|Commonwealth of Puerto Rico |
Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico
Latin: Joannes Est Nomen Eius
Spanish: Juan es su nombre
English: John is his name
|Anthem: La Borinqueña|
(and largest city)
18°27′N 66°6′W / 18.45°N 66.1°W / 18.45; -66.1
|Official language(s)||Spanish and English|
|Ethnic groups ||White (mostly Spanish origin) 76.2%, Black 6.9%, Asian 0.3%, Amerindian 0.2%, Mixed 4.4%, other 12%. (2007)|
|Government||Republic, three-branch government|
| - ||President||Barack Obama (D)|
| - ||Governor||Luis Fortuño (PNP/R)|
| - ||Federal legislative branch||United States Congress|
|Sovereignty||United States |
| - ||Cession||December 10, 1898|
from Kingdom of Spain
| - ||Autonomy||November 25, 1897 |
| - ||Total||9,104 km2 (169th)|
3,515 sq mi
| - ||Water (%)||1.6|
| - ||2009 estimate||3,967,179 (127th in the world; 27th in U.S.)|
| - ||2000 census||3,808,610 |
| - ||Density||430/km2 (21st in the world; 2nd in U.S.)|
|GDP (PPP)||2007 estimate|
| - ||Total||$77.4 billion (N/A)|
| - ||Per capita||$19,600 (N/A)|
|Gini (2006)||53.5  (?th)|
|Currency||United States dollar (|
|Time zone||AST (UTC–4)|
| - ||Summer (DST)||No DST (UTC–4)|
|Drives on the||right|
|Calling code||+1 (spec. +1-787 and +1-939)|
Puerto Rico (pronounced /ˌpwɛərtə ˈriːkoʊ/ or /ˌpɔrtə ˈriːkoʊ/), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Spanish: "Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico" — literally Associated Free State of Puerto Rico), is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, east of the Dominican Republic and west of the Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rico (Spanish for "rich port") is composed of an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands, the largest of which are Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. The main island of Puerto Rico is the smallest by land area of the Greater Antilles. It, however, ranks third in population among that group of four islands, 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 in Spanish as "La Isla del Encanto" which means "The Island of Enchantment" in English.
Main article: History of Puerto Rico Pre-Columbian era
The ancient history of the archipelago known today as "Puerto Rico" before the arrival of Christopher Columbus is not well known. Unlike other larger more advanced indigenous communities in the New World (Aztec, Inca) which left behind abundant archeological and physical evidence of their societies, what is known today about the indigenous population of Puerto Rico comes from scarce archaeological findings and early Spanish scholarly accounts. Today, there are few and rare cave drawings, rock carvings and ancient recreational actitivity sites that have been identified with some degree of speculation as to who left them behind. The first comprehensive book on the history of Puerto Rico was written by Fray Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra] in 1786, almost 3 centuries 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 1493.
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. Eventually, traders and other maritime visitors came to refer to the entire island as "Puerto Rico", and "San Juan" became the name of the main trading/shipping port. In 1508, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León became the island's first governor to take office.
at fort San Felipe del Morro
Soon thereafter, The Spanish began to colonize the island. The indigenous population (Taínos) came to be exploited and forced into slavery. Within 50 years they were reduced to near extinction by the harsh conditions of work and by European infectious diseases to which they had no natural immunity. By 1520, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor issued a royal decree that collectively emancipated the remaining Taíno population. Essentially, the Taíno presence had almost vanished.
Marker in Puerto Rico which traces the routes taken by the Godspeed, Susan Constant and the Discovery and which commemorates their stopping in Puerto Rico from April 6–10, 1607 on their way to Virginia.
Within 50 years, the Taino indigenous population while not completely extinct was no longer a physical or cultural presence of consequence on the island and the importation of Sub-Saharan African slaves was introduced to provide the manual work force for the Spanish colonists and merchants.
African slavery was primarily restricted to coastal ports and cities, while the interior of the island continued to be essentially unexplored and undeveloped. Spanish and other European colonists were concentrated in island's seaports. Puerto Rico soon became an important stronghold and a significant port for Spanish Main colonial expansion. 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 strategic port of San Juan from numerous European invasion attempts. San Juan served as an important port-of-call for ships of all European nations for purposes of taking on water, food and other commercial provisions and mercantile exchange.
In 1607, Puerto Rico served as a port for provisions for the English ships, the Godspeed, Susan Constant and the Discovery who were on their way to establish the Jamestown Settlement, the first English settlement in the New World.
France, the Netherlands and England made several attempts to capture Puerto Rico but failed to wrest the long-term occupancy of Spain, who held tenaciously onto its increasingly prized island colony of Puerto Rico. During the late 17th and early 18th centuries Spain's colonial emphasis continued to be focused on the more prosperous mainland North, Central and South American colonies.
This continued distraction on the part of the Spanish Crown, left the island of Puerto Rico virtually unexplored, undeveloped and uncolonized (with the exception of coastal colonist outposts) until the 1800s. Subsequently, with the growth of successful independence movements in the larger Spanish colonies, Spain soon began to focus its attention on Puerto Rico as one of the last remaining Spanish maritime colonies.
In 1779, citizens of the still-Spanish colony of Puerto Rico fought in the American Revolutionary War under the command of Bernardo de Gálvez, named Field Marshal of the Spanish colonial army in North America. Puerto Ricans participated in the capture of Pensacola, the capital of the British colony of West Florida and the cities of Baton Rouge, St. Louis and Mobile. The Puerto Rican troops, under the leadership of Brigadier General Ramón de Castro, helped defeat the British and Indian army of 2,500 soldiers and British warships in Pensacola.
