Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico (pwārˈtō) (rēˈkō), island (2015 est. pop. 3,674,000), 3,508 sq mi (9,086 sq km), West Indies, c.1,000 mi (1,610 km) SE of Miami, Fla. Officially known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (a self-governing entity in association with the United States), it includes the offshore islands of Mona, Vieques, and Culebra. The capital and largest city is San Juan.


Smallest and easternmost of the Greater Antilles, Puerto Rico is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the north and the Caribbean Sea on the south. Mona Passage to the northwest separates the island from the Dominican Republic, and the Virgin Islands lie to the east. Puerto Rico is crossed by mountain ranges, notably the Cordillera Central, which rises to 4,389 ft (1,388 m) in the Cerro de Punta. Although rivers are short and unnavigable, some provide irrigation or hydroelectric power. The climate is mildly tropical, with little seasonal change. Rainfall is plentiful, despite some arid regions in the south. Hurricanes are likely to occur between August and October. In addition to the capital, other important cities are Ponce, Caguas, and Mayagüez.


Puerto Rico's fertile soil supports one of the densest populations in the world. The Puerto Ricans are descended from Spanish colonists and also from Africans and Native Americans. Spanish and English are the official languages, although Spanish is predominant. Roman Catholicism is the main religion. Spanish is the medium of instruction, but English is studied as a second language by all students. Institutions of higher learning include the Univ. of Puerto Rico (with its main branch at Río Piedras), Inter-American Univ. at San Germán, Catholic Univ. at Ponce, and a Catholic college for women at San Juan.


Manufacturing replaced agriculture as the greatest contributor to Puerto Rico's national income largely because of “Operation Bootstrap” and other measures, which from the 1940s attracted U.S. firms to the island through the use of tax exemptions and duty-free access to the United States. Pharmaceutical, electronics, and apparel industries have been the most important, along with food processing, oil refining, and the manufacture of machinery and chemicals. The 10-year phaseout of tax preferences, which ended in 2006, spurred a loss of manufacturing jobs and led to an end of years of economic growth. Livestock raising (for meat and dairy production) has surpassed the growing of sugarcane as the chief agricultural pursuit in Puerto Rico. Coffee, pineapple, plaintains, and bananas are other leading crops. Reforestation has been undertaken to restore tropical woods in the interior, where the Caribbean National Forest is set apart. Tourism is also a major source of revenue, as is money remitted by Puerto Ricans (about 5 million) living in the United States.

The United States is by far Puerto Rico's chief trading partner. The leading exports include pharmaceuticals, electronics, apparel, canned tuna, rum, beverage concentrates, and medical equipment. Imports include chemicals, machinery and equipment, clothing, food, fish, and petroleum products. Although Puerto Rico has the most diversified and powerful industrial economy in the Caribbean, significant population growth and insufficient jobs have contributed to social and economic problems and to continued emigration.


Puerto Rico's governor and both legislative houses are popularly elected for four-year terms. There are 27 senators and 51 representatives. An elected resident commissioner serves a four-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives but cannot vote. On the local level, Puerto Rico is divided into municipalities, each with its own mayor and assembly. Puerto Ricans share all the rights and obligations of U.S. citizenship, including service in the armed forces; however, they do not pay federal taxes and cannot vote in national elections. The U.S. government handles Puerto Rico's foreign affairs, and U.S. military installations are maintained on the island.


Early History and Spanish Rule

Before the Spanish arrived the island was inhabited by the Arawak people, who called the region Borinquén or Boriquén. Christopher Columbus visited the island in 1493 and named it San Juan Bautista [St. John the Baptist], but he sailed on to Hispaniola to plant a settlement. Juan Ponce de León began the actual conquest in 1508, landing at San Juan harbor, which he called Puerto Rico [Span.,=rich port]. A settlement was founded in 1521 on the site of present-day San Juan. As hardship, disease, and Spanish massacres eliminated the Arawaks altogether, they were replaced as plantation workers by African slaves, first introduced in 1513. Deposits of placer gold were virtually depleted during the 1530s, after which the Spanish devoted their full attention to the sugar plantations.

Raids by the nearby Carib and by British, French, and Dutch pirates, however, hampered agricultural prosperity. San Juan, meanwhile, became a leading outpost of the Spanish Empire. Treasure-filled Spanish galleons that anchored there on their long trip to Spain attracted buccaneers. George Clifford, earl of Cumberland, held Puerto Rico for five months in 1598, and the Dutch besieged the island in 1625. Spain's response was to build several fortresses (whose walls still stand) that made San Juan virtually impregnable. Coffee was introduced in the 18th cent. to supplement sugar.

Beginning in the 1820s there were some uprisings against Spanish rule, but all were put down. Most notable was the Lares rebellion (Grito de Lares) of 1868. As part of a Spanish reform movement that extended to Puerto Rico, slavery was abolished in 1873, and the new Spanish republican constitution of 1876 granted Puerto Rican representation in Spain's parliament.

A movement for self-government, supported by liberal groups in Spain, grew in Puerto Rico during the 1880s. Finally, in 1897, largely through the efforts of the Puerto Rican statesman Luis Muñoz Rivera, Spain signed a charter granting the island some autonomy. The new form of government had little chance to operate, however, for a few months later the Spanish-American War erupted. U.S. troops landed at Guánica on July 25, 1898, and occupied the island without much difficulty. By the Treaty of Paris (Dec. 10, 1898), which ended the war, Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States.

