring town of San Sebastián. Leaders of this independence movement included Ramón Emeterio Betances, considered the "father" of the Puerto Rican independence movement, and other political figures such as Segundo Ruiz Belvis.
Leaders of "El Grito de Lares", who were in exile in New York City, joined the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee, founded on December 8, 1895, and continued their quest for Puerto Rican independence. In 1897, Antonio Mattei Lluberas and the local leaders of the independence movement of the town of Yauco organized another uprising, which became known as the "Intentona de Yauco". This was the first time that the current Puerto Rican flag was unfurled on Puerto Rican soil. The local conservative political factions, which believed that such an attempt would be a threat to their struggle for (colonial) autonomy, opposed such an action. Rumors of the planned event spread to the local Spanish authorities who acted swiftly and put an end to what would be the last major uprising in the island to Spanish colonial rule.
In 1897, Luis Muñoz Rivera and others persuaded the liberal Spanish government to agree to Charters of Autonomy for Cuba and Puerto Rico. In 1898, Puerto Rico's first, but short-lived, autonomous government was organized as an 'overseas province' of Spain. This bilaterally agreed-upon charter maintained a governor appointed by Spain, which held the power to annul any legislative decision, and a partially elected parliamentary structure. In February, Governor-General Manuel Macías inaugurated the new government under the Autonomous Charter. General elections were held in March and the autonomous government began to function on July 17, 1898.
In 1890, Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, a member of the Navy War Board and leading U.S. strategic thinker, wrote a book titled The Influence of Sea Power upon History in which he argued for the creation of a large and powerful navy modeled after the British Royal Navy. Part of his strategy called for the acquisition of colonies in the Caribbean Sea which would serve as coaling and naval stations and which would serve as strategical points of defense upon the construction of a canal in the Isthmus.
This idea was not new, since William H. Seward, the former Secretary of State under the administrations of various presidents, among them Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, had stressed that a canal be built either in Honduras, Nicaragua or Panama and that the United States annex the Dominican Republic and purchase Puerto Rico and Cuba. The idea of annexing the Dominican Republic failed to receive the approval of the U.S. Senate and Spain did not accept the 160 million dollars which the U.S. offered for Puerto Rico and Cuba.
Captain Mahan made the following statement to the War Department:
Having therefore no foreign establishments either colonial or military, the ships of war of the United States, in war will be like land birds, unable to fly far from their own shores. To provide resting places for them where they can coal and repair, would be one of the first duties of a government proposing to itself the development of the power of the nation at sea
Since 1894, the Naval War College had been formulating contingency plans for a war with Spain. By 1896, the Office of Naval Intelligence had prepared a plan which included military operations in Puerto Rican waters. This prewar planning did not contemplate major territorial acquisitions. Except for one 1895 plan which recommended annexation of the island then named Isle of Pines (later renamed as Isla de la Juventud), a recommendation dropped in later planning, plans developed for attacks on Spanish territories were intended as support operations against Spain's forces in and around Cuba. However, Jorge Rodriguez Beruf, recognized as a foremost researcher on United States militarism in Puerto Rico, writes that not only was Puerto Rico considered valuable as a naval station, Puerto Rico and Cuba were also abundant in sugar – a valuable commercial commodity which the United States lacked.
On July 25, 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico was invaded by the United States with a landing at Guánica. As an outcome of the war, Spain ceded Puerto Rico, along with the Philippines and Guam, that were under Spanish sovereignty, to the U.S. under the Treaty of Paris. Spain relinquished sovereignty over Cuba, but did not cede it to the U.S.
The United States and Puerto Rico thus began a long-standing relationship. Puerto Rico began the 20th century under the military rule of the U.S. with officials, including the governor, appointed by the President of the United States. The Foraker Act of 1900 gave Puerto Rico a certain amount of civilian popular government, including a popularly elected House of Representatives, also a judicial system following the American legal system that includes both state courts and federal courts establishing a Puerto Rico Supreme Court and a United State District Court; and a non-voting member of Congress, by the title of "Resident Commissioner". In addition, this Act extended all U.S. laws "not locally inapplicable" to Puerto Rico, specifying specific exemption from U.S. Internal Revenue laws. The act empowered the civil government to legislate on "all matters of legislative character not locally inapplicable", including the power to modify and repeal any laws then in existence in Puerto Rico, though the U.S. Congress retained the power to annul acts of the Puerto Rico legislature. During an address to the Puerto Rican legislature in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt recommended that Puerto Ricans become U.S. citizens. In 1917, "Puerto Ricans were collectively made U.S. citizens" via the Jones Act. The same Act also provided for a popularly elected Senate to complete a bicameral Legislative Assembly, a bill of rights and authorized the election of a Resident Commissioner to a four-year term. As a result of their new U.S. citizenship, many Puerto Ricans were drafted into World War I and all subsequent wars with U.S. participation in which a national military draft was in effect.
Natural disasters, including a major earthquake, a tsunami and several hurricanes, and the Great Depression impoverished the island during the first few decades under U.S. rule. Some political leaders, like Pedro Albizu Campos who led the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, demanded change. On March 21, 1937, a march was organized in the southern city of Ponce by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. This march turned bloody when the Insular Police, "a force somewhat resembling the National Guard which answered to the U.S.-appointed governor", opened fire upon unarmed and defenseless cadets and bystanders alike, as reported by a U.S. Congressman Vito Marcantonio and the "Hays Commission" led by Arthur Garfield Hays. Nineteen were killed and over 200 were badly wounded, many in their backs while running away. An American Civil Liberties Union report declared it a massacre and it has since been known as the Ponce Massacre. On April 2, 1943, U.S. Senator Millard Tydings introduced a bill in Congress calling for independence for Puerto Rico. This bill ultimately was defeated.
