Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean Sea located 1,050 miles south east of Miami, Florida. West of the American Virgin Islands is the smallest of the Greater Antilles. Puerto Rico is much closer the mainland 48 states of the union than Hawaii. The location of Puerto Rico has been an important determinant of its economic, political, and military participation in the world. The Spaniards used it as a military storage and as part of their transportation system to South America. The U. S. A. has used it as a military bastion due to its vicinity to the rest of the Americas and its strategic location in the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea.
Similar in size to Connecticut, Puerto Rico's population is 3.8 million. It has six urban centers, which include San Juan, the capital, with a population of almost 500,000. The strong Spanish and Caribbean culture make this island a magical and exciting place to grow up and to visit. Its constant colonization has made its people cherish its beauty and it has promoted a rich cultural tradition and the arts.
Christopher Columbus and his European crew were the first Spanish sponsored expedition to Puerto Rico. They arrived to the island, called Boriken by its indigenous people, in Nov. 19, 1493. They found an island populated by the Tainos, peace loving and brave people, who are said to be indigenous of the North America. As opposed to the previous inhabitants the Arawaks who came from South America. The Spanish called the island San Juan Bautista and the capital Puerto Rico. Later, the names were switched and to this day the island remains Puerto Rico; rich port.
In 1509 Puerto Rico was appointed its first Spanish head of government, Don Juan Ponce de Leon. Concerned about threats from European enemies, forts were build since 1521 to protect the island from invasion and the gold stored from being stolen. Brutally used for mining the Tainos started to flee, disappear, or simply die. Although the accounts of the Taino civilization were not documented by the "conquistadores" in depth, enough archeological evidence and writings from the church revealed a thriving community that was in existence prior to the arrival of the Europeans.
In 1809 Puerto Rico was recognized as an overseas province and in 1898 had been granted autonomy. In July of 1898 the United States invaded Puerto Rico. The Spaniards had granted ownership of the island as part of the Spanish American war. Although the "criollos" knew about the Paris Treaty, they refuse surrendering and fought to prevent invasion to no avail.
In 1917 the U. S. Congress granted Puerto Ricans citizenship and two decades later a bill was passed to allow Puerto Rico to establish its own government. In addition, businesses were granted tax exemption if they establish in Puerto Rico, which promoted the industrialization of the island. The 1970 census showed that Puerto Rico was mostly urban.
During the last quarter of the 20th Century Puerto Rico's economy has diversified into commerce and services yet the island status continues to dominate its politics. Three major views are represented in the electoral parties: pro-commonwealth, statehood, and independence. Both, the pro-commonwealth and the statehood are at rough parity. The independence movement, holding a 5% share of the electoral support, remains a visible force in the island.