The history of Puerto Rico began with the settlement of the archipelago of Puerto Rico by the Ortoiroid people
between 3000 and 2000 BC. Other tribes, such as the Saladoid and Arawak Indians, populated the island
between 430 BC and 1000 AD. At the time of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492, the
dominant indigenous culture was that of the Taínos. The Taíno culture died out during the latter half of the 16th
century because of exploitation by Spanish settlers, the war they waged on the Taíno, and diseases introduced by
Located in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, Puerto Rico formed a key part of the Spanish Empire from the early
years of the exploration, conquest and colonization of the New World. The island was a major military post during
many wars between Spain and other European powers for control of the region in the 16th, 17th and 18th
centuries. The smallest of the Greater Antilles, Puerto Rico was a stepping-stone in the passage from Europe to
Cuba, Mexico, Central America, and the northern territories of South America. Throughout most of the 19th century
until the conclusion of the Spanish–American War, Puerto Rico and Cuba were the last two Spanish colonies in
the New World; they served as Spain's final outposts in a strategy to regain control of the American continents.
In 1898, during the Spanish–American war, Puerto Rico was invaded and subsequently became a possession of
the United States. The first half of the 20th century was marked by the struggle to obtain greater democratic rights
from the United States. The Foraker Act of 1900, which established a civil government, and the Jones Act of 1917,
which granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship, paved the way for the drafting of Puerto Rico's Constitution and the
establishment of democratic elections in 1952. However, the political status of Puerto Rico, a Commonwealth
controlled by the United States, remains an anomaly more than 500 years after the first Europeans settled the
|Taíno village at Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center in Ponce, Puerto Rico
Pre-colonial Puerto Rico
Further information: Taíno
The settlement of Puerto Rico began with the
establishment of the Ortoiroid culture from the Orinoco
region in South America. Some scholars suggest that
their settlement dates back 4000 years. An
archeological dig at the island of Vieques in 1990 found
the remains of what is believed to be an Ortoiroid man
(named Puerto Ferro man) which was dated to around
2000 BC. The Ortoiroid were displaced by the
Saladoid, a culture from the same region that arrived on
the island between 430 and 250 BC.
Between the seventh and eleventh centuries Arawaks
are thought to have settled the island. During this time
the Taíno culture developed, and by approximately 1000
AD it had become dominant. Taíno culture has been
traced to the village of Saladero at the basin of the
Orinoco River in Venezuela; the Taínos migrated to
Puerto Rico by crossing the Lesser Antilles.
At the time of Columbus' arrival, an estimated 30 to 60 thousand Taíno
Amerindians, led by cacique (chief) Agüeybaná, inhabited the island. They called it
Boriken, "the great land of the valiant and noble Lord". The natives lived in small
villages led by a cacique and subsisted on hunting, fishing and gathering of
indigenous cassava root and fruit. When the Spaniards arrived in 1493, conflicts
with raiding Caribs, who were moving up the Antilles chain, were taking place. The
Taíno domination of the island was nearing its end and the Spanish arrival would
mark the beginning of their extinction. Their culture, however, remains strongly
embedded in that of contemporary Puerto Rico. Musical instruments such as
maracas and güiro, the hammock, and words such as Mayagüez, Arecibo, iguana,
and huracán (hurricane) are examples of the legacy left by the Taíno.
|Christopher Columbus, the explorer
credited with the discovery of Puerto
Spanish rule (1493–1898)
Beginning of colonization
On September 25, 1493, Christopher Columbus set sail on his second voyage with 17 ships and 1,200–1,500 men from Cádiz. On November 19, 1493 he
landed on the island, naming it San Juan Bautista in honor of Saint John the Baptist. The first settlement, Caparra, was founded on August 8, 1508 by Juan
Ponce de León, a lieutenant under Columbus, who later became the first governor of the island. The following year, the settlement was abandoned in favor
of a nearby islet on the coast, named Puerto Rico (Rich Port), which had a suitable harbor. In 1511, a second settlement, San Germán was established in the
southwestern part of the island. During the 1520s, the island took the name of Puerto Rico while the port became San Juan. Puerto Ricans have spilled their
blood in every war and conflict in which this nation has entered since World War One. Five Puerto Ricans have received the Congressional Medal of Honor
posthumously. Over 50 Puerto Ricans have already died in Iraq and Afghanistan defending US policy. Two Puerto Ricans have served as Surgeon General of
the United States. Numerous Puerto Ricans hold decisive positions in government’s agencies, like NASA.
Puerto Rico could be said to be a separate 'cultural nation', but politically it is part of the United States. Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the US, some say
territory . . . some say it is more like a state. As far as the local Puerto Rican vote, only 4 to 5% ever vote for the independence ticket, the rest is divided
between remaining a commonwealth or becoming an official state.
Colonization took the form of encomienda settlements, where settlers enslaved Taínos, providing them with military protection in return for labor. On
December 27, 1512, under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church, Ferdinand II of Aragon issued the Burgos' Laws, which modified the encomiendas
into a system called repartimientos, aimed at ending the exploitation. The laws prohibited the use of any form of punishment toward the indigenous people,
regulated their work hours, pay, hygiene, and care, and ordered them to be catechized. 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.