The internal governance changed during the latter years of the Roosevelt–Truman administrations, as a form of compromise led by Luis Muñoz Marín and others. It culminated with the appointment by President Truman in 1946 of the first Puerto Rican-born governor, Jesús T. Piñero.
In 1947, the U.S. granted Puerto Ricans the right to elect democratically their own governor. Luis Muñoz Marín was elected during the 1948 general elections, becoming the first popularly elected governor of Puerto Rico.
A Bill was introduced before the Puerto Rican Senate which would restrain the rights of the independence and nationalist movements in the island. The Senate at the time was controlled by the PPD, and was presided over by Luis Muñoz Marín. The Bill, also known as the Ley de la Mordaza ("Gag Law") was approved by the legislature on May 21, 1948. It made it illegal to display a Puerto Rican flag, to sing a patriotic tune, to talk of independence, or to fight for the liberation of the island. The Bill, which resembled the anti-communist Smith Law passed in the United States, was signed and made into law on June 10, 1948, by the U.S. appointed governor of Puerto Rico, Jesús T. Piñero, and became known as Ley 53 ("Law 53"). In accordance to the new law, it would be a crime to print, publish, sell, exhibit, organize or help anyone organize any society, group or assembly of people whose intentions are to paralyze or destroy the insular government. Anyone accused and found guilty of disobeying the law could be sentenced to ten years of prison, be fined $10,000 dollars (US), or both. According to Dr. Leopoldo Figueroa, a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, the law was repressive, and was in violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees Freedom of Speech. He pointed out that the law as such was a violation of the civil rights of the people of Puerto Rico. The infamous law was repealed in 1957.
In 1950, the U.S. Congress approved Public Law 600 (P.L. 81-600) which allowed for a democratic referendum in Puerto Rico to determine whether Puerto Ricans desired to draft their own local constitution. This act was meant to be adopted in the "nature of a compact". It required congressional approval of the Puerto Rico Constitution before it could go into effect, and repealed certain sections of the Organic Act of 1917. The sections of this statute left in force were then entitled the Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act.
|View newsreel scenes in Spanish of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party Revolts of the 1950s|
On October 30, 1950, Pedro Albizu Campos and other nationalists led a 3-day revolt against the United States in various cities and towns of Puerto Rico in what is known as the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party Revolts of the 1950s. The most notable occurred in Jayuya and Utuado. In the Jayuya revolt, known as the Jayuya Uprising, the United States declared martial law, and attacked Jayuya with infantry, artillery and bombers. The Utuado Uprising culminated in what is known as the Utuado massacre. On November 1, 1950, Puerto Rican nationalists Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo attempted to assassinate President Harry S Truman. Torresola was killed during the attack, but Collazo was captured. Collazo served 29 years in a federal prison, being released in 1979. Don Pedro Albizu Campos also served many years in a federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia, for seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government in Puerto Rico.
The Constitution of Puerto Rico was approved by a Constitutional Convention on February 6, 1952, ratified by the U.S. Congress, approved by President Truman on July 3 of that year, and proclaimed by Gov. Muñoz Marín on July 25, 1952, on the anniversary of the July 25, 1898, landing of U.S. troops in the Puerto Rican Campaign of the Spanish-American War, until then an annual Puerto Rico holiday. Puerto Rico adopted the name of Estado Libre Asociado (literally "Free Associated State", officially translated into English as Commonwealth), for its body politic. The United States Congress legislates over many fundamental aspects of Puerto Rican life, including citizenship, currency, postal service, foreign affairs, military defense, communications, labor relations, the environment, commerce, finance, health and welfare, and many others.
During the 1950s, Puerto Rico experienced rapid industrialization, due in large part to Operación Manos a la Obra ("Operation Bootstrap"), an offshoot of FDR's New Deal, which aimed to transform Puerto Rico's economy from agriculture-based to manufacturing-based. Presently, Puerto Rico has become a major tourist destination, as well as a global center for pharmaceutical manufacturing. Yet it still struggles to define its political status. Three plebiscites have been held in recent decades to resolve the political status, but no changes have been attained. Support for the pro-statehood party, Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP), and the pro-commonwealth party, Partido Popular Democrático (PPD), remains about equal. The only registered pro-independence party, the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño (PIP), usually receives 3–5% of the electoral votes.
Puerto Rico has a republican form of government, subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sovereignty. Its current powers are all delegated by the United States Congress and lack full protection under the United States Constitution. Puerto Rico's head of state is the President of the United States.
The government of Puerto Rico, based on the formal republican system, is composed of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. The executive branch is headed by the Governor, currently Luis Fortuño. The legislative branch consists of a bicameral Legislative Assembly made up of a Senate upper chamber and a House of Representatives lower chamber. The Senate is headed by the President of the Senate, while the House of Representatives is headed by the Speaker of the House.
The judicial branch is headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. The legal system is a mix of the civil law and the common law systems. The governor and legislators are elected by popular vote every four years. Members of the Judicial branch are appointed by the governor with the "advice and consent" of the Senate.
Puerto Rico is represented in the United States Congress by a nonvoting delegate, formally called a Resident Commissioner (currently Pedro Pierluisi). Current legislation has returned the Commissioner's power to vote in the Committee of the Whole, but not on matters where the vote would represent a decisive participation. Puerto Rican elections are governed by the Federal Election Commission and the State Elections Commission of Puerto Rico. While residing in Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in U.S. presidential elections, but they can vote in primaries. Puerto Ricans who become residents of a U.S. state can vote in presidential elections.
Puerto Rico is not an independent country and, as such, it hosts no embassies. It is host, however, to consulates from 41 countries, mainly from the Americas and Europe. Most consulates are located in San Juan. As an unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rico does not have any first-order administrative divisions as defined by the U.S. government, but has 78 municipalities at the second level. Mona Island is not a municipality, but part of the municipality of Mayagüez.