Puerto Rico and the United States

Puerto Rico remained under direct military rule until 1900, when the U.S. Congress passed the Foraker Act, setting up an administration with a U.S. governor, an upper legislative chamber appointed by the U.S. president, and an elected house of delegates; the U.S. Congress was given the right to review all legislation. Meanwhile, a movement for Puerto Rican independence gained strength as pressures to define the island's political status grew, and in 1915 the house of delegates supported independence. In 1917 the Jones Act stipulated that Puerto Rico was a U.S. territory whose inhabitants were entitled to U.S. citizenship. The act provided for election of both houses of the Puerto Rican legislature, but the governor and other key officials were still to be appointed by the U.S. president, and the governor was empowered to veto any legislation.

During World War I, U.S. holdings in Puerto Rico increased, and the change to a one-crop economy was completed. The island's territorial status gave Puerto Rican sugar a ready market within U.S. tariff walls; however, large corporations encroached on land where foods had been raised for subsistence, thus causing social upheaval in the countryside and necessitating greater food imports. Absentee ownership and one-crop culture aggravated the ills of overpopulation. Sanitary and health improvements under the U.S. occupation further accelerated population growth. Many Puerto Ricans criticized the American regime for its menace to the Hispanic roots of Puerto Rican culture. Criticism intensified when the sugar market dropped in the 1930s and many workers, always near the edge of starvation, became even more desperate. The 1930s also saw Puerto Rican nationalists turn to violence in an effort to secure the island's independence.

Recovery measures were taken during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and especially under the governorship (1941–46) of Rexford G. Tugwell. Military activities related to World War II also aided the economy. The Popular Democratic party, headed by Luis Muñoz Marín, adopted a program based on economic reform and expansion, but other political parties were more concerned with U.S.–Puerto Rican relations. The Conservative Republicans advocated statehood; the Independentists, led by Gilberto Concepción, and the Nationalists, headed by Pedro Albizu Campos, favored immediate independence.

The Postwar Years and Commonwealth Status

In 1946, the U.S. government granted Puerto Rico increased local autonomy, exemplified by the appointment of the first native Puerto Rican governor, Jesus T. Piñero. The right of popular election of the governor followed, and Muñoz Marín won the 1948 election. His administration undertook a program of agricultural reform and industrial expansion called “Operation Bootstrap.” On July 25, 1952, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was proclaimed. The continuing Nationalist campaign for independence, however, was dramatized by an attempt to assassinate President Harry S. Truman in 1950 and by a shooting attack in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1954. Muñoz Marín was reelected in 1952, 1956, and 1960. He was succeeded by another Popular Democratic candidate, Roberto Sánchez Vilella.

In the face of an increasingly active movement for statehood, Sánchez arranged a plebiscite in 1967 in which Puerto Ricans could choose among independence, statehood, and maintenance of the commonwealth relationship. An overwhelming majority voted for no change, but Puerto Rico's status continued to be a lively issue, with most citizens favoring either statehood (an option the U.S. Congress showed little interest in pursuing) or commonwealth; only a small percentage desired independence. In the 1970s and 80s voters chose Popular Democratic party candidates in some gubernatorial elections while favoring prostatehood New Progressive party candidates in others.

In 1992, New Progressive party candidate Pedro Rosselló was elected governor (he was reelected in 1996). In 1993 and 1998, however, voters in nonbinding referenda rejected any change from commonwealth status by narrow margins, although more U.S. politicians voiced support for the statehood option. In the same period disputes over military use of Vieques caused friction. Challenges to the tax exemptions supporting Puerto Rico's industries brought cuts in 1993 and finally their abolition, throught a ten-year phaseout, in 1996; uncertainty over the effect on the local economy was heightened by the loss of low-wage jobs in apparel manufacture to Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Sila María Calderón, of the Popular Democratic party, was elected governor in 2000, becoming the first woman to hold the post.

Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, also of the Popular Democratic party, was narrowly elected in 2004 to succeed Calderón. In Sept., 2005, Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, a fugitive independence activist and convicted felon, was killed in a shootout with the FBI. The FBI's handling of that and subsequent incidents involving independence supporters, as well as its lack of cooperation with a Puerto Rican investigation into Ojeda Ríos's death, sparked demonstrations that continued into 2006 and protests from Puerto Rican government officials. A government financial crisis in May, 2006, led to a partial government shutdown for two weeks until the governor and legislature agreed on an emergency loan plan as a solution to the crisis. In 2008 Acevedo was charged with corruption and violating campaign financing laws, which he denied. He subsequently lost (Nov., 2008) his reelection bid to Luis Fortuño, the New Progressive party candidate; Acevedo was acquitted in Mar., 2009.

In the 2012 election Alejandro García Padilla of the Popular Democratic party defeated Fortuño; a plurality of the voters favored statehood in a nonbinding ballot question concerning Puerto Rico's status. In 2015 the governor announced the island would not be able to pay off its debt obligations and would seek to negotiate with its creditors; a combination of factors, including fiscally irresponsible island governments and the end in 2006 of federal tax breaks the island's economy had received, contributed to the debt crisis. In mid-2016 Congress passed legislation placing Puerto Rico's government under a U.S. financial control board, effectively reducing the island's autonomy, and in 2017 the island essentially declared bankruptcy. The commonwealth then began the process of attempting to restructure more $120 billion in debt and unfunded pension obligations. New Progressive Ricardo Rosselló, an ardent advocate of statehood, won the governorship in 2016. A new nonbinding referendum (2017) on the island's status produced an overwhelming vote in favor of statehood, but less than a quarter of the electorate voted.

