The Caribbean Island Of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico officially the Commonwealth of Puerto
Rico (Spanish: "Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico") literally Associated Free State of
Puerto Rico, is a self-governing unincorporated territory of the United States located in the
northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of the Virgin Islands. Puerto
Rico is composed of an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number
of smaller islands and keys, the largest of which are Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. The main
island of Puerto Rico is the smallest by land area and second smallest by population among the
four Greater Antilles, which also include Cuba, Hispaniola, and Jamaica.
Puerto Ricans often call the island Borinquen, from Borikén, its indigenous Taíno name. The
terms boricua and borincano derive from Borikén and Borinquen respectively, and are commonly used
to identify someone of Puerto Rican heritage. The island is also popularly known as "La Isla del
Encanto", which translated means "The Island of Enchantment."
The history of the archipelago of Puerto Rico before the arrival of Christopher Columbus is not
well known. What is known today comes from archaeological findings and early Spanish accounts. The
first comprehensive book on the history of Puerto Rico was written by Fray Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra
in 1786, 293 years after the first Spaniards arrived on the island.
The first settlers were the Ortoiroid people, an Archaic Period culture of Amerindian hunters
and fishermen. An archaeological dig in the island of Vieques in 1990 found the remains of what is
believed to be an Arcaico (Archaic) man (named Puerto Ferro man) dated to around 2000 BC. Between
AD 120 and 400 arrived the Igneri, a tribe from the South American Orinoco region. Between the 4th
and 10th centuries, the Arcaicos and Igneri co-existed (and perhaps clashed) on the island. Between
the 7th and 11th centuries the Taíno culture developed on the island, and by approximately 1000 AD
had become dominant. This lasted until Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492.
When Christopher Columbus arrived in Puerto Rico during his second voyage on November 19, 1493, the
island was inhabited by a group of Arawak Indians known as Taínos. They called the island "Borikén"
or, in Spanish, "Borinquen". Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John
the Baptist. Later the island took the name of Puerto Rico (Spanish for "Rich Port") while the
capital was named San Juan. In 1508, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León became the island's
first governor to take office.
The Spanish soon colonized the island. Taínos were forced into slavery and were decimated by the
harsh conditions of work and by diseases brought by the Spaniards. In 1511, the Taínos revolted
against the Spanish; cacique Urayoán, as planned by Agüeybaná II, ordered his warriors to drown the
Spanish soldier Diego Salcedo to determine whether the Spaniards were immortal. After drowning
Salcedo, they kept watch over his body for three days to confirm his death. The revolt was easily
crushed by Ponce de León and within a few decades much of the native population had been decimated
by disease, violence, and a high occurrence of suicide. By 1520, when Charles V issued a royal
decree that collectively emancipated the remaining Taíno population, the Taíno presence had almost
vanished. African slaves were introduced to replace the Taíno. Puerto Rico soon became an important
stronghold and port for the Spanish Empire. Various forts and walls, such as La Fortaleza, El
Castillo San Felipe del Morro and El Castillo de San Cristóbal, were built to protect the port of
San Juan from European enemies. France, The Netherlands and England made several attempts to
capture Puerto Rico but failed to wrest long-term occupancy. During the late 17th and early 18th
centuries colonial emphasis was on the more prosperous mainland territories, leaving the island
impoverished of settlers.
Puerto Rico consists of the main island of Puerto Rico
and various smaller islands, including Vieques, Culebra, Mona, Desecheo, and Caja de Muertos.
Of these last five, only Culebra and Vieques are inhabited year-round. Mona is uninhabited
most of the year except for employees of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources.
There are also many other even smaller islands including Monito and "La Isleta de San Juan"
which includes Old San Juan and Puerta de Tierra.
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has an area of 5,325 square miles (13,790 km2), of which 3,425
square miles (8,870 km2) is land and 1,900 square miles (4,900 km2) is water. The maximum length of
the main island from east to west is 110 miles (180 km), and the maximum width from north to south
is 40 miles (64 km). Comparing land areas, Puerto Rico is 8/10 the size of Jamaica and 8/100 the
size of Cuba, the next smallest and the largest countries in the Greater Antilles, respectively.
Compared to U.S. states, it is larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, but slightly smaller
than Connecticut. The main island is mostly mountainous with large coastal areas in the north and
south. The main mountain range is called "La Cordillera Central" (The Central Range). The highest
elevation in Puerto Rico, Cerro de Punta (4,390 feet; 1,338 m), is located in this range. Another
important peak is El Yunque, one of the highest in the Sierra de Luquillo at the El Yunque National
Forest, with an elevation of 3,494 feet (1,065 m).