In 1809, in a further move to secure its political bond with the island and in the midst of the European Peninsular War, the Supreme Central Junta based in Cádiz recognized Puerto Rico as an overseas province of Spain with the right to send representatives to the recently convened Spanish parliament with equal representation to Mainland Iberian, Mediterranean (Balearic Islands) and Atlantic maritime Spanish provinces (Canary Islands).
The first Spanish parliamentary representative from the island of Puerto Rico, Ramon Power y Giralt, died after serving a three-year term in the Cortes. These parliamentary and constitutional reforms, which were in force from 1810 to 1814 and again from 1820 to 1823, were reversed twice afterwards when the traditional monarchy was restored by Ferdinand VII. Nineteenth century immigration and commercial trade reforms further augmented the island's European population and economy, and expanded Spanish cultural and social imprint the local character of the island.
With the increasingly rapid growth of independent former Spanish colonies in the South and Central American states in the first part of the century, Puerto Rico and Cuba continued to grow in strategic importance to the Spanish Crown.
In a very deliberate move to increase its hold on its last two new world colonies, The Spanish Crown revived the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815. This time the decree was printed in three languages: Spanish, English and French.
Its primary intent was to attract Europeans of non-Spanish origin, with the hope that the independence movements would lose their popularity and strength with increase of new loyalist settlers with strong sympathies to Spain.
As an incentive to immigrate and colonize, free land was offered to those who wanted to populate the two islands on the condition that they swear their loyalty to the Spanish Crown and allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church.. It was very successful and European immigration continued even after 1898 and Puerto Rico today still receives Spanish and European immigration.
The Original Lares Revolutionary Flag
Toward the end of the 19th century, poverty and political estrangement with Spain led to a small but significant uprising in 1868 known as "Grito de Lares". It began in the rural town of Lares, but was subdued when rebels moved to the neighboring town of San Sebastián. Leaders of this independence movement included Ramón Emeterio Betances, considered the "father" of the Puerto Rican independence movement, and other political figures such as Segundo Ruiz Belvis.
In 1897, Luis Muñoz Rivera and others persuaded the liberal Spanish government to agree to Charters of Autonomy for Cuba and Puerto Rico. In 1898, Puerto Rico's first, but short-lived, autonomous government was organized as an 'overseas province' of Spain. This bi-laterally-agreed upon charter maintained a governor appointed by Spain, which held the power to annul any legislative decision, and a partially elected parliamentary structure. In February, Governor-General Manuel Macías inaugurated the new government under the Autonomous Charter. General elections were held in March and the autonomous government began to function on July 17, 1898.
United States colony
On July 25, 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico was invaded by the United States with a landing at Guánica. As an outcome of the war, Spain ceded Puerto Rico, along with Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam to the U.S. under the Treaty of Paris.
The United States and Puerto Rico thus began a long-standing relationship. Puerto Rico began the 20th century under the military rule of the U.S. with officials, including the governor, appointed by the President of the United States. The Foraker Act of 1900 gave Puerto Rico a certain amount of civilian popular government, including a popularly elected House of Representatives, also a judicial system following the American legal system that includes both state courts and federal courts establishing a Puerto Rico Supreme Court and a United State District Court; and a non-voting member of Congress, by the title of "Resident Commissioner. In 1917, "Puerto Ricans were collectively made U.S. citizens" via the Jones Act. The same Act also provided for a popularly elected Senate to complete a bicameral Legislative Assembly, a bill of rights and authorized the election of a Resident Commissioner to a four-year term. As a result of their new U.S. citizenship, many Puerto Ricans were drafted into World War I and all subsequent wars with U.S. participation in which a national military draft was in effect.
Natural disasters, including a major earthquake, a tsunami and several hurricanes, and the Great Depression impoverished the island during the first few decades under U.S. rule. Some political leaders, like Pedro Albizu Campos who led the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, demanded change. On March 21, 1937, a march was organized in the southern city of Ponce by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. This march turned bloody when the Insular Police, "a force somewhat resembling the National Guard which answered to the U.S.-appointed governor", opened fire upon unarmed and defenseless cadets and bystanders alike, as reported by a U.S. Congressman and others . 19 were killed and over 200 were badly wounded, many in their backs while running away. An ACLU report declared it a massacre and it has since been known as the Ponce massacre.
The internal governance changed during the latter years of the Roosevelt–Truman administrations, as a form of compromise led by Luis Muñoz Marín and others. It culminated with the appointment by President Truman in 1946 of the first Puerto Rican-born governor, Jesús T. Piñero. On June 11, 1948, Piñero signed the "Ley de la Mordaza" (Gag Law) or Law 53 as it was officially known, passed by the Puerto Rican legislature which made it illegal to display the Puerto Rican Flag, sing patriotic songs, talk of independence and to fight for the liberation of the island. It resembled the anti-communist Smith Law passed in the United States.
In 1947, the U.S. granted Puerto Ricans the right to elect democratically their own governor. Luis Muñoz Marín was elected during the 1948 general elections, becoming the first popularly elected governor of Puerto Rico. In 1950, the U.S. Congress approved Public Law 600 (P.L. 81-600) which allowed for a democratic referendum in Puerto Rico to determine whether Puerto Ricans desired to draft their own local constitution. This Act left unchanged all the articles under the Jones Act of 1917 that regulated the relationships between Puerto Rico and the United States.