Municipalities are subdivided into wards or barrios, and those into sectors. Each municipality has a mayor and a municipal legislature elected for a four year term. The municipality of San Juan (previously called "town"), was founded first, in 1521, San Germán in 1570, Coamo in 1579, Arecibo in 1614, Aguada in 1692 and Ponce in 1692. An increase of settlement saw the founding of 30 municipalities in the 18th century and 34 in the 19th. Six were founded in the 20th century; the last was Florida in 1971.
Since 1952 Puerto Rico has had three main political parties: the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), the New Progressive Party (PNP) and the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP). These three parties stood for three distinct future political status scenarios: the PPD seeks to maintain the island's "association" status with the U.S. as a commonwealth, and has won a plurality vote in referendums on the island's status held over the last six decades, the PNP seeks to have Puerto Rico become a U.S. state, and the PIP seeks the establishment of a sovereign and independent republic.
In 2007, a fourth party, the Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico Party (PPR), was registered. The PPR claims that it seeks to address the islands' problems from a status-neutral platform. However, it ceased to remain a registered political party when it failed to obtain the requisite number of votes in the 2008 general election. Non-registered parties include the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, the Socialist Workers Movement, the Hostosian National Independence Movement.
The nature of Puerto Rico's political relationship with the U.S. is the subject of ongoing debate in Puerto Rico, the United States Congress, and the United Nations. Specifically, the basic question is whether Puerto Rico should remain a U.S. territory, become a U.S. state, or become an independent country.
In 1950, the U.S. Congress granted Puerto Ricans the right to organize a constitutional convention via a referendum that gave them the option of voting their preference, "yes" or "no", on a proposed U.S. law that would organize Puerto Rico as a "commonwealth" that would continue United States sovereignty over Puerto Rico and its people. Puerto Rico's electorate expressed its support for this measure in 1951 with a second referendum to ratify the constitution. The Constitution of Puerto Rico was formally adopted on July 3, 1952. The Constitutional Convention specified the name by which the body politic would be known.
On February 4, 1952, the convention approved Resolution 22 which chose in English the word Commonwealth, meaning a "politically organized community" or "state", which is simultaneously connected by a compact or treaty to another political system. Puerto Rico officially designates itself with the term "Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" in its constitution, as a translation into English of the term to "Estado Libre Asociado" (ELA). Literally translated into English the phrase Estado Libre Asociado means "Associated Free State." The preamble of the Commonwealth constitution in part reads: "We, the people of Puerto Rico, in order to organise ourselves politically on a fully democratic basis, ...do ordain and establish this Constitution for the commonwealth which, in the exercise of our natural rights, we now create within our union with the United States of America. In so doing, we declare: ... We consider as determining factors in our life our citizenship of the United States of America and our aspiration continually to enrich our democratic heritage in the individual and collective enjoyment of its rights and privileges; our loyalty to the principles of the Federal Constitution;...
While the approval of the commonwealth constitution by the people of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. President, as a federal law, marked a historic change in the civil government for the islands, neither it nor the public laws approved by Congress in 1950 and 1952 revoked statutory provisions concerning the legal relationship of Puerto Rico to the United States. This relationship is based on the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The statutory provisions that set forth the conditions of the relationship are commonly referred to as the Federal Relations Act (FRA). Inclusive by Resolution number 34, approved by the Constitutional Convention and ratified in the Referendum held on November 4, 1952, the following new sentence was added to section 3 of article VII of the commonwealth constitution: "Any amendment or revision of this constitution shall be consistent with the resolution enacted by the applicable provisions of the Constitution of the United States, with the Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act and with Public Law 600, Eighty-first Congress, adopted in the nature of a compact". The provisions of the Federal Relations Act as codified on the U.S. Code Title 48, Chapter 4 shall apply to the island of Puerto Rico and to the adjacent islands belonging to the United States and waters of those islands; and the name Puerto Rico, as used in the chapter, shall be held to include not only the island of that name, but all the adjacent islands as aforesaid. While specified subsections of the FRA were "adopted in the nature of a compact", other provisions, by comparison, are excluded from the compact reference. Matters still subject to congressional authority and established pursuant to legislation include the citizenship status of residents, tax provisions, civil rights, trade and commerce, public finance, the administration of public lands controlled by the federal government, the application of federal law over navigable waters, congressional representation, and the judicial process, among others.
In 1967, Puerto Rico's Legislative Assembly polled the political preferences of the Puerto Rican electorate by passing a plebiscite act that provided for a vote on the status of Puerto Rico. This constituted the first plebiscite by the Legislature for a choice among three status options (commonwealth, statehood, and independence). Claiming "foul play" and dubbing the process as illegitimate and contrary to norms of international law regarding decolonization procedures, the plebiscite was boycotted by the major pro-statehood and pro-independence parties of the time, the Republican Party of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Independence Party, respectively. The Commonwealth option, represented by the PDP, won with a majority of 60.4% of the votes. After the plebiscite, efforts in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s to enact legislation to address the status issue died in U.S. Congressional committees. In subsequent plebiscites organized by Puerto Rico held in 1993 and 1998 (without any formal commitment on the part of the U.S. Government to honor the results), the current political status failed to receive majority support. In 1993, Commonwealth status won by only a plurality of votes (48.6% versus 46.3% for statehood), while the "none of the above" option, which was the Popular Democratic Party-sponsored choice, won in 1998 with 50.3% of the votes (versus 46.5% for statehood). Disputes arose as to the definition of each of the ballot alternatives, and Commonwealth advocates, among others, reportedly urged a vote for "none of the above".
