Puerto Rico: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, size, population, and government of the land Puerto Rico.



Location--A Caribbean island about 885 mi. southeast of Miami, Fla., and 540 mi. north of the Venezuelan coast of South America.

How Created--The 1st European to visit the island was Columbus, who touched land there on November 19, 1493, and gave it the name San Juan Bautista. Ponce de Leon founded the 1st Spanish settlement on the island's puerto rico, or rich port, in 1506. Gradually, the island took the name Puerto Rico, while the major settlement was called San Juan. Some 30,000 indigenous Arawak Indians were eliminated by the late 16th century through disease, slavery, and wars. After much agitation for independence or autonomy, the Spanish granted permission for an elected Puerto Rican legislature, although Spain reserved the right to appoint the governor, who had real power. Self-government lasted less than a year. In the course of the Spanish-American War (1898) American troops landed on Puerto Rico, and the Treaty of Paris obliged Spain to cede Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the U.S. (Cuba was placed in a U.S. trusteeship.) After 2 years of U.S. occupation and military Government, a civil Government was established in 1900, but with the U.S. appointing the governor, upper house, and judiciary. Puerto Rico's eventual official status as either State or independent country was not defined.

Size--3,435 sq. mi. (8,897 sq. km.), including dependencies.

Population--2,800,000: mixed, 60%; black, 20%; white, 20%. 88% Roman Catholic. In addition, about 1,700,000 Puerto Ricans live in the U.S. at any one time.

Who Rules--An outright U.S. colony from 1898 to 1952, Puerto Rico is now an "Associated Free State," with the right to elect the governor, senate, and house of representatives, much on the model of U.S. mainland States. Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917. Although obliged to serve in the U.S. military, Puerto Ricans may not vote in the national elections which determine U.S. military policy, unless they happen to be living on the mainland.

Who REALLY Rules--The U.S. Aside from immense U.S. military installations, including the 72nd Bomb Wing of SAC, the Antilles Command of the U.S. Army, and one of the largest U.S. Navy bases in the world, Puerto Rico's tax-exempt status has resulted in rampant exploitation of the island's human and natural resources. Under an economic development program known as Operation Bootstrap, investors pay no taxes to either the U.S. or Puerto Rico. Consequently, many companies operate branch plants there which produce articles for export only.

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