The Roman Catholic Church, realizing the opportunity to expand its influence, also participated in colonizing the island. On August 8, 1511, Pope Julius II established three dioceses in the New World,
one in Puerto Rico and two on the island of Hispaniola under the archbishop of Seville. The Canon of Salamanca, Alonso Manso, was appointed bishop of the Puerto Rican diocese. On September
26, 1512, before his arrival on the island, the first school of advanced studies was established by the bishop. Taking possession in 1513, he became the first bishop to arrive in the Americas. Puerto
Rico would also become the first ecclesiastical headquarters in the New World during the reign of Pope Leo X and the general headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition in the New World.
As part of the colonization process, African slaves were brought to the island in 1513. Following the decline of the Taíno population, more slaves were brought to Puerto Rico; however, the number of
slaves on the island paled in comparison to those in neighboring islands. Also, early in the colonization of Puerto Rico, attempts were made to wrest control of Puerto Rico from Spain. The Caribs,
a raiding tribe of the Caribbean, attacked Spanish settlements along the banks of the Daguao and Macao rivers in 1514 and again in 1521 but each time they were easily repelled by the superior
Spanish firepower. However, these would not be the last attempts at control of Puerto Rico. The European powers quickly realized the potential of the newly discovered lands and attempted to gain
control of them.
|View across the bay of San Juan of Fort San Felipe del Morro
Military history of Puerto
over Puerto Rico
Sparked by the
possibility of immense
wealth, many European
powers made attempts
to wrest control of the
Americas from Spain in
the 16th, 17th and 18th
centuries. Success in
invasion varied, and
ultimately all Spanish
opponents failed to
control of the island. In
1528, the French,
recognizing the strategic
value of Puerto Rico,
sacked and burned the
southwestern town of
San Germán. They also
destroyed many of the
island's first settlements,
Sotomayor, Daguao and
Loíza before the local
militia forced them to
retreat. The only
settlement that remained was the capital, San Juan. French corsairs would again sack San Germán in 1538 and 1554.
Spain, determined to defend its possession, began the fortification of the inlet of San Juan in the early 16th century. In 1532, construction of the first fortifications began with La Fortaleza (the Fortress)
near the entrance to San Juan bay. Seven years later the construction of massive defenses around San Juan began, including Fort San Felipe del Morro astride the entrance to San Juan bay.
Later, Fort San Cristóbal and Fort San Jerónimo—built with a financial subsidy from the Mexican mines—garrisoned troops and defended against land attacks. In 1587, engineers Juan de Tejada and
Juan Bautista Antonelli redesigned Fort San Felipe del Morro; these changes endure. Politically, Puerto Rico was reorganized in 1580 into a captaincy general to provide for more autonomy and
quick adminstrative responses to military threats.
|Sir Francis Drake, English privateer who mounted an unsuccessful attack on San
Juan in 1595
On November 22, 1595, English privateer Sir Francis Drake—with 27 vessels and 2,500 troops—sailed into San
Juan Bay intending to loot the city. Even though San Juan was set ablaze, they were unable to defeat the
forces entrenched in the forts. Knowing Drake had failed to overcome the city's defenses by sea, on June 15,
1598, the Royal Navy, led by George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, landed troops from 21 ships to the east in
Santurce. Clifford and his men met Spanish resistance while attempting to cross the San Antonio bridge (from an
area known today as Condado) into the islet of San Juan. Nonetheless, the British conquered the island and held
it for several months. They were forced to abandon the island owing to an outbreak of dysentery among the
troops. The following year Spain sent soldiers, cannons, and a new governor, Alonso de Mercado, to rebuild the
city of San Juan.
The 17th and 18th centuries saw more attacks on the island. On September 25, 1625, the Dutch, under the
leadership of Boudewijn Hendrick (Balduino Enrico), attacked San Juan, besieging Fort San Felipe del Morro and
La Fortaleza. Residents fled the city but the Spanish, led by Governor Juan de Haro, were able to repel the Dutch
troops from Fort San Felipe del Morro. In their retreat the Dutch set the city ablaze. The fortification of San Juan
continued; in 1634, Philip IV of Spain fortified Fort San Cristóbal, along with six fortresses linked by a line of
sandstone walls surrounding the city. In 1702, the English assaulted the town of Arecibo, located on the north
coast, west of San Juan, with no success. In 1797, the French and Spanish declared war on the United Kingdom.
The British attempted again to conquer the island, attacking San Juan with an invasion force of 7,000 troops and
an armada consisting of 64 warships under the command of General Ralph Abercromby. Captain General
Don Ramón de Castro and his army successfully resisted the attack.
Amidst the constant attacks, the first threads of Puerto Rican society emerged. A 1765 census conducted by Lt.