In Sept., 2017, Hurricane Maria, the strongest hurricane to hit the island in almost a century, devastated the Puerto Rico's agriculture and infrastructure, especially its aging electrical power system, which took more than a year to repair. Although 64 deaths were initially officially attributed to the storm, that was revised after a study to 2,975, with many resulting in the weeks after the storm as a result of impacts on medical care and infrastructure. In the immediate aftermath, an estimated 185,000 people (more than 5% of the population) relocated to the mainland United States, with most of them remaining there a year later.

Widespread protests provoked by a leaked chat marked by sexist, homophobic, and other insulting comments led to Rosselló's resignation in Aug., 2019. Wanda Vázquez, the secretary of justice, succeeded him, after the swearing in of Pedro Pierluisi, the not-yet-confirmed secretary of state, was ruled unconstitutional. A series of earthquakes in Dec., 2019–Aug., 2020, many of them magnitude 4.5 or greater, affected SW Puerto Rico, causing more than $100 million in damage. Pierluisi, the New Progressive candidate, was narrowly election governor in 2020 with only a third of the vote; a majority voted in favor of statehood in a nonbinding referendum.


See F. Cordasco and E. Bucchioni, comp., The Puerto Rican Experience (1973); L. S. Rowe, United States and Puerto Rico (1975); R. A. Van Middledyk, The History of Puerto Rico (1975); R. Gordon, Social History of Puerto Rico (1976); R. Carr, Puerto Rico: A Colonial Experiment (1984); A. M. Carrion, Puerto Rico (1984); J. Morales, Jr., Puerto Rican Poverty and Migration (1986); R. Fernandez, The Disenchanted Island (2d ed., 1996); F. L. Rivera-Batiz and C. E. Santiago, Island Paradox: Puerto Rico in the 1990s (1997).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Puerto Rico


a country in the West Indies, comprising the large island of Puerto Rico and the small islands of Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. A possession of the USA, Puerto Rico is bounded on the north by the Atlantic Ocean and on the south by the Caribbean Sea. Area, 8,900 sq km. Population, 2,920,000 (1973). The capital is San Juan. Administratively, the country is divided into seven districts.

Puerto Rico’s official status is that of a “free associated state” with rights of self-government. It is represented in the US Congress by one nonvoting delegate. Executive power is vested in a governor popularly elected for a term of four years. An elected bicameral legislature exercises legislative authority within the framework of the country’s autonomy. A US Federal District Court has been established in Puerto Rico.

Natural features. Much of the terrain of the largest island, Puerto Rico, is mountainous. Stretching across the island from west to east is the strongly dissected Cordillera Central, which rises to 1,338 m and is composed chiefly of Cretaceous sedimentary rocks. Flat lowlands extend along the northern and southern coasts. There are deposits of manganese ore in the southwest and iron ore in the east. The island is subject to earthquakes.

Puerto Rico has a tropical trade-wind climate. Average monthly temperatures range from 24° to 28°C in the lowlands, dropping several degrees in the mountains. The northern and eastern windward slopes receive abundant rainfall (1,400–2,500 mm) throughout the year, with the maximum occurring in the summer and fall. On the southern and western slopes, where the annual precipitation totals about 900 mm, there is a winter dry season. Hurricanes are frequent. Puerto Rico’s short turbulent rivers are not navigable. The remnants of evergreen and mixed forests are found on the northern slopes, and the southern slopes are covered with thickets of drought-resistant shrubs. Animal life is poor in species, although bats, reptiles, and land mollusks are numerous.

Population. Puerto Ricans make up the bulk of the population, numbering an estimated 2.7 million persons in 1970. More than 20,000 Americans and other foreigners also live in the country. The official languages are Spanish, the spoken language, and English. Catholicism is the dominant religion. The Gregorian Calendar is used.

The annual population growth averaged 1.5 percent between 1963 and 1972. The gainfully employed population totaled 889,000 persons in 1974, of whom 20 percent were employed in industry, 17.2 percent in commerce, 7.3 percent in agriculture, 17 percent in construction and transportation, and 33.7 percent in services. There are a large number of craftsmen producing for the market at home. High unemployment (112,000 persons in 1973, or 12 percent of the gainfully employed population) and the low standard of living have caused Puerto Ricans to emigrate to the USA, primarily New York, at a rate of about 20,000 persons a year. The average population density was 329 persons per sq km in 1973, with the coastal regions being the most densely settled. Urban dwellers accounted for 58 percent of the population in 1972. The most important cities are San Juan (471,500 inhabitants in 1972), Bayamón, Ponce, Mayagüez, and Caguas.

Historical survey. The island of Puerto Rico, the main portion of the country’s territory, was settled by various Indian tribes in the eighth and ninth centuries. The Borinqueños, Indians of the Arawak language group who migrated to the West Indies from South America, called the island Borinquén. The Borinqueños, primitive farmers, hunters, and fishermen, knew weaving and pottery-making. Caribs settled on the island in the 14th and 15th centuries. By the early 16th century the Indians had developed a clan social system, and the island had a population of 50,000 to 100,000.

Columbus discovered Borinquén on Nov. 19, 1493, during his second expedition, and called it San Juan Bautista. The island acquired its present name (meaning “rich port” in Spanish) when it was colonized by the Spanish conquistador J. Ponce de Leon. The land and the Indians who lived on it were distributed among the Spanish, who raised cattle and introduced new crops on the conquered land. The violence and brutality of the conquistadors provoked a large Indian uprising in 1511.