Constitutionally, Puerto Rico is subject to the Congress's plenary powers under the territorial clause of Article IV, sec. 3, of the U.S. Constitution. U.S. federal law applies to Puerto Rico, even though Puerto Rico is not a state of the American Union and their residents have no voting representation in the U.S. Congress. Like the States of the American Union, Puerto Rico lacks "the full sovereignty of an independent nation," for example, the power to manage its "external relations with other nations," which was retained by the Federal Government. The Supreme Court has indicated that once the Constitution has been extended to an area (by Congress or the Courts), its coverage is irrevocable. To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this Court, say "what the law is.".
Puerto Ricans "were collectively made U.S. citizens" in 1917 as a result of the Jones-Shafroth Act. However, U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico cannot vote for the U.S. president, though both major parties, Republican and Democrat, run primary elections in Puerto Rico to send delegates to vote on a presidential candidate. Since Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory (see above) and not a U.S. state, the United States Constitution does not fully enfranchise US citizens residing in Puerto Rico.(See also: "Voting rights in Puerto Rico"). Despite their American citizenship, however, only the "fundamental rights" under the federal constitution apply to Puerto Ricans. Various other U.S Supreme Court decisions have been held opinions on which rights apply in Puerto Rico and which ones do not. Puerto Ricans have a long history of service in the U.S. armed forces and, since 1917, they have been included in the U.S. compulsory draft whenever it has been in effect.
Though the Commonwealth government has its own tax laws, Puerto Ricans are also required to pay most U.S. federal taxes, with the major exception being the federal personal income tax. In 2009, Puerto Rico paid $3.742 billion into the US Treasury. Residents of Puerto Rico pay into Social Security, and are thus eligible for Social Security benefits upon retirement. However, they are excluded from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and the island actually receives a small fraction of the Medicaid funding it would receive if it were a U.S. state. Also, Medicare providers receive less-than-full state-like reimbursements for services rendered to beneficiaries in Puerto Rico, even though the latter paid fully into the system.
In 1992, President George H. W. Bush issued a memorandum to heads of executive departments and agencies establishing the current administrative relationship between the federal government and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This memorandum directs all federal departments, agencies, and officials to treat Puerto Rico administratively as if it were a state, insofar as doing so would not disrupt federal programs or operations. Federal executive branch agencies have significant presence in Puerto Rico, just as in any state, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Security Administration, Social Security Administration, and others. While Puerto Rico has its own Commonwealth judicial system similar to that of a U.S. state, there is also a federal district court in Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rican judges have served in that Court and in other federal courts on the mainland regardless of their residency status at the time of their appointment. Puerto Ricans are also regularly appointed to high-level federal positions, including serving as United States Ambassadors.
On November 27, 1953, shortly after the establishment of the Commonwealth, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved Resolution 748, removing Puerto Rico's classification as a non-self-governing territory under article 73(e) of the Charter from UN. But the General Assembly did not apply the full list of criteria which was enunciated in 1960 when it took favorable note of the cessation of transmission of information regarding the non-self-governing status of Puerto Rico. According to the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico's Political Status in its December 21, 2007 report, the U.S., in its written submission to the UN in 1953, never represented that Congress could not change its relationship with Puerto Rico without the territory's consent. It stated that the U.S. Justice Department in 1959 reiterated that Congress held power over Puerto Rico pursuant to the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In 1993, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit stated that Congress may unilaterally repeal the Puerto Rican Constitution or the Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act and replace them with any rules or regulations of its choice. In a 1996 report on a Puerto Rico status political bill, the U.S. House Committee on Resources stated, "Puerto Rico's current status does not meet the criteria for any of the options for full self-government under Resolution 1541" (the three established forms of full self-government being stated in the report as (1) national independence, (2) free association based on separate sovereignty, or (3) full integration with another nation on the basis of equality). The report concluded that Puerto Rico "... remains an unincorporated territory and does not have the status of 'free association' with the United States as that status is defined under United States law or international practice", that the establishment of local self-government with the consent of the people can be unilaterally revoked by the U.S. Congress, and that U.S. Congress can also withdraw the U.S. citizenship of Puerto Rican residents of Puerto Rico at any time, for a legitimate Federal purpose. The application of the U.S. Constitution to Puerto Rico is limited by the Insular Cases.
The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization passed a resolution and adopted a consensus text introduced by Cuba's delegate on June 20, 2011, calling on the United States to expedite a process "that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence." 
In 2005 and 2007, two reports were issued by the U.S. President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status. Both reports conclude that Puerto Rico continues to be a territory of U.S. under the plenary powers of the U.S. Congress. Reactions from Puerto Rico's two major political parties were mixed. The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) challenged the task force's report and committed to validating the current status in all international forums, including the United Nations. It also rejected any "colonial or territorial status" as a status option, and vowed to keep working for the enhanced Commonwealth status that was approved by the PPD in 1998, which included sovereignty, an association based on "respect and dignity between both nations", and common citizenship. The New Progressive Party (PNP) supported the White House Report's conclusions and supported bills to provide for a democratic referendum process among Puerto Rico voters.
A 2009 CRS report suggested that action might be taken in the 111th Congress. The reports issued in 2007 and 2005 by the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status may be the basis for reconsideration of the existing commonwealth status, as legislative developments during the 109th and 110th Congresses suggested. Agreement on the process to be used in considering the status proposals has been as elusive as agreement on the end result. Congress would have a determinative role in any resolution of the issue. The four options that appear to be most frequently discussed include continuation of the commonwealth, modification of the current commonwealth agreement, statehood, or independence. If independence, or separate national sovereignty, were selected, Puerto Rican officials might seek to negotiate a compact of free association with the United States.
On June 15, 2009, the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization approved a draft resolution calling on the Government of the United States to expedite a process that would allow the Puerto Rican people to exercise fully their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.