General Alejandro O'Reilly showed a total population of 44,883, of which 5,037 (11.2%) were slaves, a low
percentage compared to the other Spanish colonies in the Caribbean. In 1786 the first comprehensive history
of Puerto Rico—Historia Geográfica, Civil y Política de Puerto Rico by Fray Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra—was
published in Madrid, documenting the history of Puerto Rico from the time of Columbus' landing in 1493 until
1783. The book also presents a first hand account of Puerto Rican identity, including music, clothing,
personality and nationality.
|Royal Decree of Graces, 1815, which allowed foreigners to enter Puerto Rico
Early 19th century
Main articles: Royal
Decree of Graces of 1815
and Cádiz Cortes
The 19th century brought
many changes to Puerto
Rico, both political and
social. In 1809, the
Spanish government, in
opposition to Napoleon,
was convened in Cádiz in
southern Spain. While still
swearing allegiance to the
king, the Supreme Central
Junta invited voting
representatives from the
colonies. Ramón Power y Giralt was nominated as the local delegate to the Cádiz Cortes. The Ley Power ("the
Power Act") soon followed, which designated five ports for free commerce—Fajardo, Mayagüez, Aguadilla, Cabo
Rojo and Ponce—and established economic reforms with the goal of developing a more efficient economy. In
1812, the Cádiz Constitution was adopted, dividing Spain and its territories into provinces, each with a local
corporation or council to promote its prosperity and defend its interests; this granted Puerto Ricans conditional
On August 10, 1815, the Royal Decree of Grace was issued, allowing foreigners to enter Puerto Rico (including
French refugees from Hispaniola), and opening the port to trade with nations other than Spain. This was the
beginning of agriculture-based economic growth, with sugar, tobacco and coffee being the main products. The
Decree also gave free land to anyone who swore their loyalty to the Spanish Crown and their allegiance to the
Roman Catholic Church. Thousands of families from all regions of Spain (particularly Asturias, Catalonia,
Majorca and Galicia), Germany, Corsica, Ireland, France, Portugal, the Canary Islands and other locations,
escaping from harsh economic times in Europe and lured by the offer of free land, soon immigrated to Puerto
Rico. However, these small gains in autonomy and rights were short lived. After the fall of Napoleon, absolute
power returned to Spain, which revoked the Cádiz Constitution and reinstated Puerto Rico to its former condition
as a colony, subject to the unrestricted power of the Spanish monarch.
The integration of immigrants into Puerto Rican culture and other events changed Puerto Rican society. On June
25, 1835, Queen María Cristina abolished the slave trade to Spanish colonies. In 1851, Governor Juan de la
Pezuela Cevallos founded the Royal Academy of Belles Letters. The academy licensed primary school teachers,
formulated school methods, and held literary contests that promoted the intellectual and literary progress of the
island. In 1858, the telegraph was introduced on the island with the assistance of Samuel F. B. Morse who
installed a line in the town of Arroyo at Hacienda La Enriqueta.
Struggle for autonomy
Main article: Grito de Lares
The latter half of the 19th
century was marked by the
Puerto Rican struggle for
autonomy. A census
conducted in 1860
revealed a population of
583,308. Of these,
|Lares revolutionary flag, used in the unsuccessful Grito de Lares (Lares Uprising)
300,406 (51.5%) were white and 282,775 (48.5%) were persons of color, the latter including people of primarily
African heritage, mulattos and mestizos. The majority of the population in Puerto Rico was illiterate (83.7%)
and lived in poverty, and the agricultural industry—at the time, the main source of income—was hampered by lack
of road infrastructure, adequate tools and equipment, and natural disasters, including hurricanes and droughts.
 The economy also suffered from increasing tariffs and taxes imposed by the Spanish Crown. Furthermore,
Spain had begun to exile or jail any person who called for liberal reforms.
On September 23, 1868, hundreds of men and women in the town of Lares—stricken by poverty and politically estranged from Spain—revolted against Spanish rule, seeking Puerto Rican
independence. The Grito de Lares ("Lares Cry" or "Lares Uprising") was planned by a group led by Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances, at the time exiled to the Dominican Republic, and Segundo Ruiz
Belvis. Dr. Betances had founded the Comité Revolucionario de Puerto Rico (Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico) in January 1868. The most important figures in the uprising were Manuel
Rojas, Mathias Brugman, Mariana Bracetti, Francisco Ramirez Medina and Lola Rodríguez de Tió. The uprising, although significant, was quickly controlled by Spanish authorities.
Following the Grito de Lares revolt, political and social reforms occurred toward the end of the 19th century. On June 4, 1870, due to the efforts of Roman
Baldorioty de Castro, Luis Padial and Julio Vizcarrondo, the Moret Law was approved, giving freedom to slaves born after September 17, 1868 or over 60
years old; on March 22, 1873, the Spanish National Assembly officially abolished, with a few special clauses, slavery in Puerto Rico. In 1870, the first
political organizations on the island were formed as two factions emerged. The Traditionalists, known as the Partido Liberal Conservador (Liberal
Conservative Party) were led by José R. Fernández, Pablo Ubarri and Francisco Paula Acuña and advocated assimilation into the political party system of
Spain, while the Autonomists, known as the Partido Liberal Reformista (Liberal Reformist Party) were led by Román Baldorioty de Castro, José Julián Acosta,
Nicolás Aguayo and Pedro Gerónimo Goico and advocated decentralization away from Spanish control. Both parties would later change their names to
Partido Federal Reformista (Reformist Federal Party) and Partido Español Incondicional (Unconditional Spanish Party), respectively. In March 1887, the
Partido Federal Reformista was reformed and named the Partido Autonomista Puertorriqueño (Puerto Rican Autonomist Party); it tried to create a political and
legal identity for Puerto Rico while emulating Spain in all political matters. It was led by Román Baldorioty de Castro, José Celso Barbosa, Rosendo Matienzo
Cintrón and Luis Muñoz Rivera.
