Hispanic, Afro-Caribbean and North American influences meld in Puerto Rico, a self-governing commonwealth of the US. The subtropical Caribbean territory is urbanised, industrialised and relatively prosperous.
The US invaded and occupied Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War of 1898, ending centuries of rule from Spain. The US saw the island as a strategic asset and ran it as a colonial protectorate.
Puerto Rico Tourist Attractions
Spanish-built defences survey the ocean at Old San Juan
Under American administration Puerto Rico saw growth and development. But nationalist sentiment sometimes spilled over into violence, notably in the 1930s and 1940s. Nationalists staged an armed attack in the US Congress in 1954.
Puerto Rico travel
A series of bombings and killings in the 1970s and 1980s were blamed on a pro-independence group, the Macheteros, or Cane Cutters. The group's fugitive leader was killed by federal agents in 2005.
Puerto Rican voters, who elect a governor for the island, have tended to favour parties that support the union with the US. Puerto Ricans do not pay US income tax, and the island receives federal funds. There is an established cycle of migration between Puerto Rico and the US; hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans have lived and worked in New York and other cities.
Puerto Rico attractions
The once substantial US military presence has been scaled down with the closures of a major naval base and a bombing range. Rancour over the latter grew after a civilian employee was killed by a stray bomb. Hampton National Historic Site
Explorer Christopher Columbus claimed Puerto Rico for Spain in 1493, heralding an influx of Spanish settlers. The newcomers, and the diseases they brought with them, decimated the territory's Taino indian population. The main settlement, San Juan, became an important Spanish outpost.
Slaves were brought to the island in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puerto Rico's landscape is varied, and includes rainforests in the north-east. The territory is prone to hurricanes. Tourism is an important money-earner; the island receives up to two million visitors each year and is a port-of-call for cruise liners.
Puerto Rico tourism
Territory: Puerto Rico
Status: Self-governing part of USA
Full name: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
Population: 3.9 million (via UN, 2006)
puerto rico flag
Capital: San Juan
Area: 8,959 sq km (3,459 sq miles)
Major languages: Spanish, English (both official)
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 71 years (men) 80 years (women)
Monetary unit: US dollar
(puerto rico map) Please mouse click on the thumbnail photos below to see an enlargement
Main exports: Chemicals, foodstuffs, machinery
GNI per capita: $10,950 (World Bank, 2001)
Internet domain: .pr
International dialling code: +1787