On October 30, 1950, Pedro Albizu Campos and other nationalists led a 3-day revolt against the United States in various cities and towns of Puerto Rico. The most notable occurred in Jayuya and Utuado. In the Jayuya revolt, known as the Jayuya Uprising, the United States declared martial law and attacked Jayuya with infantry, artillery and bombers. The Utuado Uprising culminated in what is known as the Utuado massacre. On November 1, 1950, Puerto Rican nationalists Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo attempted to assassinate President Harry S Truman. Torresola was killed during the attack, but Collazo was captured. Collazo served 29 years in a federal prison, being released in 1979. Don Pedro Albizu Campos also served many years in a federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia, for seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government in Puerto Rico.
The Constitution of Puerto Rico was approved by a Constitutional Convention on February 6, 1952, ratified by the U.S. Congress, approved by President Truman on July 3 of that year, and proclaimed by Gov. Muñoz Marín on July 25, 1952, on the anniversary of the July 25, 1898 landing of U.S. troops in the Puerto Rican Campaign of the Spanish-American War, until then an annual Puerto Rico holiday. Puerto Rico adopted the name of Estado Libre Asociado (literally translated as "Free Associated State"), officially translated into English as Commonwealth, for its body politic. The United States Congress legislates over many fundamental aspects of Puerto Rican life, including citizenship, currency, postal service, foreign affairs, military defense, communications, labor relations, the environment, commerce, finance, health and welfare, and many others.
During the 1950s Puerto Rico experienced rapid industrialization, due in large part to Operación Manos a la Obra ("Operation Bootstrap"), an offshoot of FDR's New Deal, which aimed to transform Puerto Rico's economy from agriculture-based to manufacturing-based. Presently, Puerto Rico has become a major tourist destination, and it is the world's leading pharmaceutical manufacturing center. Yet it still struggles to define its political status. Three plebiscites have been held in recent decades to resolve the political status, but no changes have been attained. Support for the pro-statehood party, Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP), and the pro-commonwealth party, Partido Popular Democrático (PPD), remains about equal. The only registered pro-independence party, the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño (PIP), usually receives 3-5% of the electoral votes.
Government and politics
Puerto Rico has a republican form of government, subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sovereignty. Its current powers are all delegated by the United States Congress and lack full protection under the United States Constitution. Puerto Rico's head of state is the President of the United States.
The government of Puerto Rico, based on the formal republican system, is composed of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. The executive branch is headed by the Governor, currently Luis Fortuño. The legislative branch consists of a bicameral Legislative Assembly made up of a Senate upper chamber and a House of Representatives lower chamber. The Senate is headed by the President of the Senate, while the House of Representatives is headed by the Speaker of the House.
The judicial branch is headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. The legal system is a mix of the civil law and the common law systems. The governor and legislators are elected by popular vote every four years. Members of the Judicial branch are appointed by the governor with the "advice and consent" of the Senate.
Puerto Rico is represented in the United States Congress by a nonvoting delegate, formally called a Resident Commissioner (currently Pedro Pierluisi). Current legislation has returned the Commissioner's power to vote in the Committee of the Whole, but not on matters where the vote would represent a decisive participation. Puerto Rican elections are governed by the Federal Election Commission and the State Elections Commission of Puerto Rico. While residing in Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in U.S. presidential elections, but they can vote in primaries. Puerto Ricans who become residents of a U.S. state can vote in presidential elections.
As Puerto Rico is not an independent country, it hosts no embassies. It is host, however, to consulates from 41 countries, mainly from the Americas and Europe. Most consulates are located in San Juan. As an unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rico does not have any first-order administrative divisions as defined by the U.S. government, but has 78 municipalities at the second level. Mona Island is not a municipality, but part of the municipality of Mayagüez.
Municipalities are subdivided into wards or barrios, and those into sectors. Each municipality has a mayor and a municipal legislature elected for a four year term. The municipality of San Juan (previously called "town"), was founded first, in 1521, San Germán in 1570, Coamo in 1579, Arecibo in 1614, Aguada in 1692 and Ponce in 1692. An increase of settlement saw the founding of 30 municipalities in the 18th century and 34 in the 19th. Six were founded in the 20th century; the last was Florida in 1971.
From 1952 to 2007, Puerto Rico had three political parties which stood for three distinct future political scenarios. The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) seeks to maintain the island's "association" status as a commonwealth, improved commonwealth and/or seek a true free sovereign-association status or Free Associated Republic, and has won a plurality vote in referendums on the island's status held over six decades after the island was invaded by the U.S. The New Progressive Party (PNP) seeks statehood. The Puerto Rican Independence Party seeks independence. In 2007, a fourth party, the Puerto Ricans for Puerto Rico Party (PPR), was ratified. The PPR claims that it seeks to address the islands' problems from a status-neutral platform. Non-registered parties include the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, the Socialist Workers Movement, the Hostosian National Independence Movement, and others.
The nature of Puerto Rico's political relationship with the U.S. is the subject of ongoing debate in Puerto Rico, the United States Congress, and the United Nations.
Estado Libre Asociado
In 1950, the U.S. Congress granted Puerto Ricans the right to organize a constitutional convention via a referendum that gave them the option of voting their preference, "yes" or "no", on a proposed U.S. law that would organize Puerto Rico as a "commonwealth" that would suppose continued United States sovereignty over Puerto Rico and its people. Puerto Rico's electorate expressed its support for this measure in 1951 with a second referendum to ratify the constitution. The Constitution of Puerto Rico was formally adopted on July 3, 1952. The Constitutional Convention specified the name by which the body politic would be known. The purpose of Congress in the 1950 and 1952 legislation was to accord to Puerto Rico the degree of autonomy and independence normally associated with a State of the Union.