Puerto Rico has 17 lakes, all man-made, and more than 50 rivers, most originating in the
Cordillera Central. Rivers in the northern region of the island are typically longer and of higher
water flow rates than those of the south, since the south receives less rain than the central and
Puerto Rico is composed of Cretaceous to Eocene volcanic and plutonic rocks, overlain by younger
Oligocene and more recent carbonates and other sedimentary rocks. Most of the caverns and karst
topography on the island occurs in the northern region in the carbonates. The oldest rocks are
approximately 190 million years old (Jurassic) and are located at Sierra Bermeja in the southwest
part of the island. They may represent part of the oceanic crust and are believed to come from the
Pacific Ocean realm.
Puerto Rico lies at the boundary between the Caribbean and North American plates and is being
deformed by the tectonic stresses caused by their interaction. These stresses may cause earthquakes
and tsunamis. These seismic events, along with landslides, represent some of the most dangerous
geologic hazards in the island and in the northeastern Caribbean. The most recent major earthquake
occurred on October 11, 1918 and had an estimated magnitude of 7.5 on the Richter scale. It
originated off the coast of Aguadilla and was accompanied by a tsunami.
In the early 1900s the greatest contributor to Puerto Rico's economy was agriculture and its main
crop was sugar. In the late 1940s a series of projects codenamed Operation Bootstrap encouraged a
significant shift to manufacture via tax exemptions. Manufacturing quickly replaced agriculture as
the main industry of the island. Puerto Rico is classified as a high income country by the World
Economic conditions have improved dramatically
since the Great Depression due to external investment in capital-intensive industries such as
petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and technology. Once the beneficiary of special tax treatment from
the U.S. government, today local industries must compete with those in more economically depressed
parts of the world where wages are not subject to U.S. minimum wage legislation. In recent years,
some U.S. and foreign owned factories have moved to lower wage countries in Latin America and Asia.
Puerto Rico is subject to U.S. trade laws and restrictions.
Also, starting around 1950, there was heavy migration from Puerto Rico to the Continental United
States, particularly New York City, in search of better economic conditions. Puerto Rican migration
to New York displayed an average yearly migration of 1,800 for the years 1930-1940, 31,000 for
1946-1950, 45,000 for 1951-1960, and a peak of 75,000 in 1953. As of 2003, the U.S. Census Bureau
estimates that more people of Puerto Rican birth or ancestry live in the U.S. than in Puerto
On May 1, 2006, the Puerto Rican government faced significant shortages in cash flows, which
forced the closure of the local Department of Education and 42 other government agencies. All 1,536
public schools closed, and 95,762 people were furloughed in the first-ever partial shutdown of the
government in the island's history. On May 10, 2006, the budget crisis was resolved with a new tax
reform agreement so that all government employees could return to work. On November 15, 2006 a 5.5%
sales tax was implemented. Municipalities are required by law to apply a municipal sales tax of
1.5% bringing the total sales tax to 7%.
Tourism is an important component of Puerto Rican economy supplying an approximate $1.8 billion.
In 1999, an estimated 5 million tourists visited the island, most from the U.S. Nearly a third of
these are cruise ship passengers. A steady increase in hotel registrations since 1998 and the
construction of new hotels and new tourism projects, such as the Puerto Rico Convention Center,
indicate the current strength of the tourism industry.
Puerto Ricans had median household income of $17,741 for 2007, which makes Puerto Rico's economy
comparable to the independent nations of Latvia or Poland. By comparison, the poorest state of
the Union, Mississippi, had median household income of $36,338 in 2007. Puerto Rico’s public debt
has grown at a faster pace than the growth of its economy, reaching $46.7 billion in 2008. In
January 2009, Governor Luis Fortuño enacted several measures aimed at eliminating the government's
$3.3 billion deficit. The island unemployment rate is 12% as January 2009.
The official languages are Spanish and English with Spanish being the primary language. English is
taught as a second language in public and private schools from elementary levels to high school and
in universities.Particularly, the Spanish of Puerto Rico, has evolved into having many
idiosyncrasies that differentiate it from the language as spoken in other Spanish-speaking
countries. This is mainly due to the influences from ancestral languages, such as those from the
Taínos and Africans, and more recently from the English language influence resulting from its
relationship with the United States.
