Puerto Rico Facts

Puerto Rico Facts and History

North America

The Free State of Puerto Rico is the largest and most populous outlying area in the United States. It also includes the Spanish Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico, literally “rich port”, consists of the main island of the same name (the easternmost of the Greater Antilles) and over 20 other small to tiny islands.

After the discovery by Columbus, numerous ships came there, which were supposed to bring the Inca valuable gold treasures to Spain. Of course there were also many pirates in the region and there are still hundreds of wrecks from that time in the sea.

In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, the United States then occupied the islands, which are now a “Free State associated with the United States”.

Weapons tests have been carried out on Vieques by the US Navy since the Second World War, which only ended in 2003 after years of popular protests.

In addition, the Bacardi company relocated its production facility for the world-famous rum brand to Puerto Rico. The tourists from the USA are the most important economic factors of the country.

Around September 20, 2017 the island was devastated by the hurricane “Maria”.

Name of the country Free State of Puerto Rico/Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto RicoCommonwealth of Puerto Rico
Form of government Free state under US protectorate
Geographical location Greater and Lesser Antilles (Caribbean)
National anthem “La Borinqueña”
Head of state President of the USA
Population approx. 3.2 million (Credit: Countryaah: Puerto Rico Population)
Ethnicities predominantly mixed ethnicities from blacks and Europeans
Religions Roman Catholic: 89%, Protestant Church: 3%.Natural religions are also widespread among the Indians.
Languages Spanish, English
Capital San Juan
Surface 8,959 km²
Highest mountain Cerro La Punta with a height of 1,338 m
Longest river Rio de la Plata with a length of 97 km
International license plate PRI
National currency U.S. dollar
Time difference to CET – 5 h
International phone code +1787, +1939
Mains voltage, frequency 120 volts, 60 Hertz (North American plug)
Internet TLD (Top Level Domain) .pr

Puerto Rico Historical summary

Until the 15th century

Probably the earliest residents of the Antilles were the Ciboney Indians, who originally came from the American mainland. They lived as Stone Age fishermen, hunters and gatherers and were already building canoes and rafts out of balsa wood.

According to Abbreviationfinder website, between 600 and 900 BC Taíno Indians from the Arawak tribe from areas of today’s Venezuela and Guyana sailed north with dugout canoes and settled the entire Antilles, including Puerto Rico. They led a peaceful life and ate agriculture and fishing.


From the 15th to the 18th century

In the 15th century the Tainó were besieged by the less peaceful Caribs, who drove them from most of the Lesser Antilles Islands. On his second trip to the “New World”, Christopher Columbus () discovered Puerto Rico in 1493, which from then on was part of Spanish rule. Fifteen years later, under Juan Ponce de Léon, the island began to be colonized, with the native Indians being enslaved and treated as a kind of “subhuman”. The people who are very close to their home, family and tribe often did not survive the horrific treatment, and many of them also committed suicide. Others fell victim to the diseases brought in, against which they had hardly any defenses. So the native Indians died out, of which an ethnic influence only remained through the mixed marriages. Instead, slaves were introduced from sub-Saharan Africa, whose descendants still live in Puerto Rico today.

In the course of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, several attempts were made by European powers to conquer the strategically located island.

Above the western city wall, on the Plazuella de la Rogativa, the memorial commemorates the bishop and the women who in 1797 caused the English besiegers of the city to withdraw with a loud nocturnal procession.

In the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries

On September 23, 1868 there was an uprising of the impoverished population against Spanish rule, but it was quickly put down. The official abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico followed in 1873. In 1897 the island received internal autonomy from Spain. However, a year later it was annexed by the United States of America in the Spanish-American War. The passage of the Jones-Shafroth Act in 1917 confirmed internal self-government in Puerto Rico. At the same time, its residents received US citizenship, which also made them conscript. That is why 20,000 soldiers joined the US Army during the First World War. The country’s economy boomed in the 1920s, not least because of the rise in sugar prices. However, the island was hit hard by the global economic crisis that followed.

After the Second World War, a wave of emigration to the USA that lasted two decades began. In 1949, Puerto Ricans were allowed to choose their own governor for the first time. Economic reform followed to replace sugar production. On July 25, 1952, the island received the status of a free state. Legally, it remained a US territory under the supervision of Congress. In the referendums of 1967 and 1993, the residents decided to keep the island with the United States. However, conversion to a regular state was refused and Puerto Rico retained the status of association with the USA, which had been in effect since 1952.

Around September 20, 2017, the island was badly devastated by Hurricane “Maria”.

Puerto Rico Facts