On April 29, 2010, the U.S. House voted 223–169 to approve a measure for a federally sanctioned process for Puerto Rico's self determination, allowing Puerto Rico to set a new referendum on whether to continue its present form of commonwealth political status or to have a different political status. If Puerto Ricans vote to continue to have their present form of political status, the Government of Puerto Rico is authorized to conduct additional plebiscites at intervals of every eight years from the date on which the results of the prior plebiscite are certified; if Puerto Ricans vote to have a different political status, a second referendum would determine whether Puerto Rico would become a U.S. state, an independent country, or a sovereign nation associated with the U.S. that would not be subject to the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution. During the House debate, a fourth option, to retain its present form of commonwealth (status quo) political status, was added as an option in the second plebiscite.
A Senate hearing was held on May 19, 2010, for the purpose of gathering testimony on the bill. Among those offering testimony were Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi; Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño; President of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico, Héctor Ferrer; and President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, Rubén Berríos. According to the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee leadership, the four options are the continuation of the current commonwealth status, subject to the territorial clause (under Article IV of the Constitution), statehood, independence, and free association. On December 22, 2010, the 111th United States Congress adjourned without any Senate vote on H.R.2499, killing the bill.
The latest Task Force report was released on March 11, 2011. The report suggests a two-plebiscite process, including a "first plebiscite that requires the people of Puerto Rico to choose whether they wish to be part of the United States (either via Statehood or Commonwealth) or wish to be independent (via Independence or Free Association). If continuing to be part of the United States were chosen in the first plebiscite, a second vote would be taken between Statehood and Commonwealth." 
The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization passed a resolution and adopted a consensus text introduced by Cuba's delegate on June 20, 2011, calling on the United States to expedite a process "that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence." 
In October 2011, Governor Luis Fortuño set August 12, 2012 to hold the first part of a two-step status plebiscite. If a second status vote is required, it will take place on the same day as the general election in November 6, 2012, he added. A bill was brought before the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico in 2011 to effect the governor's proposal. The bill passed on December 28, 2011. Both referendums, however, will be held on a single ballot on November 6, 2012.
The first referendum will ask voters whether they want to maintain the current commonwealth status under the territorial clause of the U.S. Constitution or whether they prefer a nonterritorial option. If more voters check that nonterritorial option, a second vote would be held giving people three status options: statehood, independence or free association.
Puerto Rico consists of the main island of Puerto Rico and various smaller islands, including Vieques, Culebra, Mona, Desecheo, and Caja de Muertos. Of these last five, only Culebra and Vieques are inhabited year-round. Mona is uninhabited most of the year except for employees of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources. There are also many other even smaller islands including Monito and "La Isleta de San Juan" which includes Old San Juan and Puerta de Tierra and is connected to the main island by bridges.
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has an area of 13,790 square kilometers (5,320 sq mi), of which 8,870 km2 (3,420 sq mi) is land and 4,921 km2 (1,900 sq mi) is water. The maximum length of the main island from east to west is 180 km (110 mi), and the maximum width from north to south is 65 km (40 mi). Puerto Rico is the smallest of the Greater Antilles. It is 80% of the size of Jamaica, just over 18% of the size of Hispaniola and 8% of the size of Cuba, the largest of the Greater Antilles.
Puerto Rico is mostly mountainous with large coastal areas in the north and south. The main mountain range is called "La Cordillera Central" (The Central Range). The highest elevation in Puerto Rico, Cerro de Punta 1,339 meters (4,393 ft), is located in this range. Another important peak is El Yunque, one of the highest in the Sierra de Luquillo at the El Yunque National Forest, with an elevation of 1,065 m (3,494 ft).
Puerto Rico has 17 lakes, all man-made, and more than 50 rivers, most originating in the Cordillera Central. Rivers in the northern region of the island are typically longer and of higher water flow rates than those of the south, since the south receives less rain than the central and northern regions.
Puerto Rico is composed of Cretaceous to Eocene volcanic and plutonic rocks, overlain by younger Oligocene and more recent carbonates and other sedimentary rocks. Most of the caverns and karst topography on the island occurs in the northern region in the carbonates. The oldest rocks are approximately 190 million years old (Jurassic) and are located at Sierra Bermeja in the southwest part of the island. They 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 American plates and is being deformed by the tectonic stresses caused by their interaction. 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. The most recent major earthquake occurred on October 11, 1918, and had an estimated magnitude of 7.5 on the Richter scale. It originated off the coast of Aguadilla and was accompanied by a tsunami.
The Puerto Rico Trench, the largest and deepest trench in the Atlantic, is located about 115 km (71 mi) north of Puerto Rico at the boundary between the Caribbean and North American plates. It is 280 km (170 mi) long. At its deepest point, named the Milwaukee Deep, it is almost 8,400 m (27,600 ft) deep, or about 5.2 miles. The island experiences frequent tremors and is an area of concern for major earthquakes.
Located in the tropics, Puerto Rico has an average temperature of 82.4 °F (28 °C) throughout the year, with an average minimum temperature of 66.9 °F (19 °C) and maximum of 85.4 °F (30 °C). Temperatures do not change drastically throughout the seasons. The temperature in the south is usually a few degrees higher than the north and temperatures in the central interior mountains are always cooler than the rest of the island. The hurricane season spans from June to November. The all-time low in Puerto Rico has been 39 °F (4 °C), registered in Aibonito. The average yearly precipitation is 1687mm.
Species endemic to the archipelago are 239 plants, 16 birds and 39 amphibians/reptiles, recognized as of 1998. Most of these (234, 12 and 33 respectively) are found on the main island. The most recognizable endemic species and a symbol of Puerto Rican pride is the Coquí, a small frog easily identified by the sound of its call, and from which it gets its name. Most Coquí species (13 of 17) live in the El Yunque National Forest, a tropical rainforest in the northeast of the island previously known as the Caribbean National Forest. El Yunque is home to more than 240 plants, 26 of which are endemic to the island. It is also home to 50 bird species, including the critically endangered Puerto Rican Amazon. Across the island in the southwest, the 40 km2 (15 sq mi) of dry land at the Guánica Commonwealth Forest Reserve contain over 600 uncommon species of plants and animals, including 48 endangered species and 16 endemic to Puerto Rico.