Puerto Rican culture is a mix of four cultures, African (from the slaves), Taíno (Amerindians),
Spanish, and more recently, North American. From Africans, the Puerto Ricans have obtained the
"bomba and plena", a type of music and dance including percussions and maracas. From the
Amerindians (Taínos), they kept many names for their municipalities, foods, musical instruments
like the güiro and maracas. Many words and other objects have originated from their localized
language. From the Spanish they received the Spanish language, the Catholic religion and the vast
majority of their cultural and moral values and traditions. From the United States they received
the English language, the university system and a variety of hybrid cultural forms that developed
between the U.S. mainland and the island of Puerto Rico. The University of Puerto Rico was founded
in 1903, five years after the island became part of the U.S.
Much of the Puerto Rican culture centers on the influence of music. Like the country as a whole,
Puerto Rican music has been developed by mixing other cultures with its own unique flavor. Early in
the history of Puerto Rican music, the influences of African and Spanish traditions were most
noticeable. However, the cultural movements across the Caribbean and North America have played a
vital role in the more recent musical influences that have reached Puerto Rico.
The official symbols of Puerto Rico are the Reinita mora or Puerto Rican Spindalis (a type of
bird), the Flor de Maga (a type of flower), and the Ceiba or Kapok (a type of tree). The unofficial
animal and a symbol of Puerto Rican pride is the Coquí (a type of frog). Other popular symbols of
Puerto Rico are the "jíbaro", the "countryman", and the carite
Flag of Puerto Rico
The origins of the current Flag of Puerto Rico can be
traced to 1868, when the first Puerto Rican flag was conceived by Dr. Ramon Emeterio Betances
and embroidered by Mariana "Brazos de Oro" Bracetti. On the September 23, 1868, the flag,
which later became known as "The Revolutionary Flag of Lares" and is now the official flag of
the Municipality of Lares, Puerto Rico, was proclaimed the national flag of the "Republic of
Puerto Rico" by Francisco Ramírez Medina, who was sworn in as Puerto Rico's first president,
during the short lived Puerto Rican revolt against Spanish rule in the island which is known
as "El Grito de Lares". The flag, which was modeled after the Flag of the Dominican Republic,
was divided in the middle by a white Latin cross, the two lower corners were red and the two
upper corners were blue with a yellow star in the upper left blue corner.
Juan de Mata Terreforte, a revolutionist who fought alongside Manuel Rojas in "El Grito de
Lares", was exiled to New York City. There he became the Vice-President of Puerto Rican
Revolutionary Committee, a Chapter of the Cuban Revolutionary Party.Terreforte and the members of
the Revolutionary committee adopted the Flag of Lares as the flag of Puerto Rico.It became their
standard until 1892, when the current design, modeled after the Cuban flag, was unveiled and
adopted by the committee. The new flag consisted of five equal horizontal bands of red (top and
bottom) alternating with white; a blue isosceles triangle based on the hoist side bears a large,
white, five-pointed star in the center.
The use and display of the Puerto Rican flag was outlawed and the only flags permitted to be
flown in Puerto Rico were the Spanish flag (1492 to 1898) and the flag of the United States (1898
to 1952). In 1952, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico adopted the same flag design, which was unveiled
in 1892 by the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee, as its official standard without specifying
the tones of colors to be used. The color of the triangle that was used by the administration of
Luis Muñoz Marín was the dark blue that is used in the flag of the United States, instead of the
original light blue.
In 1995, the government of Puerto Rico issued a regulation in regard to the use of the Puerto
Rican flag titled: "Reglamento sobre el Uso en Puerto Rico de la Bandera del Estado Libre Asociado
de Puerto Rico" in which the government specifies the colors to be used but, does not specify any
official color tones or shades. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see the Flag of Puerto Rico with
different shades of blue displayed in the island. On March 15, 2009, the Puerto Rican flag was
taken aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery during its flight into Outer Space. That flag will be
given to the government of Puerto Rico during astronaut Joseph Acaba's visit June 1-6.
Other flags used and flown in Puerto Rico are the flags of each of the 78 municipalities of
Puerto Rico which represents the region and its people. Most of the political parties in Puerto
Rico also have their own flags, which are usually displayed in public during rallies, meetings, or
parades in show of political strength and unity.
Getting Married in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Marriage Requirements
The information below outlines the marriage requirements for getting married in Puerto Rico
Marriage license papers must be requested in writing via the registry address below. Both the bride
and groom must appear in person at the time of applying for the papers.