The struggle for autonomy came close to achieving its goal on November 25, 1897, when the Carta Autonómica (Autonomic Charter), which conceded
political and administrative autonomy to the island, was approved in Spain. In the past 400-plus years, after centuries of colonial rule, Práxedes Mateo
Sagasta, the Prime Minister of Spain granted the island an independent government on November 25, 1897 in the empire’s legislative body in Cádiz, Spain
and trade was opened up with the United States and European colonies. The charter maintained a governor appointed by Spain, who held the power to veto
any legislative decision he disagreed with, and a partially elected parliamentary structure. That same year, the Partido Autonomista Ortodoxo
(Orthodox Autonomist Party), led by José Celso Barbosa and Manuel Fernández Juncos, was founded. On February 9, 1898, the new government officially
began. Local legislature set its own budget and taxes. They accepted or rejected commercial treaties concluded by Spain. In February of 1898, Governor
General Manuel Macías inaugurated the new government of Puerto Rico under the Autonomous Charter which gave town councils complete autonomy in
local matters. Subsequently, the governor had no authority to intervene in civil and political matters unless authorized to do so by the Cabinet. General
elections were held in March and on July 17, 1898 Puerto Rico's autonomous government began to function, but not for long.
|Román Baldorioty de Castro, one of
Puerto Rico's first abolitionists
|US 1st Kentucky Volunteers in "Porto
[sic] Rico", 1898
Invasion of 1898
Main article: Spanish-American War
On March 10, 1898, Dr. Julio J. Henna and Robert H. Todd, leaders of the Puerto Rican section of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, began to correspond with
United States President William McKinley and the United States Senate in hopes that they would consider including Puerto Rico in the intervention planned
for Cuba. Henna and Todd also provided the US government with information about the Spanish military presence on the island. On April 24, Spanish
Minister of Defense Segismundo Bermejo sent instructions to Spanish Admiral Cervera to proceed with his fleet from Cape Verde to the Caribbean, Cuba
and Puerto Rico.
In May, Lt. Henry H. Whitney of the United States Fourth Artillery was sent to Puerto Rico on a reconnaissance mission. He provided maps and information on
the Spanish military forces to the US government that would be useful for an invasion. On May 10, Spanish forces at Fort San Cristóbal under the command of
Capt. Angel Rivero Mendez in San Juan exchanged fire with the USS Yale under the command of Capt. William C. Wise. Two days later on May 12, a
squadron of 12 US ships commanded by Rear Admiral William T. Sampson bombarded San Juan, causing panic among the residents. On June 25, the USS
Yosemite blocked San Juan harbor. On July 18, General Nelson A. Miles, commander of US forces, received orders to sail for Puerto Rico and to land his
troops. On July 21, a convoy with nine transports and 3,300 soldiers, escorted by USS Massachusetts (BB-2), sailed for Puerto Rico from Guantánamo.
General Nelson Miles landed unopposed at Guánica, located in the southern coast of the island, on July 25, 1898 with the first contingent of American troops.
Opposition was met in the southern and central regions of the island but by the end of August the island was under United States control.
On August 12, peace protocols were signed in Washington, D.C. and Spanish Commissions met in San Juan on September 9 to discuss the details of the withdrawal of Spanish troops and the
cession of the island to the United States. On October 1, an initial meeting was held in Paris to draft the Peace Treaty and on December 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed (ratified by the US
Senate February 6, 1899). Spain renounced all claim to Cuba, ceded Guam and Puerto Rico and its dependent islets to the United States, and transferred sovereignty over the Philippines to the
United States for $20,000,000. General John R. Brooke became the first United States military governor of the island.
United States rule (1898–present)
After the ratification of the Treaty of Paris of 1898, Puerto Rico came under the military control of the United States
of America. This brought about significant changes: the name of the island was changed to Porto Rico (it would
be changed back to Puerto Rico in 1932) and the currency was changed from the Puerto Rican peso to the United
States dollar. Freedom of assembly, speech, press, and religion were decreed and an eight-hour day for
government employees was established. A public school system was begun and the U.S. Postal service was
extended to the island. The highway system was enlarged, and bridges over the more important rivers were
constructed. The government lottery was abolished, cockfighting was forbidden, and a centralized public health
service established. Health conditions were poor at the time, with high rates of infant mortality and numerous
The beginning of the military government also marked the creation of new political groups. The Partido
Republicano (Republican Party) and the American Federal Party were created, led by José Celso Barbosa and
Luis Muñoz Rivera, respectively. Both groups supported annexation by the United States as a solution to the
colonial situation. The island's Creole sugar planters, who had suffered from declining prices, greeted U.S. rule,
hoping to gain access to the North American market.
