Welcome to Puerto Rico, The Enchanted Island
Puerto Rico, officially known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico), is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico is only 100 miles long by 35 miles wide, making it the smallest island of the Greater Antilles. Puerto Rico (Spanish for “rich port”) consists of an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and several islands: Vieques, Culebra, Mona and numerous islets. Puerto Rico offers countless cultural experiences and many historical locations. Whether you enjoy nature or history, nightlife or adventure, culture or sports, pack your bags and discover this unique island full of interesting contrasts and surprises!
Originally populated for centuries by aboriginal people known as Taíno, the island was claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain during his second voyage to the Americas on November 19, 1493. Like Cuba, Puerto Rico remained a Spanish colony until 1898. Despite the Laws of Burgos of 1512 and other decrees for the protection of Indians, some Taíno people were forced into slavery in the early years of colonization. The population suffered extremely high fatalities from epidemics of European infectious diseases.
During the four centuries of Spanish rule, the island’s culture and physical landscape were transformed. European knowledge, customs and traditions were introduced, namely Roman Catholicism, the Spanish language, and advances such as agriculture, construction
Regular convoys of the West Indies Fleet linked the island to Spain, sailing from Cádiz to the Spanish West Indies every year. From the start of Puerto Rico’s colonization by Spain in 1508, its inhabitants were Spanish citizens, and it remained Spanish territory despite invasion attempts by the French, Dutch, and the British. On November 25, 1897, Spain granted limited self-government to the island by royal decree in the Autonomic Charter, including a bicameral legislature. But in 1898, Spain ceded its control of the island to United States following the Spanish–American War, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.
Today, people born in Puerto Rico are natural-born U.S. citizens. The territory operates under a local constitution, and Puerto Ricans elect their own governor. However, Puerto Rico lacks voting members in Congress and is subject to the plenary jurisdiction of the United States under the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950. As of 2015, Puerto Rico remains a U.S. territory, although a 2012 referendum showed a majority (54% of the electorate) in favor of a change in status, with full statehood the preferred option.