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Puerto Rico ( or ), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( — literally Associated Free State of Puerto Rico), is a self-governing unincorporated territory of the United Statesmarker located in the northeastern Caribbean Seamarker, east of the Dominican Republicmarker and west of the Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico is composed of an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands, the largest of which are Viequesmarker, Culebramarker, and Monamarker. The main island of Puerto Rico is the smallest by land area and second smallest by population among the four Greater Antilles, which also include Cubamarker, Hispaniolamarker, and Jamaicamarker.

Puerto Ricans often call the island Borinquen, from Borikén, its indigenous Taíno name. 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 as "La Isla del Encanto", which translated means "The Island of Enchantment."

History

Pre-Columbian era

The history of the archipelago of Puerto Rico before the arrival of Christopher Columbus is not well known. What is known today comes from archaeological findings and early Spanish accounts. The first comprehensive book on the history of Puerto Rico was written by Fray Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra in 1786, 293 years 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 BC. Between AD 120 and 400 arrived the Igneri, a tribe from the South American Orinoco region. Between the 4th and 10th centuries, the Arcaicos and Igneri co-existed (and perhaps clashed) on the island. Between the 7th and 11th centuries the Taíno culture developed on the island, and by approximately 1000 AD had become dominant. This lasted until Christopher Columbus arrived in 1493.

Spanish colony

When Christopher Columbus arrived in Puerto Rico during his second voyage on November 19, 1493, the island was inhabited by a group of Arawak Indians known as Taínos. They called the island "Borikén" or, in Spanish, "Borinquen". Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Later the island took the name of Puerto Rico (Spanish for "Rich Port") while the capital was named San Juanmarker. In 1508, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León became the island's first governor to take office.

The Spanish soon colonized the island. Taínos were forced into slavery and were decimated by the harsh conditions of work and by diseases brought by the Spaniards. In 1511, the Taínos revolted against the Spanish; cacique Urayoán, as planned by Agüeybaná II, ordered his warriors to drown the Spanish soldier Diego Salcedo to determine whether the Spaniards were immortal. After drowning Salcedo, they kept watch over his body for three days to confirm his death. The revolt was easily crushed by Ponce de León and within a few decades much of the native population had been decimated by disease, violence, and a high occurrence of suicide. By 1520, when Charles V issued a royal decree that collectively emancipated the remaining Taíno population, the Taíno presence had almost vanished. African slaves were introduced to replace the Taíno. Puerto Rico soon became an important stronghold and port for the Spanish Empire. Various forts and walls, such as La Fortalezamarker, El Castillo San Felipe del Morromarker and El Castillo de San Cristóbalmarker, were built to protect the port of San Juan from European enemies. France, The Netherlandsmarker and England made several attempts to capture Puerto Rico but failed to wrest long-term occupancy. During the late 17th and early 18th centuries colonial emphasis was on the more prosperous mainland territories, leaving the island impoverished of settlers.

In 1809, in the midst of the Peninsular War, the Supreme Central Junta based in Cádizmarker recognized Puerto Rico as an overseas province of Spain with the right to send representatives to the recently convened Spanish parliament. The representative, 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 reforms augmented the population and economy, and expanded the local character of the island. After the rapid gaining of independence by the South and Central American states in the first part of the century, Puerto Rico and Cubamarker became the only Spanish colonies found in the Americas. The Spanish Crown revived the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815. This time the decree was printed in three languages — Spanish, English and French — intending to attract Europeans of non-Spanish origin, with the hope that the independence movements would lose their popularity and strength with the arrival of new settlers. Free land was offered to those who wanted to populate the islands on the condition that they swear their loyalty to the Spanish Crown and allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church.

The Original Lares Revolutionary Flag
Toward the end of the 19th century, 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. 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. The 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.

United States colony

On July 25, 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico was invaded by the United States with a landing at Guánicamarker. As an outcome of the war, Spain ceded Puerto Rico, along with Cubamarker, the Philippinesmarker, and Guammarker to the U.S. under the Treaty of Paris.