In the middle of the 16th century, when the indigenous population had been almost completely exterminated, the Spanish began to import Negro slaves from Africa. English, French, and Dutch pirates frequently attempted to seize Puerto Rico. San Juan, founded in 1508, was burned in 1595, and the island was held by the British for several months in 1598. The British again tried to seize the island in 1797. By 1802, Negroes made up 52 percent of the population. The white immigrants who came to Puerto Rico in large numbers from the early 19th century raised sugarcane, and by the end of the 19th century there were 257 sugar mills on the island.

Under the influence of the War of Independence of the Spanish-American Colonies (1810–26), uprisings broke out in 1835 and 1838. In 1868 insurgents headed by R. E. Betances proclaimed a republic in the city of Lares. The uprising, which came to be called The Cry of Lares, was brutally suppressed. Slavery was abolished in 1873. Puerto Rico was given limited autonomy in 1897. Its right to self-government was expanded, and it was permitted to trade with all countries. (In 1869, the Puerto Ricans had been granted the right to send representatives to the Spanish Cortes.) The Statehood Republican Party, which united the big bourgeoisie and the local owners of latifundia, was founded in 1898.

During the Spanish-American War (1898), US troops occupied the island. Under the Treaty of Paris, concluded on Dec. 10, 1898, Spain ceded Puerto Rico and the adjacent small islands to the USA, which set up a military government to administer the country. A civilian government was formed in May 1900 to replace the military government, and an elected legislative body, the House of Representatives, was established. Nevertheless, supreme legislative power remained with the US Congress, and executive power was vested in a governor appointed by Congress. Puerto Rico was included in the customs zone of the USA, and economic ties to the new mother country were strengthened. American capital poured into Puerto Rico, and more than half of the peasant property owners (about 35,000) were expropriated between 1910 and 1913. The peasants who lost their land became agricultural and factory workers.

Puerto Ricans were drafted into the US Army during World War I. Under the Jones Act (named after the senator who proposed the bill), which the US Congress adopted in 1917, a bicameral legislature was established in Puerto Rico, but the laws it passed could be vetoed by the governor of the island or the president of the USA. Six executive departments were established. The American president, however, appointed the governor and the main officials—the attorney general, comptroller, and members of the Supreme Court. (Only under a law enacted in 1947 were Puerto Ricans permitted to elect the governor.) The Jones Act granted American citizenship to all Puerto Ricans born after 1917 and replaced Spanish currency with American.

The world economic crisis of 1929–33 and the ensuing depression severely affected the Puerto Rican economy and the living conditions of the working people. Unemployment rose sharply. A strike of electricians broke out in 1933, followed by a strike of sugar industry workers the next year. The political struggle between the advocates of independence and the supporters of US statehood intensified. The Puerto Rican Communist Party was founded in 1934 at a time of sharpening class struggle. It actively supported the demands of the workers, which included better working conditions, higher wages, and social insurance. Albizu Campos, one of the leaders of the national liberation movement, appealed to Puerto Ricans to rise in arms against the American imperialists. In October 1935 the police massacred a group of patriots in Rio Piedras. A wave of raids and arrests swept over the island. More than 200 persons were killed or wounded in March 1937 in Ponce.

The Popular Democratic Party (PDP), founded in 1938, made economic development its main objective. Relying on the support of the USA and the local bourgeoisie and having at its disposal large financial resources, the PDP won the support of part of the working class and peasantry by promising the working people a significant improvement in their living conditions. The party was victorious in the elections of 1940. A law limiting landholdings to 500 acres and requiring the sale of surplus land was passed in 1943. Over the next ten years more than 95,000 acres were bought from the latifundia owners and distributed among landless peasants, who paid for the land in installments.

The country’s strategic importance grew sharply during World War II. New American military bases were built, and older ones were strengthened on Puerto Rico and the adjoining islands of Vieques and Culebra. The defeat of fascism during World War II stimulated an upsurge in the national liberation movement in Latin America. In 1945, Puerto Rico petitioned the American Congress to allow Puerto Ricans to resolve for themselves the question of their country’s form of government. The government of the USA was obliged to make certain concessions. Spanish was recognized as an official language, along with English, and Puerto Ricans were permitted to elect the governor. The leader of the PDP, Muñoz Marin, was elected in the first gubernatorial elections in 1948; he was re-elected in 1952,1956, and 1960. More than 150,000 people participated in a large strike of plantation workers in the spring of 1950, and in the fall of that year an uprising against American rule engulfed the entire island. The clashes were especially bitter in Jayuya, where an independent republic was proclaimed. American troops ruthlessly suppressed the uprising with tanks and artillery. Thousands of Puerto Ricans were imprisoned.

Under the constitution that the USA imposed on Puerto Rico in 1952, the country was proclaimed a “free associated state.” In actuality, however, it remained politically, economically, and militarily dependent on the USA. The wage level, which was lower than that of the USA, and the exemption of newly established industrial enterprises from taxation for the first 12 years promoted a greater flow of foreign, chiefly American, capital into Puerto Rico. More than 1,000 new industrial enterprises were established in the 20-year period from 1948 to 1968. By 1969, US monopolies controlled more than three-fourths of the country’s industrial enterprises and owned 80 percent of the arable land.

