Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican flag painted on a rock
Puerto Rican Flag

Puerto Rico – A US Territory

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated US territory archipelago (group of islands) located in the beautifully blue Carribean Sea, situated in between the Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic. Although it is controlled by the US federal government, there is only a partial application of the US constitution which means that fundamental rights apply, but constitutional rights do not. 

It was named “San Juan Bautista” by Columbus as a tribute to John the Baptist and was called “Borinquen” by the island’s indigenous people. Because of its beauty it is also called La Isla Del Encanto in Spanish, meaning “The Land of Enchantment.” The word Puerto Rico means “Rich Port” and Puerto Rico is officially known as “Commonwealth of Puerto Rico”. English and Spanish are the official languages of Puerto Rico. 

History 

The ancient history of Puerto Rico is not well known and there is not enough archaeological evidence to support the different historical theories about the original settlers of these islands. The Ortoiroid people are considered to be the original settlers of Puerto Rico, who migrated from the Caribbean and are considered to originate from the Orinoco valley. This was in 2000 BC. 

Ancient cannons in Puerto Rico
Ancient Cannons in Puerto Rico

Christopher Columbus discovered Puerto Rico on November 19, 1943 and found that the islands were inhabited by the Taino. From the 7th century, the Tiano culture dominated the islands of Puerto Rico and continued until the time of the Spanish occupation. 

On August 8, 1508, Ponce de Leon, the famous adventurer who went looking for the Fountain of Youth who was one of the lieutenants of Columbus, established Caparra, the first Spanish settlement. He also served as the first governor of Caparra. Caparra was the first capital of Puerto Rico. The Caparra settlement only lasted until 1521 when it was attacked. It was abandoned and all that was left was ruins.

Map of Puerto Rico
Map of Puerto Rico

From the 16th century to the beginning of 19th century, Puerto Rico remained a center of trade, colonialism and slavery. Slavery was abolished On 25th July 1898, the already existing hostility between Spain and the US resulted in the Spanish-American war.  The US won and the treaty of Paris was signed on 11th April 1899 between the two nations.  As a result of which Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines were ceded to the United States. 

Present Day Puerto Rico

From 1899 to today, Puerto Rico has remained an unincorporated US territory, ruled by the military at times and officials appointed by the US President. In 1917, the Jones-Shafroth act was passed by the congress which granted citizenship to all Puerto Ricans born after or on April  25, 1898. The Elective Governor act was passed by the US Congress in 1947 which gave Puerto Ricans the right to elect a governor.

In 1950, the US Congress proposed a law for designating Puerto Rico as a US commonwealth nation. The Puerto Ricans were granted the rights to a constitutional convention. Two referendums were carried out for the ratification of this constitution and it was finally made applicable on 3rd July,1952. 

Land and Terrain

•Puerto Rico is spread over an area of  3515 square miles,  Total land area is 3459 square, while the rest is water

•Based on area, it ranks at 170th relative to the rest of the countries

•311 miles of coastline

•The terrain has mountains, sandy beaches and coastal plains 

•63% of the land is covered with forests 

•6% is unused land good for growing crops

•5%  existing crops

•9% pastures

•Irrigated land (land controlled with flooding and other water systems) is about 84.9 square miles 

Geography

Geographically, Puerto Rico has always had a certain level of significance because of its strategic location in the Mona Passage. The Mona Passage has been one of the most important shipping routes connecting the Panama Canal with the Atlantic. 

To the west of Puerto Rico is the Dominican Republic and Haiti, to its east lie the Virgin Islands. The Atlantic Ocean is to its north while the Caribbean Sea lies to its south. 

Population 

A man enjoy a restaurant in Puerto Rico
Enjoying the restaurants in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has a population of 3.2 million, according to a census conducted in 2016. It is a group of 143 islands out of which only Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques are inhabited.  The population of Culebra is 1,314, Vieques is 9,300, while Puerto Rico Island has the highest population density. 

The capital of Puerto Rico is San Juan, it is also the most populous city with over 418,000 people. Around 76% of the people are of Spanish origin, 12.4% African American, while the remaining comprise of mixed races, Asians, etc. From 2010 to 2020, Puerto Rico has witnessed many people moving to the mainland of the US, primarily due to the extreme population density.  It is estimated that above 4.9 million Puerto Ricans are living in the US.  

Climate  

Crystal Clear Waters in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has a tropical rainforest climate, like other Caribbean and North Pacific islands Puerto Rico experiences little temperature variations in its seasons.  The weather mostly remains warm and sunny throughout the year. 

•The average temperature of Puerto Rico is 85 °F. January is relatively colder than the rest of the months with average low of 70 °F and average high of 90 °F

•The dry season usually starts from December and lasts till March

•The wet season begins in April and lasts till November 

•Average annual rainfall varies from 29 to 171 inches

•Just like other Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico experiences frequent hurricanes and cyclones

Tourism  

San Juan is a famous tourist attraction. People come here from around the world to witness colonial architecture.  It has ancient forts and beautiful streets. The colonial buildings from the 16th and 17th century have been restored and transformed into hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. 

The most famous attraction is a colonial fort El Morro located at an elevated point above the sea. Right next to the fort is the famous San Juan Cemetery. 

Other tourist attractions include Ocean Park Beach, Yunque Forest and San Juan Cathedral The famous beaches of Puerto Rico also include those at the Culebra and Vieques islands such as Mosquito or Bioluminescent Bay where a phenomenon illuminates the beach water at night. 

The Museum of Puerto Rican Art and Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art also attract high tourist traffic. San Juan also has the largest cruise port in the world and is a famous destination for cruise ships.