As an unincorporated territory of 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 secondary level which function as counties. Municipalities are further subdivided into barrios, and those into sectors. Each municipality has a mayor and a municipal legislature elected for four year terms.
The first municipality (previously called "town") of Puerto Rico, San Juan, was founded in 1521. In the 16th century two more municipalities were established, San Germán (1570) and Coamo (1579). 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 with 30 municipalities being established in the 18th century and 34 more in the 19th century. Only six municipalities were founded in the 20th century with the last, Florida, being founded in 1971.
In the early 20th century the greatest contributor to Puerto Rico's economy was agriculture and its main crop was sugar. In the late 1940s a series of projects codenamed Operation Bootstrap encouraged a significant shift to manufacture via tax exemptions. Manufacturing quickly replaced agriculture as the main industry of the island. Puerto Rico is classified as a "high income country" by the World Bank.
Economic conditions have improved dramatically since the Great Depression because of external investment in capital-intensive industries 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.
Also, starting around 1950, there was heavy migration from Puerto Rico to the Continental United States, particularly New York City, in search of better economic conditions. Puerto Rican migration to New York displayed an average yearly migration of 1,800 for the years 1930–1940, 31,000 for 1946–1950, 45,000 for 1951–1960, and a peak of 75,000 in 1953. As of 2003, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more people of Puerto Rican birth or ancestry live in the U.S. than in Puerto Rico.
On May 1, 2006, the Puerto Rican government faced significant shortages in cash flows, which forced the closure of the local Department of Education and 42 other government agencies. All 1,536 public schools closed, and 95,762 people were furloughed in the first-ever partial shutdown of the government in the island's history. On May 10, 2006, the budget crisis was resolved with a new tax reform agreement so that all government employees could return to work. On November 15, 2006, a 5.5% sales tax was implemented. Municipalities are required by law to apply a municipal sales tax of 1.5% bringing the total sales tax to 7%.
Tourism is an important component of Puerto Rican economy supplying an approximate $1.8 billion. In 1999, an estimated 5 million tourists visited the island, most from the U.S. Nearly a third of these are cruise ship passengers. A steady increase in hotel registrations since 1998 and the construction of new hotels and new tourism projects, such as the Puerto Rico Convention Center, indicate the current strength of the tourism industry. In 2009, tourism accounted for nearly 7% of the islands' gross national product.
Puerto Ricans had median household income of $18,314 for 2009, which makes Puerto Rico's economy comparable to the independent nations of Latvia or Poland. By comparison, the poorest state of the Union, Mississippi, had median household income of $36,646 in 2009. Nevertheless, Puerto Rico's GDP per capita compares favorably to other independent Caribbean nations, and is one of the highest in North America. See List of North American countries by GDP per capita.
Puerto Rico's public debt has grown at a faster pace than the growth of its economy, reaching $46.7 billion in 2008. In January 2009, Luis Fortuño enacted several measures aimed at eliminating the government's $3.3 billion deficit, including laying off 12,505 government employees. Puerto Rico's unemployment rate was 15.9 percent in January 2010. Some analysts said they expect the government's layoffs to propel that rate to 17 percent.
In November 2010, Gov. Fortuño proposed a tax reform plan that would be implemented in a six-year period, retroactive to January 1, 2010. The first phase, applicable to year 2010, reduces taxes to all individual taxpayers by 7–15%. By year 2016, average relief for individual taxpayers will represent a 50% tax cut and a 30% cut for corporate taxpayers, whose tax rate will be lowered from 41 to 30%.
Businesses and consumers in Puerto Rico are subjected to economic discrimination by many U.S. and multinational companies that limit access to products or offer them at higher prices to businesses and consumers located in Puerto Rico. For example, Apple does not include K-12 or post-secondary educational institutions in their national pricing program offering discounts to teachers and students and special pricing for institutional purchases. Likewise, Minneapolis-based Best Buy does not allow residents of Puerto Rico to purchase goods on their website, which may be purchased from the 50 states, Guam and the United States Virgin Islands, but invites potential customers to skirt their own rules: "Now you can order items online and ship them to a U.S. address* – or pick them up at a U.S. store. International orders may be shipped to street addresses in the U.S., U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam, along with AFO/FPO mailing address."
At the same time, the latest report by the President Task Force on Puerto Rico Status recognizes that the status question and the economy are intimately linked. Many participants in the forums conducted by the Task Force argued that uncertainty about status is holding Puerto Rico back in economic areas. And although there are a number of economic actions that should be taken immediately or in the short term, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the status question, identifying the most effective means of assisting the Puerto Rican economy depends on resolving the ultimate question of status. In short, the long-term economic well-being of Puerto Rico would be dramatically improved by an early decision on the status question.
Continuous European immigration during the 19th century helped the population grow from 155,000 in 1800 to almost a million at the close of the century. A census conducted by royal decree on September 30, 1858 gives the following totals of the Puerto Rican population at this time: 341,015 as Free colored; 300,430 identified as Whites; and 41,736 were slaves.
During the 19th century hundreds of Corsican, French, Lebanese, Chinese, and Portuguese families arrived in Puerto Rico, along with large numbers of immigrants from Spain (mainly from Catalonia, Asturias, Galicia, the Balearic Islands, Andalusia, and the Canary Islands) and numerous Spanish loyalists from Spain's former colonies in South America. Other settlers included Irish, Scots, Germans, Italians and thousands others who were granted land by Spain during the Real Cedula de Gracias de 1815 ("Royal Decree of Graces of 1815"), which allowed European Catholics to settle in the island with land allotments in the interior of the island, provided they agreed to pay taxes and continue to support the Catholic Church.