Under the influence of the victory of the Cuban Revolution, a national front was organized in 1959 called the Movement for Puerto Rican Independence, the national front became an active force in the struggle for a democratic independent state and a strong opponent of the American monopolies and the militarization of the country. The growing struggle for independence impelled the US Congress to pass a law in March 1964 establishing a special commission to study Puerto Rico’s political and economic problems and to examine the possible alternatives for Puerto Rico’s future status (continuation of the existing status, statehood, or independence). A joint US-Puerto Rico commission recommended in 1966 that the country’s future political status be determined by a plebiscite. In the plebiscite, held in July 1967, 60.5 percent of the voters approved the status quo, although more than 25 percent of the electorate boycotted the proceedings. Concurrently, the ruling circles, led by the New Progressive Party (NPP), which was supported by the big and middle bourgeoisie, pressed for Puerto Rico’s annexation by the USA as its 51 st state. (The party was in power from 1968 to 1972.)

Demonstrations against US imperialist circles did not cease. The Movement for Puerto Rican Independence, which exerted a considerable influence on the patriotic strata of the population, was reorganized as the Socialist Party in November 1971. The elections of 1972 brought victory to the PDP, which supports the continuation of present relations with the USA, although it seeks to weaken the control of the USA’s legislative, executive, and judicial bodies in Puerto Rico. In August 1973 the UN’s Special Committee on the Implementation of the Declaration on Decolonization confirmed the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination and independence. The people of Puerto Rico are continuing the struggle for the country’s independence, for social progress and democracy, and for ending the USA’s military presence on Culebra and other islands.


Political parties and trade unions. The New Progressive Party (Partido Nuevo Progressista, NPP), founded in 1967, represents the interests of the big bourgeoisie and the latifundia owners linked to the monopoly circles of the USA. The Popular Democratic Party (Partido Popular Democrático, PDP), established in 1938, is supported by the big bourgeoisie closely linked to the monopoly circles of the USA and by the reactionary civil servants. Founded in 1898, the Statehood Republican Party (Partido Estadista Republicano, SRP) joined the Republican Party of the USA in 1903, becoming a regional organization. Its members include local latifundia owners, the big and middle bourgeoisie, and the upper echelons of office workers.

The Puerto Rican Independence Party (Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño, PIP), founded in 1946, reflects the interests of the progressive members of the petite bourgeoisie, the intelligentsia, office workers, and students. The Puerto Rican Socialist Party (Partido Socialista de Puerto Rico, PSP) was founded in 1959 as the Movement for Puerto Rican Independence, a national front organization. In 1971 it was reconstituted as a political party. It is struggling for the unification of all patriotic Puerto Ricans opposing colonial rule and for the creation of a democratic independent state. The Christian Action Party (Partido Action Christiana, CAP), founded in 1960, unites Catholic circles among the bourgeoisie and landlords, as well as part of the working class, peasantry, and office workers. The Puerto Rican Communist Party (Partido Comunista Puertorriqueño) was founded in 1934.

The Puerto Rico Federation of Labor, established in 1957, is a member of the Inter-American Regional Labor Organization. The Free Federation of Labor of Puerto Rico was founded in 1899.


Economy. Puerto Rico’s economy is strongly dependent on US capital. American capital owns almost all of the country’s industrial enterprises and a considerable portion of its agriculture and means of transportation and communications. It also controls a large proportion of the imports and exports. In 1971, US investments totaled $6.8 billion, or nearly one-third of all US investments in Latin America. Puerto Rico’s gross national product reached $6.4 billion in 1973, of which the manufacturing industry accounted for 24 percent, mining 0.3 percent, agriculture 4 percent, transportation and communications 10 percent, the service sector (including commerce) 30 percent, and construction 9 percent. The per capita national income was $1,836 in 1973.

The mining industry is poorly developed; only building materials and salt are extracted. The country’s electric power plants, fueled chiefly by imported oil, have a capacity of 3.6 million kW; 11.9 billion kW-hr were produced in 1973. Light industry predominates. Enterprises manufacturing garments, embroidered articles, lace, and footwear are found chiefly in San Juan, Ponce, and Bayamón. In the food industry, sugar refining and fish processing are the most important branches. Many industrial enterprises were built between 1950 and 1970, most of them by US monopolies, attracted by the tax privileges and cheap labor in Puerto Rico. These more recent industries, all oriented toward exports, include oil refining (plants at Ponce, Guayanilla, and Bayamón, with a combined capacity of 15.4 million tons of oil at the end of 1973), petrochemicals (Ponce), chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electronics, and electrical engineering.

About half of the country’s 562,000 hectares (ha) of agricultural land are cultivated, the rest being used for pastures and meadows. Roughly 7 percent of the farm land was irrigated in 1971. Some of the best land (13 percent of the country’s territory) is used by US military bases. Plantations belonging to the United Fruit Company and other American companies occupy four-fifths of the cultivated land. Most of the plantations are in the coastal lowlands. Small peasant farms with plots ranging from 0.4 to 1.7 ha are found chiefly in the interior. The number of such farms is steadily declining because the peasants are being ruined and are migrating to cities in Puerto Rico and the USA. As a consequence, agricultural output is declining.

Agriculture is oriented toward the production of export crops. Sugarcane is the main export crop; in 1972, 61,000 ha were planted to sugarcane, and 267,000 tons of raw sugar were produced. (Between 1961 and 1965, the sown area was 120,000 ha, and the average annual output was 896,000 tons.) Coffee (52,000 ha and 12,000 tons in 1972), citrus fruits (44,000 tons), bananas (6,000 ha and 114,000 tons), and tobacco (2,000 ha and 3,200 tons) are also raised. Sweet potatoes, manioc, and corn are the main food crops. Livestock raising, the main branch of agriculture, contributes about 70 percent of the value of agricultural output. In 1972 the livestock population numbered 542,000 head of cattle (including 310,000 cows), 210,000 hogs, 20,000 goats, and 4.5 million chickens. There is dairy farming around San Juan.