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 popular government, including a popularly elected House of Representatives. In 1917, the Jones Act granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship and provided for a popularly elected Senate to complete a bicameral Legislative Assembly. 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 Poncemarker by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party which turned into a bloody event when the Insular Police ("a force somewhat resembling the National Guard of the typical U.S. state" and which answered to the U.S.-appointed governor Blanton Winship) opened fire upon, what a U.S. Congressman and others reported were, unarmed and defenseless cadets and bystanders alike, killing 19 and badly wounding over 200 more, many in their backs while running away. An ACLU report declared it a massacre and it has since been known as the Ponce massacremarker.

The internal governance changed during the latter years of the RooseveltTruman 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. On June 11, 1948, Piñero, signed the "Ley de la Mordaza" (Gag Law) or Law 53 as it was officially known, passed by the Puerto Rican legislature which made it illegal to display the Puerto Rican Flag, sing patriotic songs, talk of independence and to fight for the liberation of the island. It resembled the anti-communist Smith Law passed in the United States.

Commonwealth

In 1947, the U.S. granted Puerto Ricans the right to democratically elect their own governor. Luis Muñoz Marín was elected during the 1948 general elections, becoming the first popularly elected governor of Puerto Rico. 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 left unchanged all the articles under the Jones Act of 1917 that regulated the relationships between Puerto Rico and the United States.

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. The most notable occurred in Jayuyamarker and Utuadomarker. 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, Georgiamarker, 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 arrival of U.S. troops to Puerto Rico in 1898, until then an annual Puerto Rico holiday. Puerto Rico adopted the name of Estado Libre Asociado (literally translated as "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 and it is the world's leading pharmaceutical manufacturing center. 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.

On October 25, 2006, the Puerto Rico State Department conferred Puerto Rican citizenship to Juan Mari Brás. The Supreme Court of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Secretary of Justice determined that Puerto Rican citizenship exists and was recognized in the Constitution of Puerto Rico. Since the summer of 2007, the Puerto Rico State Department has developed the protocol to provide certificates of Puerto Rican citizenship to Puerto Ricans.

Government and politics

South view of the Capitol, home of the Legislative Assembly in Puerto Rico
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 Ricomarker. 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. 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.

As Puerto Rico is not an independent country, 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 Islandmarker is not a municipality, but part of the municipality of Mayagüezmarker. 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 Germánmarker in 1570, Coamomarker in 1579, Arecibo in 1614, Aguadamarker in 1692 and Poncemarker 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 Floridamarker in 1971.

From 1952 to 2007, Puerto Rico had three political parties which stood for three distinct future political scenarios. The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) seeks to maintain the island's "association" status as a commonwealth, improved commonwealth and/or seek a true free sovereign-association status or Free Associated Republic, and has won a plurality vote in referendums on the island's status held over six decades after the island was invaded by the U.S. The New Progressive Party (PNP) seeks statehood. The Puerto Rican Independence Party seeks independence. In 2007, a fourth party, the Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico Party (PPR), was ratified. The PPR claims that it seeks to address the islands' problems from a status-neutral platform. Non-registered parties include the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, the Socialist Workers Movement, the Hostosian National Independence Movement, and others.

Political status

Puerto Rico is an "unincorporated territory" of the United States which according to the U.S. Supreme Court's Insular Cases is "a territory appurtenant and belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States." Puerto Rico is subject to the Congress’ 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 has no voting representative in the U.S. Congress. Because of the establishment of the Federal Relations Act of 1950, all federal laws that are "not locally inapplicable" are automatically the law of the land in Puerto Rico.

Since 1917, people born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens. As such, they are entitled to vote at the federal level, but not from the island, as the territory is not incorporated. The legal restriction to vote at the federal level extends only to the territory, not to its citizens. In this fashion, all U.S. citizens can vote at the federal level from any part of the world or incorporated territories of the U.S. By the same token, no U.S. citizen may vote at the federal level if they reside in Puerto Rico, although they can vote at the "state" (local) level. Most Federal level taxes do not apply to island residents, as taxation is one of the powers delegated to the local authorities. See also: Voting rights in Puerto Rico

Estado Libre Asociado

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 suppose continued 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. The convention adopted a translation into Spanish of the term, inspired by the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) of "Estado Libre Asociado" (ELA) to represent the agreement. Literally translated into English the phrase Estado Libre Asociado means "Associated Free State."