Between 1960 and 1990 the census questionnaire in Puerto Rico did not ask about race or color. However, the 2000 United States Census included a racial self-identification question in Puerto Rico. According to the census, most Puerto Ricans self-identified as White and few declared themselves to be Black or some other race. A recent study conducted in Puerto Rico suggests that around 52.6% of the population possess Amerindian mtDNA.
Puerto Rico has recently become the permanent home of over 100,000 legal residents who immigrated from not only the Dominican Republic, but from other Latin American countries. These include Cuba, Colombia, and Venezuela, as well as surrounding Caribbean islands, Haiti, Barbados, and the American Virgin Islands among them.
Emigration is a major part of contemporary Puerto Rican history. Starting soon after World War II, poverty, cheap airfare, and promotion by the island government caused waves of Puerto Ricans to move to the United States, particularly to New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Florida. This trend continued even as Puerto Rico's economy improved and its birth rate declined, and Puerto Ricans continue to follow a pattern of "circular migration".
The official languages are Spanish and English with Spanish being the primary language. English is taught as a second language in public and private schools from elementary levels to high school and at the university level.
The Spanish of Puerto Rico has evolved into having many idiosyncrasies in vocabulary and syntax which differentiate it from the Spanish spoken in other Spanish-speaking countries. While the Spanish spoken in all Iberian, Mediterranean and Atlantic Spanish Maritime Provinces was brought to the island over the centuries, the most profound regional impact on the Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico has been from the Spanish spoken in present day Canary Islands.
As a result of the natural inclusion of indigenous vocabulary in all New World former European colonies (English, French, Spanish, Dutch, etc.), the Spanish of Puerto Rico also includes occasional "Taíno" words, which are typically in the context of vegetation, natural phenomenon or primitive musical instruments. Similarly, African-attributed words exist within the contexts of foods, music or dances developed in coastal towns with concentrations of descendants of former Sub-Saharan slaves.
Since the acquisition of the Island by the US from Spain in 1898, the linguistic impression of American English increasingly leaves its linguistic impact on the island in all aspects of social, commercial and educational exchange.
According to a study by the University of Puerto Rico, nine of every ten Puerto Ricans residing in Puerto Rico do not speak English at an advanced level. More recently, according to the 2005–2009 Population and Housing Narrative Profile for Puerto Rico, among people at least five years old living in Puerto Rico in 2005–2009, 95 percent spoke a language other than English at home. Of those speaking a language other than English at home, 100 percent spoke Spanish and less than 0.5 percent spoke some other language; 85 percent reported that they did not speak English "very well."
The Roman Catholic Church has historically been the dominant religion in Puerto Rico. The first dioceses in the Americas, including the first diocese of Puerto Rico, were authorized by Pope Julius II in 1511. One Pope, John Paul II, visited Puerto Rico in October 1984. All municipalities in Puerto Rico have at least one Catholic church, most of which are located at the town center or "plaza".
Protestantism, which was suppressed under the Spanish regime, has spread under American rule, making modern Puerto Rico interconfessional. The first Protestant church, Holy Trinity Church in Ponce, was established by the Anglican diocese of Antigua in 1872. In 1872, German settlers in Ponce founded the Iglesia Santísima Trinidad, an Anglican Church, the first non-Roman Catholic Church in the entire Spanish Empire in the Americas.
There is also an Eastern Orthodox community in Puerto Rico, The Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos/ St. Spyridon's Church is located in Trujillo Alto, and serves the small Orthodox community. The congregation represents Greeks, Russians, Serbians, Bulgarians, Americans, Moldavians, and Puerto Ricans.
In 1940, Juanita Garcia Peraza founded the Mita Congregation, the first religion of Puerto Rican origin. Taíno religious practices have been rediscovered/reinvented to a degree by a handful of advocates. Various African religious practices have been present since the arrival of African slaves. In particular, the Yoruba beliefs of Santería and/or Ifá, and the Kongo-derived Palo Mayombe find adherence among a few individuals who practice some form of African traditional religion.
In 1952, a handful of American Jews established the island's first synagogue in the former residence of William Korber, a wealthy Puerto Rican of German descent, which was designed and built by Czech architect Antonin Nechodoma. The synagogue, called Sha'are Zedeck, hired its first rabbi in 1954. Puerto Rico now is home to the largest Jewish community in the Caribbean, numbering 3,000, and is the only Caribbean island in which the Conservative, Reform and Orthodox Jewish movements all are represented.
In 2007, there were about 5,000 Muslims in Puerto Rico, representing about 0.13% of the population There were eight mosques spread throughout the island, with most Muslims living in Rio Piedras.
Modern Puerto Rican culture is a unique mix of cultural antecedents, including African (from the slaves), Taíno (Amerindians), Spanish, and more recently, North American.
From the Spanish Puerto Rico received the Spanish language, the Catholic religion and the vast majority of their cultural and moral values and traditions. The United States added English language influence, the university system and the adoption of some holidays and practices. On March 12 1903, the University of Puerto Rico was officially founded, branching out from the "Escuela Normal Industrial", a smaller organism that was founded in Fajardo three years before.
Much of the Puerto Rican culture centers on the influence of music. Like the country as a whole, Puerto Rican music has been developed by mixing other cultures with local and traditional rhythms. Early in the history of Puerto Rican music, the influences of African and Spanish traditions were most noticeable. However, the cultural movements across the Caribbean and North America have played a vital role in the more recent musical influences that have reached Puerto Rico.
The official symbols of Puerto Rico are the Reinita mora or Puerto Rican Spindalis (a type of bird), the Flor de Maga (a type of flower), and the Ceiba or Kapok (a type of tree). The unofficial animal and a symbol of Puerto Rican pride is the Coquí, a small frog. Other popular symbols of Puerto Rico are the "jíbaro", the "countryman", and the carite.