On February 4, 1952, the convention approved Resolution 22 which chose in English the word "Commonwealth", meaning a "politically organized community" or "state", which is simultaneously connected by a compact or treaty to another political system. The convention adopted a translation into Spanish of the term, inspired by the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) of "Estado Libre Asociado" (ELA) to represent the agreement. Literally translated into English the phrase Estado Libre Asociado means "Associated Free State."
While the approval of the commonwealth constitution marked a historic change in the civil government for the islands, neither it, nor the public laws approved by Congress in 1950 and 1952, revoked statutory provisions concerning the legal relationship of Puerto Rico to the United States. This relationship is based on the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The statutory provisions that set forth the conditions of the relationship are commonly referred to as the Federal Relations Act (FRA). While specified subsections of the FRA were "adopted in the nature of a compact", other provisions, by comparison, are excluded from the compact reference. Matters still subject to congressional authority and established pursuant to legislation include the citizenship status of residents, tax provisions, civil rights, trade and commerce, public finance, the administration of public lands controlled by the federal government, the application of federal law over navigable waters, congressional representation, and the judicial process, among others.
In 1967, the Puerto Rico's Legislative Assembly polled the political preferences of the Puerto Rican electorate by passing a plebiscite Act that provided for a vote on the status of Puerto Rico. This constituted the first plebiscite by the Legislature for a choice on three status options (commonwealth, statehood, and independence). Claiming "foul play" and dubbing the process as illegitimate and contrary to International Law norms regarding decolonization procedures, the plebiscite was boycotted by the major pro-statehood and pro-independence parties of the time, the [Republican Party of Puerto Rico] and the Puerto Rican Independence Party, respectively. The Commonwealth option, represented by the PDP, won with a majority of 60.4% of the votes. After the plebiscite, efforts in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, to enact legislation to address the status issue died in U.S. Congressional committees. In subsequent plebiscites organized by Puerto Rico held in 1993 and 1998 (without any formal commitment on the part of the U.S. Government to honor the results), the current political status failed to receive majority support (receiving 48.6% in 1993 and less than one percent, 0.3%, in 1998), when the "none of the above option" received the 50.3 % of the votes which was the Popular Democratic Party sponsored choice and was the winner option. Disputes arose as to the definition of each of the ballot alternatives; and Commonwealth advocates, among others, reportedly urged a vote for “none of the above".
Within the United States
Puerto Rico is an "unincorporated territory" of the United States which according to the U.S. Supreme Court's Insular Cases is "a territory appurtenant and belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States." Puerto Rico is subject to the Congress’ plenary powers under the territorial clause of Article IV, sec. 3, of the U.S. Constitution. U.S. federal law applies to Puerto Rico, even though Puerto Rico is not a state of the American Union and has no voting representative in the U.S. Congress. Because of the establishment of the Federal Relations Act of 1950, all federal laws that are "not locally inapplicable" are automatically the law of the land in Puerto Rico. In 1907, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Grafton v. United States, Justice Harlan clarified the meaning of plenary powers: "'The government of a state derives its powers from the people of the state, whereas the government of a territory owes its existence wholly to the United States'. The Court thus seems to equate plenary power to exclusive power. The U.S. government could exert over the territory power that it could not exercise over the state. This power, however, is not absolute, for it is restrained by some then-undefined fundamental rights possessed by anyone subject to the authority of the U.S. government." 
Since 1917, people born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens. However, federal electoral law does not grant a vote to any citizen who does not live in, or qualify as an absentee resident in, one of the fifty states or the District of Columbia. Thus, people who have always lived in Puerto Rico cannot vote in federal elections, but people born in Puerto Rico and living in a state or in DC can vote. See also: Voting rights in Puerto Rico
Under the Constitution of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico is described as a Commonwealth and Puerto Ricans have a degree of administrative autonomy similar to citizens of a U.S. state. Puerto Ricans "were collectively made U.S. citizens" in 1917 as a result of the Jones-Shafroth Act. The act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on 2 March 1917. U.S. Federal law 8 U.S.C. § 1402, approved by President Harry S. Truman on 27 June 1952, declared all persons born in Puerto Rico on or after 13 January 1941 to be U.S. citizens at birth and all persons born in Puerto Rico between 11 April 1899 and 12 January 1941, and meeting certain other technical requirements, and not citizens of the United States under any other Act, are declared to be citizens of the U.S. as of 13 January 1941.
In addition, an April 2000 report by the Congressional Research Service, asserts that citizens born in Puerto Rico are legally defined as natural born citizens and are therefore eligible to be elected President, provided they meet qualifications of age and 14 years residence within the United States. According to this report, residence in Puerto Rico and U.S. territories and possessions does not qualify as residence within the United States for these purposes.
Since Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory (see above) and not a U.S. state, the United States Constitution does not fully enfranchise US citizens residing in Puerto Rico.
Only the "fundamental rights" under the federal constitution apply to Puerto Rico, including the Privileges and Immunities Clause (U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 2, Clause 1, also known as the 'Comity Clause') that prevents a state from treating citizens of other states in a discriminatory manner, with regard to basic civil rights. The clause also embraces a right to travel, so that a citizen of one state can have privileges and immunities in any other state; this constitutional clause regarding the rights, privileges, and immunities of citizens of the United States was expressly extended to Puerto Rico by the U.S. Congress through the federal law 48 U.S.C. § 737 and signed by President Truman in 1947.