While the approval of the commonwealth constitution 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). 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, the 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 on three status options (commonwealth, statehood, and independence). Claiming "foul play" and dubbing the process as illegitimate and contrary to International Law norms 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 (receiving 48.6% in 1993 and less than one percent, 0.3%, in 1998, when the "none of the above option" received the joint vote of voters who supported "enhanced" commonwealth with sovereignty from the U.S. and some pro-independence supporters).

International status

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 its full list of criteria to Puerto Rico to determine if it has achieved self-governing status. 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 a 1996 report on a Puerto Rico status political bill, the "U.S. House Committee on Resources stated that PR's current status does not meet the criteria for any of the options for full self-government". It concluded that PR is still an unincorporated territory of the U.S. under the territorial clause, 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 PR residents of PR at any time, for a legitimate Federal purpose. The application of the Constitution to Puerto Rico is limited by the Insular Cases.

Within the United States

Under the Constitution of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico is described as a Commonwealth and Puerto Ricans enjoy a degree of administrative autonomy similar to that of a U.S. state.Puerto Ricans have been granted U.S. citizenship since 1917 because of the Jones-Shafroth Act. The act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on March 2, 1917. U.S. Federal law approved by the President Harry S. Truman on June 27, 1952 declared all persons born in Puerto Rico on or after January 13, 1941 to be citizens of the U.S. at birth and all persons born in Puerto Rico between April 11, 1899, and January 12, 1941, and meeting certain other technical requirements, and not citizens of the United States under any other Act, are declared to be citizens of the U.S. as of January 13, 1941.

Since Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory (see above) and not a U.S. state, the U.S. Constitution does not fully enfranchise US citizens residing in Puerto Rico. Since 1917, people born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens. As such, they are entitled to vote at the federal level, but not from the island, as the territory is not incorporated. The legal restriction to vote at the federal level extends only to the territory, not to its citizens. In this fashion, all U.S. citizens can vote at the federal level from any part of the world or incorporated territories of the U.S. By the same token, no U.S. citizen may vote at the federal level if they reside in Puerto Rico, although they can vote at the "state" (local) level. See also: Voting rights in Puerto Rico

Only the "fundamental rights" under the federal constitution apply to Puerto Rico like the Privileges and Immunities Clause (U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 2, Clause 1, also known as the 'Comity Clause') that prevents a state from treating citizens of other states in a discriminatory manner, with regard to basic civil rights. The clause also embraces a right to travel, so that a citizen of one state can go and enjoy privileges and immunities in any other state; this constitutional clause was expressly extended to Puerto Rico by the U.S. Congress through the federal law and signed by the President Harry S. Truman in 1947. Other fundamental rights like the Due Process Clause and the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment was expressly extended to Puerto Rico by the U.S.marker Supreme courtmarker. In a brief concurrence in the judgment of Torres v. Puerto Rico, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brennan, argued that any implicit limits from the Insular Cases on the basic rights granted by the Constitution (including especially the Bill of Rights) were anachronistic in the 1970s.

President George H. W. Bush issued a memorandum on November 30, 1992 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.

Puerto Rico does participate in the internal political process of both the Democratic and Republican parties in the U.S., accorded equal-proportional representation in both parties, and delegates from the islands vote in each party's national convention.

