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LEARN ABOUT THE ISLAND
• Video: About Puerto Rico
• Facts and Figures
• A Brief History
• A Quick Look

Location

  • Located East of the Island of Hispaniola, home of the Dominican Republic and Haiti
  • 1,050 miles SE of Miami; 2,600 miles from Kansas City
  • Much closer to the "lower 48 states" than Hawaii (2,750 miles from California) or Alaska (2,000 miles to Seattle)
  • West of the American Virgin Islands. It is the smallest of the Greater Antilles

Puerto Rico - The Island

  • Similar in size to Connecticut, encompassing 3,492 square miles
  • Population: 3.8 million. As a state it would be considered mid-sized by population measure (similar to Kentucky or Arizona)
  • Capital City, San Juan, population of almost 500,000; its metropolitan area; 1,500,000
  • Puerto Rico has 6 urban centers designated as Standard Metropolitan Areas (SMAs) by the U.S. Census Bureau. They include San Juan; Ponce; Arecibo, Mayaquez; Caguas, and Aguadilla
  • Temperature average: 75F in winter; 81F in summer

Citizenship

  • Puerto Ricans were given statutory citizenship in 1917 (this means that Puerto Ricans were granted citizenship by act of Congress, NOT by the Constitution and citizenship is therefore not guaranteed by it)
  • Puerto Ricans cannot vote for President and have no voting representation in Congress
  • Island residents are recipients of some, but not all federal benefits. Unlike the states they have a cap on Food Stamps and other welfare programs. They participate (and pay into) Social Security
  • Puerto Rico is exempt from paying federal income taxes

Language

  • Beginning as a Spanish colony, the basic language of Puerto Rico is Spanish
  • English and Spanish have been the official languages since 1902
  • 85% of Post-Secondary school students speak both English and Spanish
  • Federal Courts and government agencies in Puerto Rico function in English
  • Local government affairs are conducted in both languages
  • English is the language of commerce

Society

  • Socially a mixed society of Spanish and Caribbean customs, strongly influenced by U.S. mainland interaction and integration
  • Spain ruled Puerto Rico for over 400 years and built it as a keystone of its transportation system for its New World empire bringing a strong Spanish and European heritage to the island
  • Religion: 99% Christian, predominantly Roman Catholic, with a small Jewish Community
Ballerina dancers perform in San Juan

Culture

  • Puerto Rico has a rich cultural life in the various performing arts of dance, music and theater
  • Its museums of art and history are world class
  • It has contributed many famous artists to the United States; Actors Rita Moreno, Raul Julia, Jimmy Smits and Jose Ferrer; singers Jose Feliciano and opera baritone Pablo Elvira, just to name a few

Education

  • One of the world’s highest post-secondary student enrollments in 29 private and 6 public institutions of higher education - higher than in any state of the United States
  • Some of Puerto Rico’s institutions of higher education include the large University of Puerto Rico system, and private schools such as the Interamerican University (with one of the highest student enrollments of any private institution under the U.S. flag), Catholic University, and the Ana G. Mendez University System

The Democratic Process

  • Puerto Rico elects it public officials every four years, coinciding with our U.S. presidential elections
  • Local public offices include: Governor, Resident Commissioner, Senators and Representatives in the Puerto Rican legislature; and local government "municipio" mayors and municipal assemblymen
  • Over 80% of the islands’ eligible voters participated in recent elections
  • Voter participation is higher than any state of the Union

 

A Puerto Rican submitting her vote.

Politics

  • Political parties are organized along lines of preference related to the island’s political status
  • The main parties are the New Progressive Party (PNP) that advocates U.S statehood; the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) that advocates the current or similar "commonwealth" status; and the Independence Party (PIP) that prefers that Puerto Rico become an independent nation
  • The Statehood (PNP) Party and Commonwealth (PDP) Party have alternated control of the Puerto Rico government since 1968 and are the two dominant parties
  • The Independence Party (PIP) has never won any significant control of government and polled only 5.2% of the vote in 2000
  • Many members of these local parties are also affiliated with stateside Democratic and Republican Parties
  • The most recent pro-statehood Governor, Pedro Rossello, was re-elected to his second 4-year term with 51.8% of the vote, the first time a governor has received a majority since 1968. He retired from office after his term ended in January 2001
  • A third status plebiscite was held in 1998. 53% of voters selected the "none of the above" option, 46.5% voted for statehood, 2.5% for independence, .3% for free association, and .1% for Commonwealth
  • In November 2000, the current governor, Sila Calderon, was elected, representing the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party (PDP). She is the first woman to be elected governor of Puerto Rico

Economy

  • Puerto Rico’s currency is the U.S. Dollar
  • Gross Domestic Product of Puerto Rico in 2001 was $67.9 billion
  • Manufacturing is the largest economic sector (41.5%); followed by Services (38.2%) and Government (10.4%)

Defense of the United States

  • Puerto Ricans have served in the U.S. armed forces since 1917
  • Over 200,000 have fought in U.S. wars since WWI
  • More than 2,000 Puerto Ricans have died in service to our country in World Wars I and II; the Korean War; the Vietnam War and the Gulf War
  • Four Puerto Ricans have won the Medal of Honor

Trade

  • Total exports for Puerto Rico exceeded $46 billion in 2001
  • Puerto Rico serves as one of the leading markets for U.S. mainland goods in the world, importing $15.5 billion in 2001

 

View of the Condado Oceanfront

Transport

  • San Juan is one of the world’s 10 busiest container ports
  • Its harbor is one of the world’s largest cruise ship ports
  • Munoz Marin International Airport is among the top 33 U.S. passenger airports and is 22nd in cargo imports

Tourism

  • Tourism remains a major part of Puerto Rico’s economy, with 1.25 million hotel registrants in 2001
  • Its beaches and resorts are World Class
  • El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the United States
  • El Morro Fortress in Old San Juan is one of the best examples of its kind in the world
  • Old San Juan is a walled city that has been designated by the U.S. National Park Service as a historical site
  • The world’s largest radio telescope is located near Arecibo

 

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Tennessee and the Long, Hard Road to Statehood
By David Gorgani

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