Other fundamental rights such as the due process clause and the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment were expressly extended to Puerto Rico by the U.S. Supreme court. In a brief concurrence in the judgment of Torres v. Puerto Rico, 442 U.S. 465 (1979), Supreme Court Justice Brennan argued that any implicit limits from the Insular Cases on the basic rights granted by the Constitution (including especially the Bill of Rights) were anachronistic in the 1970s.
Article Three of the United States Constitution establishes the judicial branch of the federal government. This article was expressly extended to the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico by the U.S. Congress through Federal Law 89-571, 80 Stat. 764, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966. After that date, judges appointed to the Puerto Rico federal district court have been Article III judges appointed under the Constitution of the United States. In addition in 1984 one of the judges of the federal district court, Chief Judge Juan R. Torruella, a native of the island, was appointed to serve in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit with jurisdiction over Puerto Rico, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire.
Federal executive branch agencies have significant presence in Puerto Rico, just as in any state, such as the U.S. Attorney, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security, National Labor Relations Board, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Safety Authority, Environmental Protection Agency, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Internal Revenue Service, and Social Security Administration. The island’s economic, commercial, and banking systems are integrated to those of the United States.
President George H. W. Bush issued a 30 November 1992 memorandum to heads of executive departments and agencies establishing the current administrative relationship between the federal government and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This memorandum directs all federal departments, agencies, and officials to treat Puerto Rico administratively as if it were a state, insofar as doing so would not disrupt federal programs or operations.
Puerto Rico does participate in the internal political process of both the Democratic and Republican parties in the U.S., accorded equal-proportional representation in both parties, and delegates from the islands vote in each party's national convention.
The U.S. Government classifies Puerto Rico as an independent taxation authority by Federal Law 48 U.S.C. § 734. Puerto Rico residents are required to pay U.S. federal taxes, import/export taxes, federal commodity taxes, social security taxes etc. The only exemption is federal income taxes since residents pay federal payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare), as well as Commonwealth of Puerto Rico income taxes. All federal employees, plus those who do business with the federal government, in addition to Puerto Rico-based corporations that intend to send funds to the U.S., and some others also pay federal income taxes.
Because residents of Puerto Rico pay into Social Security, they are eligible for Social Security benefits upon retirement, but are excluded from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and the island actually receives less than 15% of the Medicaid funding it would normally receive if it were a U.S. state. Yet Medicare providers receive less-than-full state-like reimbursements for services rendered to beneficiaries in Puerto Rico, even though the latter paid fully into the system.
Since 1961 several Puerto Ricans have been appointed by the President, upon the advice and consent of the Senate to serve as United States Ambassadors to Venezuela, Spain, Costa Rica, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and the Republics of Mauritius and Seychelles. A Puerto Rican was also appointed by President Obama as ambassador to El Salvador, pending the advice and consent of the United States Senate. This evinces the extreme trust the President and Congress have placed upon these individuals, who serve the vital function of acting as the representative of the United States in foreign nations. As embassies fall within the Department of State, ambassadors answer to the Secretary of State.
First Company of native Puerto Ricans enlisted in the American Colonial Army, 1899.
Puerto Ricans may enlist in the U.S. military. Since 1917 Puerto Ricans have been included in the compulsory draft whenever it has been in effect and more than 400,000 Puerto Ricans have served in the United States Armed Forces. Puerto Ricans have participated in all U.S. wars since 1898, most notably World War I, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as the current Middle Eastern conflicts. Several Puerto Ricans became notable commanders, five have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration in the United States, and several Puerto Ricans have attained the rank of General or Admiral, which requires a Presidential nomination and Senate confirmation, as is the case of judges and ambassadors. In World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War Puerto Ricans were the most decorated Hispanic soldiers and in some cases were the first to die in combat.
On November 27, 1953, shortly after the establishment of the Commonwealth, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved Resolution 748, removing Puerto Rico's classification as a non-self-governing territory under article 73(e) of the Charter from UN. But the General Assembly did not apply its full list of criteria to Puerto Rico to determine if it has achieved self-governing status. According to the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico's Political Status in its December 21, 2007 report, the U.S., in its written submission to the UN in 1953, never represented that Congress could not change its relationship with Puerto Rico without the territory's consent. It stated that the U.S. Justice Department in 1959 reiterated that Congress held power over Puerto Rico pursuant to the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In 1993, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit stated that Congress may unilaterally repeal the Puerto Rican Constitution or the Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act and replace them with any rules or regulations of its choice. In a 1996 report on a Puerto Rico status political bill, the "U.S. House Committee on Resources stated that PR's current status does not meet the criteria for any of the options for full self-government". It concluded that PR is still an unincorporated territory of the U.S. under the territorial clause, that the establishment of local self-government with the consent of the people can be unilaterally revoked by the U.S. Congress, and that U.S. Congress can also withdraw the U.S. citizenship of PR residents of PR at any time, for a legitimate Federal purpose. The application of the U.S. Constitution to Puerto Rico is limited by the Insular Cases.