Puerto Rico is classified by the U.S. government as an independent taxation authority by mutual agreement with the U.S. Congress by the federal law . Contrary to common misconception, residents of Puerto Rico do pay U.S. federal taxes: import/export taxes, federal commodity taxes, social security taxes, etc. The only exemption is federal income tax since residents pay federal payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare), as well as Commonwealth of Puerto Rico income taxes. All federal employees, plus those who do business with the federal government, in addition to Puerto Rico-based corporations that intend to send funds to the U.S., and some others also pay federal income tax. Because the cutoff point for income taxation is lower than that of the U.S. IRS code, and because the per-capita income in Puerto Rico is much lower than the average per-capita income on the mainland, more Puerto Rico residents pay income taxes to the local taxation authority than if the IRS code were applied to the island. As residents of Puerto Rico pay into Social Security, Puerto Rican residents are eligible for Social Security benefits upon retirement, but are excluded from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and the island actually receives less than 15% of the Medicaid funding it would normally receive if it were a U.S. state. Yet, 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.

Puerto Ricans may enlist in the U.S. military. Since 1917, Puerto Ricans have been included in the compulsory draft whenever it has been in effect. Puerto Ricans have participated in all U.S. wars since 1898, most notably World War I, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as the current Middle Eastern conflicts. Some Puerto Ricans became notable commanders, five have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration in the United States. In World War II , the Korean War and the Vietnam War Puerto Ricans were the most decorated Hispanic soldiers and in some cases they were the first to die in combat.

Recent developments

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. 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 rejects any "colonial or territorial status" as a status option, and vows 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.

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.

Geography

Puerto Rico consists of the main island of Puerto Rico and various smaller islands, including Viequesmarker, Culebramarker, Monamarker, Desecheomarker, and Caja de Muertosmarker. 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 Monitomarker and "La Isleta de San Juan" which includes Old San Juan and Puerta de Tierramarker.
Map of Puerto Rico
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has an area of , of which is land and is water. The maximum length of the main island from east to west is , and the maximum width from north to south is . Puerto Rico is the smallest of the Greater Antilles. It is 80% of the size of Jamaicamarker , just over 18% of the size of Hispaniolamarker and 8% of the size of Cubamarker, 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 Puntamarker , is located in this range. Another important peak is El Yunquemarker, one of the highest in the Sierra de Luquillo at the El Yunque National Forestmarker, with an elevation of .

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 plate 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 Aguadillamarker and was accompanied by a tsunami.
The Puerto Rico Trenchmarker, the largest and deepest trench in the Atlantic, is located about north of Puerto Rico at the boundary between the Caribbean and North American plates. It is long . At its deepest point, named the Milwaukee Deepmarker, it is almost deep, or about 5.2 miles.

Located in the tropics, Puerto Rico has an average temperature of throughout the year. 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 , registered in Aibonitomarker.

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 Forestmarker, 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 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.

Economy

In the early 1900s 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 Centermarker, indicate the current strength of the tourism industry.

Puerto Ricans had median household income of $17,741 for 2007, which makes Puerto Rico's economy comparable to the independent nations of Latviamarker or Polandmarker. By comparison, the poorest state of the Union, Mississippimarker, had median household income of $36,338 in 2007. 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. The measures adopted by the Fortuño administration included systematically terminating the employment of nearly 24,000 public employees. Puerto Rico's unemployment rate exceeded 15 percent in August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some analysts said they expect the government's layoffs to propel that rate to 17 percent.

Demographics

Population and racial makeup

Royal Decree of Graces, 1815.
During the 1800s hundreds of Corsica, French, Lebanesemarker, Chinese, and Portuguesemarker families arrived in Puerto Rico, along with large numbers of immigrants from Spain (mainly from Cataloniamarker, Asturiasmarker, Galiciamarker, the Balearic Islandsmarker, Andalusiamarker, and the Canary Islandsmarker) and numerous Spanish loyalists from Spain's former colonies in South America. Other settlers included Irish, Scotsmarker, 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 a certain amount of free land. This mass 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: 300,430 identified as Whites; 341,015 as Free colored; and 41,736 as Slaves. During the early 20th century Jews began to settle in Puerto Rico. The first large group of Jews to settle in Puerto Rico were European refugees fleeing German–occupied Europe in the 1930s. In 1952, some Jewish families from the United States settled in Puerto Rico and founded the first synagogue. In 1959, there was an influx of Jewish emigres from Cuba, following the Cuban Revolution.


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