Baseball was one of the first sports to gain widespread popularity in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Baseball League serves as the only active professional league, operating as a winter league. No Major League Baseball franchise or affiliate plays in Puerto Rico, however, San Juan hosted the Montreal Expos for several series in 2003 and 2004 before they moved to Washington, D.C. and became the Washington Nationals. The Puerto Rico national baseball team has participated in the World Cup of Baseball winning one gold (1951), four silver and four bronze medals and the Caribbean Series, winning fourteen times. Famous Puerto Rican baseball players include Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda and Roberto Alomar, enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, 1999, and 2011 respectively.
Boxing, basketball, and volleyball are considered popular sports as well. Wilfredo Gómez and McWilliams Arroyo have won their respective divisions at the World Amateur Boxing Championships. Other medalists include José Pedraza, who holds a silver medal, as well as three boxers that finished in third place, José Luis Vellón, Nelson Dieppa and McJoe Arroyo. In the professional circuit, Puerto Rico has the third-most boxing world champions and its the global leader in champions per capita. These include Miguel Cotto, Félix Trinidad, Wilfred Benítez and Gómez among others. The Puerto Rico national basketball team joined the International Basketball Federation in 1957. Since then, it has won more than 30 medals in international competitions, including gold in three FIBA Americas Championships and the 1994 Goodwill Games. August 8, 2004, became a landmark date for the team when it became the first team to defeat the United States in an Olympic tournament since the integration of National Basketball Association players. Winning the inaugural game with scores of 92–73 as part of the 2004 Summer Olympics organized in Athens, Greece. Baloncesto Superior Nacional acts as the top-level professional basketball league in Puerto Rico, and has experienced success since its beginning in 1930.
Miscellaneous practices of this sport have experienced some success, including the "Puerto Rico All Stars" team, which has won twelve world championships in unicycle basketball. Organized Streetball has gathered some exposition, with teams like "Puerto Rico Street Ball" competing against established organizations including the Capitanes de Arecibo and AND1's Mixtape Tour Team. Consequently, practitioners of this style have earned participation in international teams, including Orlando "El Gato" Meléndez, who became the first Puerto Rican born athlete to play for the Harlem Globetrotters. Orlando Antigua, whose mother is Puerto Rican, made history in 1995, when he became the first Hispanic and the first non-black in 52 years to play for the Harlem Globetrotters.
The Puerto Rico Islanders Football Club, founded in 2003, plays in the United Soccer Leagues First Division, which constitutes the second tier of football in North America. Puerto Rico is also a member of FIFA and CONCACAF. In 2008 the archipelago's first unified league, the Puerto Rico Soccer League, was established. Secondary sports include Professional wrestling and road running. The World Wrestling Council and International Wrestling Association are the largest wrestling promotions in the main island. The World's Best 10K, held annually in San Juan, has been ranked among the 20 most competitive races globally.
Puerto Rico has representation in all international competitions including the Summer and Winter Olympics, the Pan American Games, the Caribbean World Series, and the Central American and Caribbean Games. Puerto Rican athletes have won six medals (one silver, five bronze) in Olympic competition, the first one in 1948 by boxer Juan Evangelista Venegas. On March 2006 San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium hosted the opening round as well as the second round of the newly formed World Baseball Classic. The Central American and Caribbean Games were held in 1993 in Ponce and in 2010 in Mayagüez.
The first school in Puerto Rico and the first school in the United States after Puerto Rico became a US territory, was the Escuela de Gramatica (Grammer School). The school was established by Bishop Alonso Manso in 1513, in the area where the Cathedral of San Juan was to be constructed. The school was free of charge and the courses taught were Latin language, literature, history, science, art, philosophy and theology.
Education in Puerto Rico is divided in three levels—Primary (elementary school grades 1–6), Secondary (intermediate and high school grades 7–12), and Higher Level (undergraduate and graduate studies). As of 2002, the literacy rate of the Puerto Rican population was 94.1%; by gender, it was 93.9% for males and 94.4% for females. According to the 2000 Census, 60.0% of the population attained a high school degree or higher level of education, and 18.3% has a bachelor's degree or higher.
Instruction at the primary school level is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 18 and is enforced by the state. The Constitution of Puerto Rico grants the right to an education to every citizen on the island. To this end, public schools in Puerto Rico provide free and non-sectarian education at the elementary and secondary levels. At any of the three levels, students may attend either public or private schools. As of 1999, there were 1532 public schools and 569 private schools in the island.
The largest and oldest university system in Puerto Rico is the public University of Puerto Rico (UPR) with 11 campuses. The largest private university systems on the island are the Sistema Universitario Ana G. Mendez which operates the Universidad del Turabo, Metropolitan University and Universidad del Este, the multi-campus Inter American University, the Pontifical Catholic University, and the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. Puerto Rico has four schools of Medicine and four Law Schools.
Cities and towns in Puerto Rico are interconnected by a system of roads, freeways, expressways, and highways maintained by the Highways and Transportation Authority under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and patrolled by the Puerto Rico Police Department. The island's metropolitan area is served by a public bus transit system and a metro system called Tren Urbano (in English: Urban Train). Other forms of public transportation include seaborne ferries (that serve Puerto Rico's archipelago) as well as Carros Públicos (private mini buses).
The island has three international airports, the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Carolina, Mercedita Airport in Ponce, and the Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla, and 27 local airports. The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is the largest aerial transportation hub in the Caribbean, and one of the largest in the world in terms of passenger and cargo movement.
Puerto Rico has 9 ports in different cities across the main island. The San Juan Port is the largest in Puerto Rico, and the busiest port in the Caribbean and the 10th busiest in the United States in terms of commercial activity and cargo movement, respectively. The second largest port is the Port of the Americas in Ponce, currently under expansion to increase cargo capacity to 1.5 million twenty-foot containers (TEUs) per year.
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