In 2005 and 2007, two reports were issued by the U.S. President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status. Both reports conclude that Puerto Rico continues to be a territory of U.S. under the plenary powers of the U.S. Congress. Reactions from Puerto Rico's two major political parties were mixed. The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) challenged the task force's report and committed to validating the current status in all international forums, including the United Nations. It also rejects any "colonial or territorial status" as a status option, and vows to keep working for the enhanced Commonwealth status that was approved by the PPD in 1998 which included sovereignty, an association based on "respect and dignity between both nations", and common citizenship. The New Progressive Party (PNP) supported the White House Report's conclusions and supported bills to provide for a democratic referendum process among Puerto Rico voters.
According to a CRS report, the recent activity regarding Puerto Rico’s political status—in Congress and on the island—suggests that action may be taken in the 111th Congress. The reports issued in 2007 and 2005 by the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status may be the basis for reconsideration of the existing commonwealth status, as legislative developments during the 109th and 110th Congresses suggested. Agreement on the process to be used in considering the status proposals has been as elusive as agreement on the end result. Congress would have a determinative role in any resolution of the issue. The four options that appear to be most frequently discussed include continuation of the commonwealth, modification of the current commonwealth agreement, statehood, or independence. If independence, or separate national sovereignty, were selected, Puerto Rican officials might seek to negotiate a compact of free association with the United States.
On June 15, 2009, the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization approved a draft resolution calling on the Government of the United States to expedite a process that would allow the Puerto Rican people to exercise fully their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.
On April 29, 2010, the U.S. Congress voted 223–169 to approve a measure for a federal sanctioned process for Puerto Rico's self determination allowing Puerto Rico to set a new referendum on whether to continue its present form of commonwealth political status or should have a different political status. If Puerto Ricans vote to continue to have its present form of political status the Government of Puerto Rico is authorized to conduct additional plebiscites at intervals of every 8 years from the date that the results of the prior plebiscite are certified; If Puerto Ricans vote to have a different political status to the territory, a second referendum would determine whether it becomes a U.S. state, an independent country, or a sovereign nation associated with the U.S. that will not be subject to the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution. During the House debate, a fourth option to retain its present form of commonwealth (status quo) political status was added as an option in the second plebiscite.
Immediately following U.S. House of the U.S. Congress passage, H.R. 2499 was sent to the U.S. Senate, where it was given two formal readings and referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
A Senate hearing was held on May 19, 2010 for the purpose of gathering testimony on the bill. Among those offering testimony was Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi; Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño; President of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico, Héctor Ferrer; and President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, Rubén Berríos.
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 and is connected to the main island by bridges.
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has an area of 13,790 square kilometers (5,320 sq mi), of which 8,870 km2 (3,420 sq mi) is land and 4,921 km2 (1,900 sq mi) is water. The maximum length of the main island from east to west is 180 km (110 mi), and the maximum width from north to south is 65 km (40 mi). Puerto Rico is the smallest of the Greater Antilles. It is 80% of the size of Jamaica, just over 18% of the size of Hispaniola and 8% of the size of Cuba, the largest of the Greater Antilles.
Puerto Rico 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 1,339 meters (4,393 ft), 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 1,065 m (3,494 ft).
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 northern regions.
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.
The Puerto Rico Trench, the largest and deepest trench in the Atlantic, is located about 115 km (71 mi) north of Puerto Rico at the boundary between the Caribbean and North American plates. It is 280 km (170 mi) long. At its deepest point, named the Milwaukee Deep, it is almost 8,400 m (27,600 ft) deep, or about 5.2 miles. The island experiences frequent tremors and is an area of concern for major earthquakes.
Located in the tropics, Puerto Rico has an average temperature of 82.4 °F (28 °C) throughout the year. Temperatures do not change drastically throughout the seasons. The temperature in the south is usually a few degrees higher than the north and temperatures in the central interior mountains are always cooler than the rest of the island. The Hurricane season spans from June to November. The all-time low in Puerto Rico has been 39 °F (4 °C), registered in Aibonito.
Species endemic to the archipelago are 239 plants, 16 birds and 39 amphibians/reptiles, recognized as of 1998. Most of these (234, 12 and 33 respectively) are found on the main island. The most recognizable endemic species and a symbol of Puerto Rican pride is the Coquí, a small frog easily identified by the sound of its call, and from which it gets its name. Most Coquí species (13 of 17) live in the El Yunque National Forest, a tropical rainforest in the northeast of the island previously known as the Caribbean National Forest. El Yunque is home to more than 240 plants, 26 of which are endemic to the island. It is also home to 50 bird species, including the critically endangered Puerto Rican Amazon. Across the island in the southwest, the 40 km2 (15 sq mi) of dry land at the Guánica Commonwealth Forest Reserve contain over 600 uncommon species of plants and animals, including 48 endangered species and 16 endemic to Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico's municipalities
As an unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rico does not have any first order administrative divisions as defined by the U.S. Government, but there are 78 municipalities at the secondary level which function as counties. Municipalities are further subdivided into barrios, and those into sectors. Each municipality has a mayor and a municipal legislature elected for four year terms.
The first municipality (previously called "town") of Puerto Rico, San Juan, was founded in 1521. In the 16th century two more municipalities were established, Coamo (1570) and San Germán (1570). Three more municipalities were established in the 17th century. These were Arecibo (1614), Aguada (1692) and Ponce (1692). The 18th and 19th century saw an increase in settlement in Puerto Rico with 30 municipalities being established in the 18th century and 34 more in the 19th century. Only six municipalities were founded in the 20th century with the last, Florida, being founded in 1971.
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 Bank.