Disaster struck in August 1899, when two hurricanes ravaged the island: Hurricane San Ciriaco on August 8, and
an unnamed hurricane on August 22. Approximately 3,400 people died in the floods and thousands were left
without shelter, food, or work. The effects on the economy were devastating: millions of dollars were lost due
to the destruction of the majority of the sugar and coffee plantations.
|The 45-star flag, used by the United States during the invasion of Puerto Rico,
was also the official flag of Puerto Rico from 1899 to 1908.
|The first Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, established in 1900
Foraker Act of 1900
Main article: Foraker Act
The military government in Puerto Rico was short lived; it was disbanded on April 2,
1900, when the U.S. Congress enacted the Foraker Act (also known as the Organic
Act of 1900), sponsored by Senator Joseph B. Foraker. This act established a
civil government and free commerce between the island and the United States. The
structure of the insular government included a governor appointed by the president,
an executive council (the equivalent of a senate), and a legislature with 35
members, though the executive veto required a two-thirds vote to override. The first
appointed civil governor, Charles Herbert Allen, was inaugurated on May 1,
1900. On June 5, President McKinley appointed an Executive Council which
included five Puerto Rican members and six U.S. members. The act also
established the creation of a judicial system headed by the Supreme Court of
Puerto Rico and allowed Puerto Rico to send a Resident Commissioner as a
representative to Congress. The Department of Education was subsequently
formed, headed by Dr. M. G. Brumbaugh (later governor of Pennsylvania). Teaching
was conducted entirely in English with Spanish treated as a special subject.
However, both Spanish and English were official languages in the island. On
November 6, the first elections under the Foraker Act were held and on December 3,
the first Legislative Assembly took office. Federico Degetau took office in
Washington as the first Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico on March 14,
The new political status sparked the creation of more political groups on the island.
In 1900, the Partido Federal (Federal Party) and the Partido Obrero Socialista de
Puerto Rico (Socialist Labor Party of Puerto Rico) were founded. The former
campaigned for Puerto Rico to become one of the states in the United States while
the latter followed the ideals of the Socialist Labor Party of America. Four years later,
in 1904, Luis Muñoz Rivera and José de Diego restructured the American Federal
Party into the Partido Unionista de Puerto Rico (Unionist Party of Puerto Rico) with
the intention of fighting against the colonial government established under the
Foraker Act. In 1909, Rosendo Matienzo Cintrón, Manuel Zeno Gandía, Luis Llorens
Torres, Eugenio Benítez Castaño, and Pedro Franceschi founded the Partido
Independentista (Independence Party). It was the first political party whose agenda
was the independence of Puerto Rico.
The status quo was again altered in 1909 when the Foraker Act, due to weaknesses and a small crisis in Puerto Rico's government, was modified by the Olmsted Amendment. This Amendment
placed the supervision of Puerto Rican affairs in the jurisdiction of an executive department to be designated by the president. In 1914, the first Puerto Rican officers, Martin Travieso (Secretary) and
Manuel V. Domenech (Commissioner of Interiors), were assigned to the Executive Cabinet, allowing islanders a majority. A 1915 delegation from Puerto Rico, accompanied by the Governor Arthur
Yager, traveled to Washington, D.C. to ask Congress to grant the island more autonomy. This delegation and speeches made by Resident Commissioner Luis Muñoz Rivera in Congress, coupled
with political and economic interests, led to the drafting of the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917 (Jones Act).
|Picture by journalist Carlos Torres Morales of the Ponce Massacre, March 21, 1937
Jones Act of 1917
Main article: Jones-Shafroth Act
The Jones Act was approved on December 5, 1916, and signed into law by
President Woodrow Wilson on March 2, 1917. The law made Puerto Rico a
United States territory which is "organized but unincorporated". It also granted U.S.
citizenship to all Puerto Ricans. The Act allowed conscription to be extended to
the island, sending 20,000 Puerto Rican soldiers to the United States Army during
the First World War. The Act also divided governmental powers into three branches:
executive (appointed by the President of the United States), legislative, and judicial.
The legislative branch was composed of the senate, consisting of 19 members,
and a house of representatives, consisting of 39 members. The members of the
legislature were freely elected by the Puerto Rican people. A bill of rights, which
established elections to be held every four years, was also created. The Act also
made English the official language of the Puerto Rican courts.
On October 11, 1918, an earthquake occurred, with an approximate magnitude of
7.3 on the Richter scale, accompanied by a tsunami reaching 6.1 metres (20 feet) in
height. The epicenter was located northwest of Aguadilla in the Mona Canyon
(between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic). This earthquake caused
great damage and loss of life at Mayagüez, and lesser damage along the west
coast. Tremors continued for several weeks.