Puerto Rico has 7,400 km of highways. In 1973 there were 812,000 automobiles in the country. The main seaports are San Juan in the north (handling 8.6 million tons of freight in 1972), Ponce in the south, and Mayagüez in the west. The oil ports are Guayanilla (with a freight turnover of 12.6 million tons) and Jobos (2.2 million tons). The country’s international airport, Isla Verde, is in San Juan.

In 1973, Puerto Rico’s exports totaled $2.5 billion and its imports, $3.5 billion. The leading exports are products of the oil-refining, petrochemical, electronics, electrical engineering, and light industries, as well as sugar, tobacco, rum, and citrus fruits. The chief imports are industrial raw materials and semifinished goods (constituting about 50 percent of the value of imports), machinery and equipment, and consumer goods. Puerto Rico’s principal trading partner, the USA, accounted for 89 percent of its exports and 73 percent of its imports in 1973. The government seeks to attract foreign tourists, about 1.2 million of whom visit Puerto Rico annually. Revenues from tourism reached $317 million in 1973. The monetary unit is the US dollar.


Medicine and public health. According to statistics provided by the World Health Organization, the birth rate was 24.1 and the mortality rate 6.7 per thousand in 1972; infant mortality was 27.1 per thousand live births. The average life expectancy is 71 years. The leading causes of death are diseases of the cardiovascular system, malignant tumors, children’s diseases, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Infectious diseases predominate. The most common are children’s infections, infectious hepatitis, venereal diseases, and intestinal schistosomiasis.

In 1972, Puerto Rico had 133 hospitals with 12,400 beds (4.5 beds per thousand inhabitants). Of these, 85 hospitals (7,400 beds) were operated by the state, 16 were charity hospitals (2,000 beds), and 32 were privately owned (3,000 beds). About 60 percent of the population is eligible for free medical care in state medical institutions; private medical care is also widely available. In 1972 the country had 3,300 doctors (about one for every 900 inhabitants), 2,200 of whom were working for the state public health service. There were also 639 dentists, 1,100 pharmacists, and more than 7,000 intermediate medical personnel. Doctors are trained at the University of Puerto Rico’s medical school. Public health expenditures amounted to 20 percent of the state budget in 1972.


Education. Compulsory education was introduced in Puerto Rico in 1899. Although eight years of schooling is required by law, a large number of students drop out, especially in rural areas. Private schools play a significant role in education. Children enroll in kindergarten at four years of age, and at the age of five they enter a six-year primary school. Rural areas have one-room schoolhouses offering only three years of instruction in the rudiments of reading and writing. The six-year secondary school curriculum is divided into two cycles of three years each. Children enter secondary school at the age of eleven. In addition to general schools, there are secondary vocational-technical schools open to those who have completed primary school. Vocational-technical education consists of two cycles of two and four years. In the 1970–71 school year, 789,700 students were enrolled in 2,500 general schools.

Puerto Rico has three universities: the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan (founded in 1903), which has eight branches, the private Catholic University of Puerto Rico in Ponce (founded in 1948), and the private Inter-American University of Puerto Rico in San German (founded in 1912), with seven branches. There are also several private denominational colleges. Some 80,500 students attended higher educational institutions in 1973.

The largest of Puerto Rico’s 28 libraries is the library of the University of Puerto Rico, founded in 1903 and containing more than 417,200 volumes. There are nine museums. In San Juan are the House of Books, the National Guard Military Museum, the Rodante Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Religious Art, the Museum of Naval History, and the Historical Park of the Caparra Ruins. Also noteworthy are the Museum of Natural History in Puerto de Tierra and the Museum of Art in Ponce.


Press, radio, and television. About 20 newspapers and magazines were published in Puerto Rico in 1974. The largest dailies are El Mundo, published since 1919 (circulation, 144,000), El Imparcial, founded in 1933 (circulation, more than 95,000), El Nuevo Dia, issued since 1909 (circulation, 30,000), San Juan Star, published since 1959 (circulation, 56,000), and El Pueblo, the organ of the Puerto Rican Communist Party. There are more than 80 radio and 17 television stations. The radio and television broadcasting networks are privately owned.

Literature. Puerto Rican literature has developed in Spanish. The literature of the indigenous Indians, who were almost completely exterminated by the Spanish by the mid-16th century, did not survive. Until the 19th century folklore flourished among the Creoles and the Negro slaves brought into the country. Romanticism was the dominant literary trend of the 19th century. The leading romantic poets were S. Vidarte (1827–48) and A. Tapia y Rivera (1826–82). The latter is also noted for his historical plays Roberto d’Evreux (1848, published 1856) and The Heroism of Labor (1857), his novel The Quadroon (1867), directed against racial discrimination, and his symbolic epic The Sataniad (1878). The revolutionary democrat E. M. de Hostos (1839–1903) evolved from romanticism (the novel The Pilgrimage of Bayoán, 1863) to realism (his late essays).

