Puerto Rico Magazine

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island and an unincorporated territory of the United States, officially known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. It’s about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) southeast of Miami, Florida, in the northeast Caribbean Sea.

The Commonwealth is a Greater Antilles archipelago located between the Dominican Republic and the United States Virgin Islands, consisting of the main island and many smaller islands such as Mona, Culebra, and Vieques. San Juan is the country’s capital and most populous city.

Puerto Rico has a population of 3.2 million people, outnumbering nearly 20 states in the United States. The executive arm of government uses both Spanish and English as official languages, with Spanish dominating.

Following the advent of Christopher Columbus in 1493, Spain annexed Puerto Rico, which was formerly inhabited by the indigenous Tano people. Other European nations contested it, but it remained a Spanish territory for the next four centuries. Spanish control resulted in the displacement and assimilation of indigenous peoples, the forced migration of African slaves, and principally Canary Island and Andalusia colonization.

In comparison to wealthy colonies like Peru and New Spain, Puerto Rico played a minor yet vital position within the Spanish Empire. By the late 1800s, a distinctly Puerto Rican identity had emerged, based on a combination of indigenous, African, and European influences. Following the Spanish–American War, the United States took possession of Puerto Rico in 1898. 

Since 1917, Puerto Ricans have been citizens of the United States and can freely travel between the island and the mainland. As residents of an unincorporated territory, however, American citizens of Puerto Rico are disenfranchised at the national level, do not vote for president or vice president, and do not pay federal income tax in general. They do, however, participate in presidential primaries, in addition to the other four territories that send non-voting representatives to Congress.

Puerto Rico does not have a vote in the United States Congress, which controls it under the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950, because it is not a state. Puerto Rico is only represented in Congress by a single non-voting member of the House of Representatives known as a “Resident Commissioner.” In 1952, Congress adopted a local constitution that gave U.S. people living on the island the right to elect a governor. The future political status of Puerto Rico has long been a source of heated discussion.

Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, the United States government, in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company, began a series of economic projects aimed at transforming Puerto Rico into an industrialized, high-income economy. It is classed as a developed jurisdiction with a high-income economy by the International Monetary Fund, and it ranks 40th on the Human Development Index. Manufacturing (mainly pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, and electronics) and the service industry are the main economic drivers in Puerto Rico (namely tourism and hospitality).

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