As a consequence of the Jones Act and the establishment of elections, a new
political party, the Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rican Nationalist
Party), was founded on September 17, 1922. In the 1930s, the Nationalist Party, led
by Pedro Albizu Campos withdrew from political participation and increased conflict
arose between their adherents and the authorities. They attacked Blanton Winship,
the appointed Governor of Puerto Rico, Elisha Francis Riggs Chief of Police, and Robert A. Cooper Judge of the Federal Tribunal in Puerto Rico. On February 23, 1936, two Nationalists Hiram Rosado
and Elias Beauchamp, in retaliation for the "Rio Piedras Massacre", killed Police Chief Riggs in San Juan. They were apprehended and summarily executed at police headquarters. On July 31, 1936,
Pedro Albizu Campos, Juan Antonio Corretjer, Clemente Soto Vélez and other Nationalists were sentenced to six to 10 years in federal prison. Later, on March 21, 1937, police opened fire at a
Nacionalista de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rican Nationalist) Party parade, known as the "Ponce Massacre"; 20 people (including two policemen) were killed and 100 were wounded.
In the 1920s, the economy of Puerto Rico boomed. A drastic increase in the price of sugar, Puerto Rico's principal export, brought increasing revenues to the island. As a result the island's
infrastructure was steadily upgraded. New schools, roads and bridges were constructed. The increase in private wealth was reflected in the erection of many residences, while the development of
commerce and agriculture stimulated the extension of banking and transport facilities. The high infant mortality death rate of the late 19th century declined steadily, thanks in large measure to basic
public health programs. However, the economic growth would come to a screeching halt in 1929 when the United States stock market crashed.
This period of prosperity came to an end with the onset of the Great Depression. At the time, agriculture was the main contributor to the economy. Industry and commerce slowed during the 1930s
as well. The depression was further aggravated when on September 27, 1932, Hurricane San Ciprián struck the island. Exact figures of the destruction are not known but estimates say that 200–
300 people were killed, more than a thousand were injured, and property damage escalated to $30–50 million. The agricultural production, the principal economic driver for the island, came to a
standstill. However, the decline of the economy would not end there. A new federal minimum wage law of 25 cents an hour took effect in 1938. As a consequence, two-thirds of the island's textile
factories closed because worker productivity was below that level.
Establishment of the Commonwealth
In the years after World War II, social, political and economical changes began to take place that have continued
to shape the island's character today. The late 1940s brought the beginning of a major migration to the
continental United States, mainly to New York City. The main reasons for this were an undesirable economic
situation brought by the Great Depression, as well as heavy recruitment made by the U.S. armed forces and U.S.
companies. In 2004, approximately 3.8 million people of Puerto Rican background lived in the United
States. Political changes began in 1946 when President Truman designated the first Puerto Rican,
Commissioner Resident Jesús T. Piñero, to serve as island governor. One year later the U.S. Congress passed
an act allowing Puerto Ricans to vote for their own governor. The first elections under this act were performed on
November 2, 1948. Luis Muñoz Marín, president of the Puerto Rican Senate, successfully campaigned and
became the first democratically elected Governor of the island on January 2, 1949. In the 1950s, an ambitious
industrialization project dubbed Operation Bootstrap was launched under governor Muñoz Marín. It was coupled
with agrarian reform (land redistribution) that limited the area that could be held by large sugarcane interests.
Operation Bootstrap enticed US mainland investors to transfer or create manufacturing plants by granting them
local and federal tax concessions, but maintaining the access to US markets free of import duties. Another
incentive was the lower wage scales in the densely populated island, which had a rising urban unemployed
population. The program accelerated the shift from an agricultural to an industrial society. The 1950s saw the
development of labor-intensive light industries, such as textiles; later manufacturing gave way to heavy industry,
such as petrochemicals and oil refining, in the 1960s and 1970s. Muñoz Marín's development programs
brought some prosperity for an emergent middle class. The industrialization was in part fueled by generous local
incentives and freedom from federal taxation, while providing access to continental US markets without import
duties. As a result, a rural agricultural society was transformed into an industrial working class.
|Flag of Puerto Rico, created in 1895 and officially adopted in 1952
On July 4, 1950, President Harry S. Truman signed Public Act 600, which allowed Puerto Ricans to draft their own constitution establishing the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Congress had
granted commonwealth status on Puerto Rico that enhanced Puerto Rico's political status from protectorate to commonwealth. This, coupled with Muñoz Marín's reversal on not pursuing Puerto Rican
Independence angered some Puerto Ricans. On late October 1950, a group of Puerto Rican nationalists, led by Pedro Albizu Campos, staged several revolts, the most successful of which is known
as the Jayuya Uprising. The revolts included an attack on the governor's mansion, La Fortaleza, the United States Capitol and at Blair House, where nationalists attempted to assassinate United
States President Harry S. Truman. These acts led Muñoz to crack down on Puerto Rican nationalists and advocates of Puerto Rican independence. The actions by both Muñoz and the United States'
Government would later be determined as infringing on constitutional rights. On July 25, 1952, the Constitution of Puerto Rico was approved by voters in a referendum, and the island organized
as the Estado Libre Asociado (Commonwealth of Puerto Rico). That same year marked the first time that the Flag of Puerto Rico could be publicly displayed.
