Puerto Rico

Common Wealth of Puerto Rico or Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico


Location: Northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and The British Virgin Islands.

Capital: San Juan Largest City: San Juan

The island of Puerto Rico is almost rectangular in shape and is 100 miles long by 35 miles wide. It is the smallest and the most eastern island of the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Puerto Rico). Puerto Rico is the third largest island in the United States and the 82nd largest island in the world, with an area of 3,425 square miles (9,104 sq km).

View Larger Map

As a result of the Spanish-American War of 1898, Puerto Rico was ceded by Spain to the United States in the Treaty of Paris on December 19, 1898. In 1900 the U.S. Congress established a civil government on the island. Seventeen years later, in response to the pressure of Puerto Rican activists, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act, which granted American citizenship to all Puerto Ricans.

Following this action, the U.S. government instituted measures to resolve the various economic and social problems of the island, which even then was suffering from overpopulation. Those measures included the introduction of American currency, health programs, hydroelectric power and irrigation programs, and economic policies designed to attract U.S. industry and provide more employment opportunities for native Puerto Ricans.

In the years following World War II, Puerto Rico became a critical strategic location for the U.S. military. Naval bases were built in San Juan Harbor and on the nearby island of Culebra. In 1948 Puerto Ricans elected Luis Muñoz Marín governor of the island, the first native puertorriqueño to hold such a post. Marín favored Commonwealth status for Puerto Rico. The question of whether to continue the Commonwealth relationship with the United States, to push for U.S. statehood, or to rally for total independence has dominated Puerto Rican politics throughout the twentieth century.

Following the 1948 election of Governor Muñoz, there was an uprising of the Nationalist Partywhose official party platform included agitation for independence. On November 1, 1950, as part of the uprising, two Puerto Rican nationalists carried out an armed attack on Blair House, which was being used as a temporary residence by U.S. President Harry Truman. Although the president was unharmed in the melee, one of the assailants and one Secret Service presidential guard were killed by gunfire.

After the 1959 Communist revolution in Cuba, Puerto Rican nationalism lost much of its steam; the main political question facing Puerto Ricans in the mid-1990s was whether to seek full statehood or remain a Commonwealth. As a people, Puerto Rico has a distinct culture and history. Puerto Ricans feel proud of this. For this reason the Puerto Rican culture and language however, have not dissipated despite more than 100 years of American influence. Additionally, although awareness of Puerto Rican culture has increased within mainstream America, many common misconceptions still exist. For instance, many other Americans fail to realize that Puerto Ricans are natural-born American citizens or wrongly view their native island as a primitive tropical land of grass huts and grass skirts. Puerto Rican culture is often confused with other Latino American cultures.

Population: 3,706,690 based on a U.S. Census Bureau from July 2011.

  • In 2010, there was an estimated 4.7 million Puerto Ricans living in the 50 U.S. states and D.C. according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. This is a slightly larger number than the population on the island, which is 3.7 million. Puerto Ricans in this particular statistic identify as Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin meaning they were born in Puerto Rico or can trace their ancestry to the common wealth.
  • Puerto Ricans are the second largest Hispanic population living in the U.S. Mexicans take up the largest Hispanic population in the U.S.
  • Puerto Rico is the 29th largest state in the U.S.

Regional Population:

  • Bronx County in New York has the largest Puerto Rican populations in the U.S.

Natural resources: Some copper and nickel; potential for onshore and offshore oil.

Agriculture: Milk (dairy), Poultry, Plantains, Ornamental Plants (poinsettias), Coffee, Beef and Veal, Bananas, Pork, Fighting Cocks, Seeds and Seedlings.

Industry: Pharmaceuticals, electronics, apparel, food products, tourism.

Government: Puerto Rico has a Republic government, which is subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sovereignty. Under the Constitution of Puerto Rico, the island is delegated by the United States Congress and lacks full protection under the United States Constitution.

Three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The Governor, Luis Fortuño, who is also the head of government, heads the executive branch.