Economic conditions have improved dramatically since the Great Depression because of 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 Rico.
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. Nevertheless, Puerto Rico's GDP per capita compares favorably to other independent Caribbean nations, and is one of the highest in North America.
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, Luis Fortuño enacted several measures aimed at eliminating the government's $3.3 billion deficit, including laying off nearly 24,000 government employees. Puerto Rico's unemployment rate was 15.9 percent in January 2010. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some analysts said they expect the government's layoffs to propel that rate to 17 percent.
 Population and racial makeup
Royal Decree of Graces, 1815.
During the 1800s hundreds of Corsican, French, Lebanese, Chinese, and Portuguese families arrived in Puerto Rico, along with large numbers of immigrants from Spain (mainly from Catalonia, Asturias, Galicia, the Balearic Islands, Andalusia, and the Canary Islands) and numerous Spanish loyalists from Spain's former colonies in South America. Other settlers included Irish, Scots, Germans, Italians and thousands others who were granted land by Spain during the Real Cedula de Gracias de 1815 ("Royal Decree of Graces of 1815"), which allowed European Catholics to settle in the island with land allotments in the interior of the island, provided they agreed to pay taxes and continue to support the Catholic church.
Continuous European immigration during the 19th century helped the population grow from 155,000 in 1800 to almost a million at the close of the century. A census conducted by royal decree on September 30, 1858, gives the following totals of the Puerto Rican population at this time: 300,430 identified as Whites; 341,015 as Free colored; and 41,736 as Slaves.
As a result of European immigration to the Island during the 1800s which continues to this date, the racial demographics became and continue to be majority White with smaller minorities of "Black", "Mixed Race" and "Asian".
Population density, Census 2000.
Recently, Puerto Rico has become the permanent home of over 100,000 legal residents who immigrated from not only Spain, but from Latin America: Argentines, Cubans, Dominicans, Colombians and Venezuelans. Emigration has been a major part of Puerto Rico's recent history. Starting soon after World War II, poverty, cheap airfare and promotion by the island government caused waves of Puerto Ricans to move to the United States, particularly to New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Florida. This trend continued even as Puerto Rico's economy improved and its birth rate declined.
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 at the university level.
The Spanish of Puerto Rico has evolved into having many idiosyncrasies in vocabulary and syntax which differentiate it from the Spanish spoken in other Spanish-speaking countries. While the Spanish spoken in all Iberian, Mediterranan and Atlantic Spanish Maritime Provinces was brought to the island over the centuries, the most profound regional impact on the Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico has been from the Spanish spoken in present day Canary Islands.
As a result of the natural inclusion of indigenous vocabulary in all New World former European colonies (English, French, Spanish, Dutch, etc.), the Spanish of Puerto Rico also includes occasional "Taino" words, which are typically in the context of vegetation, natural phenomenon or primitive musical instruments. Similarly, African-attributed words exist within the contexts of foods, music or dances developed in coastal towns with concentrations of descendants of former Sub-Saharan slaves.
Since the acquistion of the Island by the USA from Spain in 1898, the linguistic impression of American English increasingly leaves its linguistic impact on the island in all aspects of social, commercial and educational exchange.
According to a study by the University of Puerto Rico, nine of every ten Puerto Ricans residing in Puerto Rico do not speak English at the advanced level  and according to a brief report of the U.S. Census 2000, seven of every ten Puerto Ricans residing in Puerto Rico does not speak English at advanced levels of fluency, while possessing familiar levels of English vocabulary in the written medium.
The Roman Catholic Church has historically been the dominant religion in Puerto Rico. The first dioceses in the Americas was erected in Puerto Rico 500 years ago, in 1511. All municipalities in Puerto Rico have at least one Catholic church (building), most of which are located at the town center or "plaza".
Protestantism which was strongly discouraged during the 400 years of Spanish colonial and provincial rule, has seen a growing trend as a result of the American United Council of Churches exerting strategic grass roots efforts throughout the island with vary degrees of success through missionary conversion expansion primarily among remote rural areas. A minor resurgence of indigenous Taíno religious practices have begun to get minimal attention usually at cultural festivals and folkloric historical events. Similarly, some Sub-Saharan African-attributed religious practices continue to be present among the island's Black communities since the introduction of Sub-Saharan slavery in the mid 1500s. While assuredly a small minority, these "African" traditions can be seen among sporadic geographic communities with slavery historical contexts, similar to Mainland USA "African-American" cultural contexts in the South. In particular, the Yoruba beliefs of Santeria and/or Ifá, and the Kongo-derived Palo Mayombe find adherence among a few individuals who practice some form of African traditional religion.
In 2007, Islamic proponents claimed to have approximately 5,000 followers within the context of over 5 million in Puerto Rico, representing less than .1% of the overall general population. Today, there are eight small Islamic mosques scattered throughout the island, with most Muslims living in metropolitan Rio Piedras. Puerto Rico is also home to the largest, most successful and richest Jewish community in the Caribbean with over 3,000 Jewish inhabitants. Puerto Rico is the only Caribbean island in which the Conservative, Reform and Orthodox Jewish movements are represented. This community increases as Mainland American communities continue to expand on the Island
Kapok tree (Ceiba
), the national tree of Puerto Rico
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. 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 the adoption of some holidays and practices. On March 12, 1903, University of Puerto Rico was officially founded, branching out from the "Escuela Normal Industrial", a smaller organism that was founded in Fajardo three years before.
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 local and traditional rhythms. 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 small frog genus. Other popular symbols of Puerto Rico are the "jíbaro", the "countryman", and the carite.