The Partido Estadistas Unido (United Statehooders Party) was founded by Luis A. Ferré to campaign for statehood in the 1967 plebiscite. On July 23, 1967, the first plebiscite on the political status of
Puerto Rico was held. Voters overwhelmingly affirmed continuation of Commonwealth status (Commonwealth–60.4% Statehood–39%; Independence–0.6%). Other plebiscites have taken place to
determine the political status of Puerto Rico, one in 1993 and another in 1998. Both times, although by smaller margins, the status quo has been upheld. However, the U.S. constitution does not
mention this avenue of status, hence legally the island remains a territory of the United States, under congressional supervision. The Partido Estadistas Unido organized the Partido Nuevo Progresista
(New Progressive Party) under Ferré's leadership. The party campaigned for Puerto Rico to become the 51st state of the Union. Luis A. Ferré was elected governor on November 5, 1968, with 43.6% of
the vote, the first time a pro-statehood governor has received a plurality. The New Progressive Party, the Popular Democratic Party and the Independence Party constitute the current established
political parties in the island.
Present-day Puerto Rico has become a major tourist destination and a leading pharmaceutical and manufacturing center. Still, Puerto Rico continues to struggle to define its political status. Even
though Puerto Rico was granted local autonomy in 1952, it remains a territory of the United States. Its ambiguous status continues to spark political debates which dominate Puerto Rican society.
Economically, Puerto Rico has recently seen its credit rating downgraded to Baa2 by Moody's Investor Services with the possibility of more downgrades happening in the near future. This has led to
fiscal measures to reduce government spending, increase revenues and balance the budget, and the implementation of a 5.5% sales tax. Additionally, municipalities have the option of imposing a city
sales tax between 1% and 1.5%.
Puerto Rico portal
Black history in Puerto Rico
List of Registered Historic Places in Puerto Rico
List of Puerto Ricans
Military history of Puerto Rico
Official Historian of Puerto Rico
Notes and references
^ a b c d Rouse, Irving. The Tainos : Rise and Decline of the People Who Greeted Columbus ISBN 0-300-05696-6.
^ Mahaffy, Cheryl (January 28, 2006). "Vieques Island - What lies beneath". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved on February 11, 2006.
^ Figueroa, Ivonne (July 1996). "Taínos". Retrieved on March 20, 2006.
^ Chief Pedro Guanikeyu Torres. "The Dictionary of the Taíno Language". Taino Inter-Tribal Council Inc.. Retrieved on February 11, 2006.
^ "The second voyage of Columbus". World Book, Inc.. Retrieved on February 11, 2006.
^ Vicente Yañez Pinzón is considered the first appointed governor of Puerto Rico, but he never arrived on the island.
^ Mari, Brenda A. (April 22, 2005). "The Legacy of Añasco: Where the Gods Come to Die". Puerto Rico Herald. Retrieved on March 1, 2006.
^ Jones, W.A.. "Porto Rico". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved on March 4, 2006.
^ "Religion". Puerto Rico: A Guide to the Island of Boriquén. Federal Writers Project (1940). Retrieved on March 6, 2006.
^ "Puerto Rico and the Death Penalty". Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved on March 21, 2006.
^ a b Dietz, p.38.
^ a b "La Fortaleza/San Juan National Historic Site, Puerto Rico". National Parks Services. Retrieved on March 1, 2006.
^ Miller, Paul G. (1947).Historias de Puerto Rico,221–237.
^ "The Life of Sir Francis Drake" (July 20, 2004). Retrieved on March 1, 2006.
^ The exact number of ships and troops is presently uncertain. The number of ships varies from 60 to 64 ships and the number of troops varies from 7,000 to 13,000. No exact number of ships is given
by British accounts. For more information see Alonso, María M., The Eighteenth Century Caribbean & The British Attack on Puerto Rico in 1797 ISBN 1-881713-20-2.
^ Alonso, María M.. "Chapter XIV - Abercromby's Siege". The Eighteenth Century Caribbean & The British Attack on Puerto Rico in 1797. Retrieved on February 28, 2006.
^ Caro Costas, Aida R. (1980). Antología de Lecturas de Historia de Puerto Rico (Siglos XV-XVIII), p. 467.
^ Abbad y Lasierra, Iñigo. Historia Geográfica, Civil y Política de Puerto Rico. ISBN 0-8477-0800-4. (Spanish)
^ "Aspectos políticos en Puerto Rico: 1765–1837". Retrieved on March 4, 2006. (Spanish)
^ Grose, Howard B., Advance in the Antilles; the new era in Cuba and Porto Rico, OCLC 1445643
^ a b Brás, Marisabel
^ Brás, Marisabel, par. 8
^ Brás, Marisabel, par. 8-13
^ These clauses included that slaves were required to continue working for three more years and that the owners would be compensated 35 million pesetas per slave.
^ Brás, Marisabel, par. 9
^ a b c d "Chronology of Puerto Rico in the Spanish-American War". Library of Congress. Retrieved on March 10, 2006.
^ This legislature consisted of a Council of Administration with eight elected and seven appointed members, and a Chamber of Representatives with one member for every 25,000 inhabitants.
^ The American peace commission consisted of William R. Day, Sen. Cushman K. Davis, Sen. William P. Frye, Sen. George Gray, and the Hon. Whitelaw Reid. The Spanish commission was headed
by Eugenio Montero Ríos, the President of the Senate. Jules Cambon, a French diplomat, also negotiated on Spain's behalf.
^ "Military Government in Puerto Rico". Library of Congress. Retrieved on March 26, 2006.