The writers of the Creole school that arose in the mid-19th century sought to evoke the distinctive life and customs of the inhabitants of Puerto Rico. The poets M. A. Alonso (1822–89), the author of the collection El Jibaro (1849), F. Vassallo y Cabrera (1832–67), and R. Méndez Quiñones (1847–89) often turned for inspiration to the genres of Creole folk poetry. Realism gained ground in the late 19th century. Among the outstanding realist works of this period are The Sinner (1890), a novel about village life by S. Brau (1842–1912); Stories and Tales (1907) by M. Fernandez Juncos (1846–1928); the Chronicle of a Sick World (vols. 1–4, 1894–1924), a cycle of exposé novels by M. Zeno Gandia (1855–1930); and the novels of M. González García (1866–1938).

Modernist poetry emerged in the early 20th century, after the country’s occupation by American troops during the Spanish-American War (1898). In Puerto Rico modernism reflected the efforts of the country’s cultural leaders to assert Puerto Rico’s independence and distinctive culture. These aspirations infuse the poetry of L. Lloréns Torres (1878–1944). During the 1920’s modernism was replaced by “left” art. Its exponents, notably the poet E. Ribera Chevremont (born 1896), rejected national traditions. L. Pales Matos (1899–1959), at first an adherent of “left” art, later excelled in depicting the life of Negroes, making use of their folklore (Poetry 1915–1956, 1957).

The short stories of González Garcia (Affairs of Past and Present Days, 1918–22), the poems of V. Dávila (1869–1943), and the novels of M. Meléndez Muñoz (born 1884) carry on the realistic traditions developed in the late 19th century by Brau, Fernandez Juncos, and Zeno Gandia. Social problems are raised in the novels The Flame (1939), The Undertow (1949), and Fire and Its Air(1 970) by E. Laguerre (born 1906) and in the poetry of several participants in the anti-imperialist struggle— J. Enamorado Cuesta (born 1892), J. A. Corretjer (born 1908), and F. Manrique Cabrera (born 1908). J. L. Gonzalez (born 1926) depicts the life of the working people and their struggle for their rights in his anthologies Five Blood Tales (1945), On this Side (1954), and The Gallery and Other Stories (1972). The poet F. Matos Paoli (born 1915), the playwright R. Marqués (born 1919), and the novelists P. J. Soto (born 1928) and V. López Suria write about discrimination against Puerto Ricans and their struggle for independence. These themes also recur in the work of a group of poets who rallied around the journal Guajana, founded in 1962: A. Castro Rios, V. Rodríguez Nietzsche, and J. Torres Santiago, who jointly published the collection Songs of the Troubadors of Lara in 1968. Another promising new poet, E. Lopez Ferrer, also belongs to this group.


Architecture and art. In Puerto Rico the ancient Indian culture is represented by cave paintings and by stone and wood carvings (idols and ritual seats). Spanish-style houses with thick stone walls and interior courtyards (patios) were built in the cities from the 16th to the early 20th century. The churches dating from the 16th century have Gothic ribbed vaults.

Puerto Rico’s most famous artists are J. Campeche, a late 18th-century painter of religious pictures, A. Oiler, who painted scenes from the life of the common people in the second half of the 19th century, and R. Frade, an impressionist of the first half of the 20th century.

Reinforced concrete has been used in architecture since the 1940’s. City districts and settlements have acquired uniform prefabricated apartment houses, and fashionable hotels, night clubs, and motels with various sun-protective devices have been built. The leading 20th-century architects are M. Ferrer, H. Klumb, and O. L. Torro. The Center for Puerto Rican Art was founded in 1950. Its members, notably the graphic artists R. Tufiño, L. Homar, and C. R. Rivera, strive for a highly emotional and truthful portrayal of social phenomena.

Theater. The plays of A. Tapia y Rivera, L. Lloréns Torres, and R. Méndez Quiñones were staged in Puerto Rico in the 19th century. The first permanent theater, the Colisso Publico, opened in San Juan in 1832, but touring foreign companies continued to dominate theatrical life. The forcible annexation of the country by the USA retarded the development of a national theater in the first third of the 20th century. Some progress was made in 1935, when E. Belaval organized a company called Areyto, which sought to develop the Indian-Spanish tradition in the theater and treated problems of interest to Puerto Ricans.

Areyto’s work has been continued by the University Theater. Plays by F. Arrivi, E. Laguerre, F. Sierra Berdecía, M. M. Ballester, and R. Marques are being staged. Theatrical festivals have been held since 1958. San Juan’s most important theaters are the Tapia, La Perla, Ateneo, Alta Escena, and University theaters and a group affiliated with the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. Among well-known directors and performers are A. Rodriguez, J. Marrero, P. Cabrera, P. Nazario, E. de la Lastra, and P. Arenas.