Baseball was one of the first sports to gain widespread popularity in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Baseball League serves as the only active professional league, operating as a winter league. No Major League Baseball franchise or affiliate plays in Puerto Rico, however, San Juan hosted the Montreal Expos for several series in 2003 and 2004 before they moved to Washington, D.C. and became the Washington Nationals. The Puerto Rico national baseball team has participated in the World Cup of Baseball winning one gold (1951), four silver and four bronze medals and the Caribbean Series, winning fourteen times. Famous Puerto Rican baseball players include Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda, enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 and 1999, respectively.
Boxing, basketball, and volleyball are considered popular sports as well. Wilfredo Gómez and McWilliams Arroyo have won their respective divisions at the World Amateur Boxing Championships. Other medalists include José Pedraza, who holds a silver medal, as well as three boxers that finished in third place, José Luis Vellón, Nelson Dieppa and McJoe Arroyo. In the professional circuit, Puerto Rico has the third-most boxing world champions and its the global leader in champions per capita. These include Miguel Cotto, Félix Trinidad, Wilfred Benítez and Gómez among others. The Puerto Rico national basketball team joined the International Basketball Federation in 1957. Since then, it has won more than 30 medals in international competitions, including gold in three FIBA Americas Championships and the 1994 Goodwill Games. August 8, 2004, became a landmark date for the team when it became the first team to defeat the United States in an Olympic tournament since the integration of National Basketball Association players. Winning the inaugural game with scores of 92-73 as part of the 2004 Summer Olympics organized in Athens, Greece.
Miscellaneous practices of this sport have experienced some success, including the "Puerto Rico All Stars" team, which has won twelve world championships in unicycle basketball. Organized Streetball has gathered some exposition, with teams like "Puerto Rico Street Ball" competing against established organizations including the Capitanes de Arecibo and AND1's Mixtape Tour Team. Consequently, practitioners of this style have earned participation in international teams, including Orlando "El Gato" Meléndez, who became the first Puerto Rican born athlete to play for the Harlem Globetrotters. Orlando Antigua, whose mother is Puerto Rican, made history in 1995, when he became the first Hispanic and the first non-black in 52 years to play for the Harlem Globetrotters.
The Puerto Rico Islanders Football Club, founded in 2003, plays in the United Soccer Leagues First Division, which constitutes the second tier of football in North America. Puerto Rico is also a member of FIFA and CONCACAF. In 2008 the archipelago's first unified league, the Puerto Rico Soccer League, was established. Secondary sports include Professional wrestling and road running. The World Wrestling Council and International Wrestling Association are the largest wrestling promotions in the main island. The World's Best 10K, held annually in San Juan, has been ranked among the 20 most competitive races globally.
Puerto Rico has representation in all international competitions including the Summer and Winter Olympics, the Pan American Games, the Caribbean World Series, and the Central American and Caribbean Games. Puerto Rican athletes have won 6 medals (1 silver, 5 bronze) in Olympic competition, the first one in 1948 by boxer Juan Evangelista Venegas. On March 2006 San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium hosted the opening round as well as the second round of the newly formed World Baseball Classic. The Central American and Caribbean Games were held in 1993 in Ponce and will be held in 2010 in Mayagüez.
Education in Puerto Rico is divided in three levels — Primary (elementary school grades 1-6), Secondary (intermediate and high school grades 7-12), and Higher Level (undergraduate and graduate studies). As of 2002, the literacy rate of the Puerto Rican population was 94.1%; by gender, it was 93.9% for males and 94.4% for females. According to the 2000 Census, 60.0% of the population attained a high school degree or higher level of education, and 18.3% has a bachelor's degree or higher.
Instruction at the primary school level is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 18 and is enforced by the state. The Constitution of Puerto Rico grants the right to an education to every citizen on the island. To this end, public schools in Puerto Rico provide free and non-sectarian education at the elementary and secondary levels. At any of the three levels, students may attend either public or private schools. As of 1999, there were 1532 public schools and 569 private schools in the island.
The largest and oldest university system in Puerto Rico is the public University of Puerto Rico (UPR) with 11 campuses. The largest private university systems on the island are the Sistema Universitario Ana G. Mendez which operates the Universidad del Turabo, Metropolitan University and Universidad del Este, the multi-campus Inter American University, the Pontifical Catholic University, and the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. Puerto Rico has four schools of Medicine and four Law Schools.
Tren Urbano at Bayamón Station
Cities and towns in Puerto Rico are interconnected by a system of roads, freeways, expressways, and highways maintained by the Highways and Transportation Authority under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and patrolled by the Police of Puerto Rico. The island's metropolitan area is served by a public bus transit system and a metro system called Tren Urbano (in English: Urban Train). Other forms of public transportation include seaborne ferries (that serve Puerto Rico's archipelago) as well as Carros Públicos (private mini buses).
The island has three international airports, the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Carolina, Mercedita Airport in Ponce, and the Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla, and 27 local airports. The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is the largest aerial transportation hub in the Caribbean, and one of the largest in the world in terms of passenger and cargo movement.
Puerto Rico has 9 ports in different cities across the main island. The San Juan Port is the largest in Puerto Rico, and the busiest port in the Caribbean and the 10th busiest in the United States in terms of commercial activity and cargo movement, respectively. The second largest port is the Port of the Americas in Ponce currently under expansion to increase cargo capacity to 1.5 million 20 ft. containers (TEUs) per year.