The amount of time needed to complete the license requirements is around 2 months, so prepare in
* If either party is a citizen or resident of a country other than the U.S, a declaration
certifying that he or she is not married must be sworn before a Notary Public or other person
authorized to administer paths in that country. This declaration must accompany the
* Original passports
* If previously married, you need a certified copy of divorce or death decree with a raised seal
prior to a marriage license being granted
* Blood tests are required, although a test conducted on the U.S. mainland within 10 days of the
ceremony will suffice. A doctor in Puerto Rico must sign the license after conducting an
examination of the bride and groom
* Written consent of parents is required where individuals are under 21, but over 16
There are no fees for the license and private ceremony or hotel fees average around U.S. $150 -
All documents must be authenticated at
the Marriage License Bureau.
Officiants: Marriages may be performed by a judge in his chambers (at a fee, although the
legality of what seems to be a prevailing custom has recently been questioned) or in open court at
no fee. They may also be performed by any clergyman authorized to perform marriage ceremonies.
Valid: License is good indefinitely.
The license can only be used within the U.S. or Puerto Rico.
Copy of Certificate of Marriage can be obtained from the Demographic Registry (address
Central office has had records since July 22, 1931. Copies of earlier records may be obtained by
writing to Local Registrar (Registrador Demografico) in municipality where event occurred or by
writing to central office for information.
Money order should be made payable to Secretary of the Treasury. Personal checks are not
accepted. To verify current fees, the telephone number is 787.728.7980.
The registrar's office should be contacted for specific rules regarding planning your
destination or beach wedding in Puerto Rico. They will also provide information regarding marriage
licenses and marriage certificates.
P.O. Box 11854
Fernandez Juncos Station
San Juan, PR 00910
Tel: 787 728 7980
Things to Do In Puerto Rico
Due to its relative large size, there are more Puerto Rico tourist attractions than nearly any
other Caribbean island. From windsurfing lessons to Pina Coladas on the beach to the non-stop
nightclubs and casinos to the colonial architecture preserved in Old San Juan, you'll never hurt
for things to do in Puerto Rico.
Old San Juan
Probably the highlight of
Puerto Rico tourism, over 400 buildings form the Old Town, carefully restored and brought to life
under the hot Caribbean sun. Head down Paseo de la Princesa to get a warm introduction into the
area, and then veer off as you see fit.
This is probably the most popular of Puerto Rico tourist attractions in Old San Juan. The remains
of a 16th century Spanish fortress, what once repelled raiders from the sea now acts as a step back
into Puerto Rican history, complete with museum inside.
Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel, Spa and
One of the most popular things to do in Puerto Rico is to try your
luck at one of the beachfront casinos in San Juan. Blackjack, Caribbean Stud, Pai-Gow, and all the
slot machines and roulette wheels are just ready and waiting for you at this posh gambling
Surfing on Crashboat Beach
world famous as a surfer's paradise, and the priceless waves at Crashboat Beach make it one of the
top Puerto Rico attractions. The choppy waters make it a bit tough for beginners, but the sense of
accomplishment derived from standing on these waves, if only for a second, will be more than enough
to keep you coming back early every morning.
A sleepy spot on Vieques Island, a visit here is one of the best things to do in Puerto Rico. For
here you'll find the famed bioluminescent bay, where the waters erupt in light every evening,
thanks to the miniscule plankton that act like fireflies of the sea.
Hang out with the turtles on Culebra Island
If you want to really get up close to the island's aquatic creatures, the wildlife reserve on
Culebra Island will be one of your favorite Puerto Rico attractions. Especially popular during
nesting season, watch the leatherback turtles skitter into the ocean for the first time, full of
life and possibility.
Dive off Mona Island
The coral reefs
here are unmatched, and alive with thousands of colorful fish and other slick sea creatures. If you
are a certified diver, you'll find no better Puerto Rico tourist attractions than Mona Island.
Discover the Rio Camuy Caves
Towering caverns mark this wonderful natural attraction, and exploring the mammoth caves in this
sinkhole-filled forest is one of the best things to do in Puerto Rico.
Tour the El Yunque Rainforest
Puerto Rico's greatest naturally occurring attraction, the soundtrack to your expedition is ably
commanded by the parrots and frogs of the forest, and the hundreds of varieties of tropical
vegetation will amaze and delight as you step lightly across trails damp with
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