Zubok, L. I. Imperialisticheskaia politika SShA v stranakh Karaibskogo basseina, 1900–1939. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.
Narody Ameriki, vol. 2. Moscow, 1959.
Thomas, A. B. Istoriia Latinskoi Ameriki. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from English.)
Bulavin, V. I. Puerto-Riko. Moscow, 1962.
Moskalenko, A. P. Puerto-Riko i SShA. Moscow, 1974.
Mixer, K. Porto Rico: History and Conditions Social, Economic and Political. New York, 1926.
Vivas, J. L. Hisloria de Puerto Rico. New York, 1960.
Pagan, B. Hisloria de los partidos politicos puertorriqueños, vols. 1–2. San Juan, 1959.
Khudozhestvennaia literatura Latinskoi Ameriki v russkoi pechati: Bibliografiia, 1765–1959. Compiled by L. A. Shur. Moscow, 1960.
Shur, L. A. Khudozhestvennaia literatura Latinskoi Ameriki v russkoi pechati, 1960–1964. Moscow, 1966.
Mamontov, S. P. lspanoiazychnaia literatura stran Latinskoi Ameriki v XX v. Moscow, 1972.
Cabrera, F. M. Historia de la literatura puertorrique ñ a. New York [1956].
Babí n, M. T. Panorama de la cultura puertorrique ñ a. New York [1956].
Rivera de Alvarez, J. Diccionario de la literatura puertorrique ñ a, vol. 1. San Juan, 1970.
Ward, J. H. “A Tentative Inventory of Young Puerto Rican Writers.” Hispania, 1971, vol. 54, no. 4.
Grafika Puerto-Riko: Katalog. Moscow, 1960.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico became a territory of the U.S. in 1917, and, on July 25, 1952, a commonwealth with autonomous local governmental units; inhabitants have been U.S. citizens since 1917.


Capital: San Juan Nickname: Island of Enchantment Motto: Joannes est nomen ejus (Spanish “Juan [John] Is His

Name”) Animal: El coquí or tree frog (Francolinus coqui) Bird: Reinita Flower: Maga or Puerto Rico hibiscus (Thespesia grandiflora) Languages: English; Spanish

Song: “La Borinqueña”
Sport: Beisbol or baseball
Tree: Ceiba or silk-cotton or kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra)

More about the symbols at:

www.gobierno.pr/GPRPortal/Inicio/PuertoRico/Simbolos (Spanish only) www.elboricua.com/FactSheet.html


Government web site: www.gobierno.pr (Spanish only)

Office of the Governor La Fortaleza PO Box 9020082 San Juan, 00902-0082 787-721-7000 www.fortaleza.gobierno.pr (Spanish only)

State Department Apartado 9023271 San Juan, Puerto Rico 00902-3271 787-722-2121 www.estado.gobierno.pr (Spanish only)

University of Puerto Rico Library System Rio Piedras Campus PO Box 23302 San Juan, 00931-3302 787-764-0000 fax: 787-772-1479

Legal Holidays:

Christmas EveDec 24
Constitution DayJul 25
Discovery DayNov 19
Emancipation DayMar 22
Eugenio Maria de Hostos DayJan 10, 2011; Jan 9, 2012; Jan 14, 2013; Jan 13, 2014; Jan 12, 2015; Jan 11, 2016; Jan 9, 2017; Jan 8, 2018; Jan 14, 2019; Jan 13, 2020; Jan 11, 2021; Jan 10, 2022; Jan 9, 2023
General Election DayNov 1, 2011; Nov 6, 2012; Nov 5, 2013; Nov 4, 2014; Nov 3, 2015; Nov 1, 2016; Nov 7, 2017; Nov 6, 2018; Nov 5, 2019; Nov 3, 2020; Nov 2, 2021; Nov 1, 2022; Nov 7, 2023
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Jose Celso Barbosa's BirthdayJul 27
Jose de Diego DayApr 18, 2011; Apr 16, 2012; Apr 15, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 20, 2015; Apr 18, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 16, 2018; Apr 15, 2019; Apr 20, 2020; Apr 19, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 17, 2023
Luis Muñoz Rivera DayJul 17
Three Kings' DayJan 6
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

Puerto Rico

an autonomous commonwealth (in association with the US) occupying the smallest and easternmost of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean: one of the most densely populated areas in the world; ceded by Spain to the US in 1899. Currency: US dollar. Capital: San Juan. Pop.: 3 897 000 (2004 est.). Area: 9104 sq. km (3515 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Rather than Taino being merely absorbed within other groups, he believes, "All of those people who came to Boriken after Columbus ...
"And if upon arrival, Boriken is the same/ that forced you into exile, sacrifice her," Ramos Otero writes at the end of "Kavafis" (1985, 60).
The intervention group was recruited at the Boriken Neighborhood Health Center.
Due to space limitations, and plans for future publications, my discussion here will not include: 1) "Newark, 1974," which depicts the 1974 Puerto Rican riots in New Jersey in protest of police and government treatment of the community; 2) "Santaclos in Boriken," which portrays Santa Claus' first stopover on the island and contrasts it with the more traditional visit of the Three Kings on Epiphany; nor 3) "Undecided, from Cayey," which presents the precarious situation lived by a woman who writes to a radio station seeking advice on whether to leave her abusive husband.
The Myth of Indigenous Caribbean Extinction: Community and Reclamation in Boriken (Puerto Rico).
As I note, addressing past and present issues related to Western imperialism in Boriken are vital to the book.
there could have been well over two hundred thousand Indian inhabitants present in Boriken in the late eighteenth century" (p.
(3) Boricua is another way of referring to Puerto Ricans, and this denomination derives from the Arawak name of the island, Boriken, so the links between national identity and indigeneity are still present in this common way of addressing Puerto Ricanness.
Que la isla vuelva a llamarse Boriken. Asi, en taino.
El titulo de la camiseta es "Vieques, isla del valiente pescador" (transformacion tainista de "Boriken, tierra del valiente senor") y esta adornado con dos anzuelos de pescar en posiciones opuestas.
Indeed, even the name Taller Boricua makes reference to the indigenous culture, since Boriken was the name Tainos had given to Puerto Rico before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.
The discourse was to continue, however, through a visual celebration of Boriken's indigenous heritage as a statement against the atrocities and the colonization that followed after Columbus' voyages.