Puerto Rico was discovered by Christopher Columbus on November 19, 1493, during his 2nd voyage to the New World. He named it San Juan Bautista. Upon his arrival on the island, Columbus was met with peaceful and friendly Taino or Arawak Indians who shared their food and homes with him and his men.
Many families from Europe came to the region and married Taino Indians, creating a new ethnic group called the Criollos.
Upon pressure from the nationalist locals for independence, the region was granted self-government by the Spanish in 1897. However, during the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States invaded Puerto Rico and Spain surrendered. Puerto Rico then became a United States territory.
Under the Jones Act of 1917, Puerto Ricans were granted American citizenship. In 1952, Puerto Rico's Constitution established self-governance.
Puerto Rico has since fought to make the region a US state but its political status remains to be that of a US territory.
Puerto Rico is located between the Caribbean Sea and the Northern Atlantic Ocean. It is found to the east of the Dominican Republic and to the West of the Virgin Islands.
It is an archipelago consisting of the mainland plus other smaller islands such as the Culebra, Mona, Vieques, Desecho, and Caja de Muertos. Vieques andCulebra are the only two smaller islands that are inhabited throughout the year.
A few other smaller islands are also a part of Puerto Rico, which are the Monito islet and La Isleta de San Juan, where the historic Old San Juan is found. These smaller islands are connected to the mainland by bridges.
Puerto Rico has a republican form of government, with powers that are subject to the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United States. The head of state is the President of the US and the head of government is the country's Governor.
The territory has 3 branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. Executive power is exercised by the Governor and Legislative power is exercised by the bicameral legislature, which is the Legislative Assembly. The Governor and the legislators of senators and representatives are elected into office by popular vote.
Puerto Rico is one of the most popular travel destinations in the Caribbean. US citizens don't need a passport to travel to the islands, its official languages are English and Spanish, and the official currency is also the US dollar, which make the islands very accessible for travelers. Puerto Rico is known for its beaches and there's never a lack of great beaches to spend the day. Among the most secluded and unspoiled is Flamenco Beach in Culebrita on the island of Culebra. It can only be reached by water taxi or private boat and it's less crowded than the star attraction beaches found all around Puerto Rico's main island.
Another beach with a laid-back atmosphere is Sandy Beach on the western coast. It has the best surf breaks on the archipelago and it's considered to be the best beach for swimming.
For the most charming and romantic destination in Puerto Rico, the best place to go is Old San Juan. It is packed with colonial architecture, cultural offerings, an abundance of shops, museums, open-air cafes, plazas, and historic places. The most popular is the Castillo de San Felipe del Morro or famously known as El Morro. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Fort that protected the island for many years from invaders. It sits on a hill that overlooks the ocean, and it's filled with cannons facing the sea, old barracks, dungeons, and rooms that represent Puerto Rico's military history.
Education is free and compulsory in Puerto Rico for students aged 5-18. Education is divided into 3 levels: primary, secondary, and high level. The territory's literacy rate is 94.1% and over 60% of the population have a high school education. However, among students who enter high school, about 40% of them drop out and never finish.
Homeschooling is legal in Puerto Rico but it is neither regulated or legislated.
- Rum is the island's chief export and 70% of the rum sold in the US are from Puerto Rico. The legal drinking age on the islands is 18.
- Temperatures on the islands range from 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit all year round.
- Although Puerto Rico is a US territory, they compete separately in the Miss Universe pageant and have won a total of 5 times. They also compete in the Olympics where they have won a total of 6 gold medals.
Note : -Population: 2000-04-01 census.
Last Updated : January 8, 2015