^ Blackburn Moreno, Ronald (February 2001). "Brief Chronology of Puerto Rico" (PDF). ASPIRA Association, Inc.. Retrieved on February 11, 2006.
^ Emma Davila-Cox, Puerto Rico in the Hispanic-Cuban-American War: Re-assessing ‘the Picnic’, in The Crisis of 1898: Colonial Redistribution and Nationalist Mobilization (Macmillan Press: New
York and London, 1999) Pg. 113
^ "Hurricane San Ciriaco". Library of Congress. Retrieved on March 26, 2006.
^ a b c "Foraker Act (Organic Act of 1900)". Library of Congress. Retrieved on March 10, 2006.
^ The Puerto Rican members were José Celso Barbosa, Rosendo Matienzo Cintrón, José de Diego, Manuel Camuñas and Andrés Crosas. The US members were William H. Hunt, Secretary; Jacob
Hollander, Treasurer; J. R. Garrison, Auditor; W. B. Eliot, Interiors; James A. Harlan, Attorney General; and Dr. Martin G. Brumbaugh, Secretary of Education.
^ "An American Empire: Relations with Territories gained in the Treaty of Paris 1898". National Center for History in the Schools Standards. Retrieved on March 21, 2006.
^ a b c "Jones Act". Library of Congress. Retrieved on March 10, 2006.
^ a b "Earthquake of 1918". Puerto Rico Seismic Network. Retrieved on March 12, 2006.
^ Leibowitz, Arnold. Defining Status:A Comprehensive Analysis of United States - Territorial Relations. Springer, 156-57.
^ "Agriculture". Puerto Rico: A Guide to the Island of Boriquén. Federal Writers Project (1940). Retrieved on March 6, 2006.
^ "Industry, Commerce, and Labor". Puerto Rico: A Guide to the Island of Boriquén. Federal Writers Project (1940). Retrieved on March 6, 2006.
^ Hodgson, Michael, E. and Palm, Risa I. Natural Hazards in Puerto Rico: Attitudes, Experience, and Behavior of Homeowners. 1993.
^ "Puerto Rico: Migrating to a new land". Library of Congress (April 22, 2004). Retrieved on March 10, 2006.
^ "Hispanic population in the United States". Retrieved on June 17, 2007.
^ "Resistance in Paradise: Rethinking 100 Years of U.S. Involvement in the Caribbean and the Pacific". American Friends Service Committee. Retrieved on March 19, 2006.
^ "Luis Muñoz Marín Foundation". Retrieved on February 25, 2006.
^ González, Juan (May 23, 2000). "FBI Files on Puerto Ricans". Retrieved on March 24, 2006.
^ "Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts Section". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved on March 24, 2006.
^ A literal translation of Estado Libre Asociado would be Free Associated State but since the US is composed of states it was deemed cumbersome to make this the official name, hence
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was chosen.
^ From 1895 to 1952 the Puerto Rican flag was outlawed.
^ "Elections in Puerto Rico: Results 1967 Plebiscite". Retrieved on March 14, 2006.
^ For the complete statistics regarding these plebiscites please refer to Elections in Puerto Rico:Results.
^ "Moody's places Puerto Rico’s credit rating in watchlist for a possible downgrade" (PDF). Government Development Bank of Puerto Rico. Retrieved on March 15, 2006.
Brás, Marisabel. The Changing of the Guard: Puerto Rico in 1898; The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War; Hispanic Division, Library of Congress. Retrieved on 2007-06-18
Dietz, James L. (1987). Economic History of Puerto Rico. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-02248-8.
Fernández, Ronald (1996). The Disenchanted Island : Puerto Rico and the United States in the Twentieth Century, 2nd, Praeger Paperback. ISBN 0-275-95227-4.
Jiménez de Wagenheim, Olga; Wagenheim, Kal (2002). The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History. Markus Wiener Publishers. ISBN 1-55876-291-4.
Morales Carrión, Arturo (1984). Puerto Rico: A Political and Cultural History. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-30193-1.
Van Middledyk, R.A. (2004). The History of Puerto Rico. IndyPublish.com. ISBN 1-4142-3037-0.
"WWW-VL: History: Puerto Rico". The World Wide Web Virtual Library. Retrieved on March 19, 2006.
Cordasco, Francesco (1973). The Puerto Rican Experience: A Sociological Sourcebook. Littlefield Adams. ISBN 0-8226-0259-8.
Duany, Jorge (2002). The Puerto Rican Nation on the Move: Identities on the Island and in the United States. The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-5372-0.
Johnson, Robert D. (1997). "Anti-Imperialism And The Good Neighbour Policy: Ernest Gruening and Puerto Rican Affairs, 1934–1939". Journal of Latin American Studies 29 (1): 89–110. doi:10.1017
Kurlansky, Mark (1992). A Continent of Islands: Searching for the Caribbean Destiny. Addison-Wesley Publishing. ISBN 0-201-52396-5.
Rivera Batiz, Francisco L.; Santiago, Carlos E. (1998). Island Paradox: Puerto Rico in the 1990s. Russell Sage Foundation Publications. ISBN 0-87154-751-1.