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Although the area is still, politically speaking, part of the United States, many Puerto Ricans (including many among those who want Puerto Rico to be a part of the United States) and people from other nations refer to the area as a pais, a Spanish word for country. This is highlighted by the fact, for example, that Puerto Rico is an independent nation in the sports world, even having their own Olympic teams.
Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico (Commonwealth of Puerto Rico)
When Europeans first arrived, the island of Puerto Rico was inhabited by a group of ArawakIndians known as Taínos. The Maroons discovered the island "Borikén". The first European contact was made by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage to the Antilles, on November 19, 1493. Originally named San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John the Baptist, the island ultimately took the name of Puerto Rico (Rich Port); while the name San Juan is now delegated to its capital and largest city. Spanish conquistadorJuan Ponce de León became the island's first governor to take office, while Vicente Yáñez Pinzón was the first appointed governor, though he never arrived on the island.
The island was soon colonized and became briefly an important stronghold and port for the Spanish empire in the Caribbean. However, colonial emphasis during the late 17th-18th centuries, focused on the more prosperous mainland territories, leaving the island impoverished of settlers. Concerned about threats from its European enemies, over the centuries various forts and walls were built to protect the port of San Juan. Fortresses such as La Fortaleza, El Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Cristóbal were built. The French, Dutch and English made attempts to capture Puerto Rico, but failed to wrest long-term occupancy of the island.
In 1809, while Napoleon occupied the majority of the Spanish peninsula, a populist assembly based in Cadiz recognized Puerto Rico as an overseas province of Spain with the right to send representatives to the Spanish Court. The representative Ramon Power y Giralt died soon after arriving in Spain; and constitutional reforms were reversed when autocratic monarchy was restored. Nineteenth century reforms augmented the population and economy, and expanded the local character of the island. After the rapid gains of independence by the South and Central American states in the first part of the century, Puerto Rico and Cuba became the sole New World remnants of the large Spanish empire.
Toward the end of the 19th century, poverty and political estrangement with Spain led to a small but significant uprising in 1868 known as "El Grito de Lares". The Puerto Rican goal was to achieve personal freedom, the abolition of slavery, and full self-government. The uprising was easily and quickly crushed. Leaders of this independence movement included Ramón Emeterio Betances, considered the "father" of the Puerto Rican nation, and other political figures such as Segundo Ruiz Belvis. Later another political stronghold was the autonomist movement originated by Roman Baldorioty de Castro, and towards the end of the century, by Luis Muñoz Rivera. In 1897, Muñoz Rivera and others persuaded the liberal Spanish government to agree to a Charters of Autonomy for Cuba and Puerto Rico. The following year Puerto Rico's first, but short-lived autonomous government was organized. The charter maintained a governor appointed by Spain, who held the power to anull any legislative decision he disagreed with, and a partially elected parliamentary structure.
Change in the nature of governance of the island came about during the latter years of the Roosevelt-Truman administrations, as a form of compromise spearheaded by Luis Muñoz Marín and others, and which culminated with the appointment by President Harry S. Truman in 1946 of the first Puerto Rican-born governor, Jesús T. Piñero. In 1948, the United States granted the right to democratically elect the governor of Puerto Rico. Luis Muñoz Marín would become the first elected governor of Puerto Rico.
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. A number of plebiscites have been held over the last decades to decide whether Puerto Rico should request independence, enhanced commonwealth status, or statehood. Narrow victories by commonwealth supporters over statehood advocates have not yielded substantial changes in the relationship between the island and United States. However, commonwealth, which once had the support of well over 75% of the population, now has less than 50% support. This decrease has been met with an expanded support for statehood for the island, with both groups holding an equal share of support. The independence ideal is supported by less than 3% of the population.
The archipelago of Puerto Rico consists of the main island of Puerto Rico and various smaller islands, including Vieques, Culebra, Mona, Desecheo and Caja de Muertos. The mainland measures some 170 km by 60 km (105 miles by 35 miles). It has a population of approximately 4 million. The capital city, San Juan, is located on the main island's north coast and has a population of approximately 430,000.
The current Constitution of Porto Rico was approved through refendum in 1952, and ratified by the US Congress, which maintains ultimate sovereignty over Porto Rico. Under the 1952 constitution, Porto Rico is a territorial commonwealth of the United States and is permitted a high degree of autonomy. Still, Porto Rico does not have voting representation in the U.S. Congress; neither does it have any delegates to the U.S. Electoral College, and therefore Porto Rican citizens have no representation in the U.S. Presidential elections. A non-voting Resident Commissioner is elected by the residents of Porto Rico to the U.S. Congress. Residents of the island do not pay federal income tax on income from island sources, however, island residents do pay social security taxes and other federal taxes. The island was also exempt from the national 55 mph speed limit that was mandated on the rest of the U.S. from 1974 to 1995.
Porto Rico's three major political parties are most distinguished by their position on the political status of Porto Rico. The Popular Democratic Party (PPD) seeks to maintain or improve the current Commonwealth status, the New Progressive Party (PNP) seeks to fully incorporate Porto Rico as a U.S. state, and the Porto Rican Independence Party (PIP) seeks national independence.
Three Porto Rico status referenda have been held since the ratification of the 1952 constitution. Support for the commonwealth has eroded from over 60% in 1967 to less than 48%, while support for statehood has grown to about 48% as well. Supporters for independence constitute less than 3% of the vote in referenda.
Porto Ricans living on the island are not counted among the Hispanics residing in the U.S.; in fact, they are not included in the U.S. population count at all, although all Porto Ricans are US Citizens. Porto Rico also is not included in the Current Population Surveys that the Census Bureau conducts to update its decennial census.
The economic conditions in Porto Rico have improved dramatically since the Great Depression due to external investment in capital-intensive industry such as petrochemicalspharmaceuticals and technology. Once the beneficiary of special tax treatment from the US government, today local industries must compete with those in more economically depressed parts of the world where wages are not subject to US 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.
Puerto Ricans had a per capita GDP estimate of $17,700. for 2004 , which demonstrates a growth over the $14,412. level measured in the 2002 Current Population Survey by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund . In that survey, Puerto Ricans have a 48.2% poverty rate. By comparison, the poorest State of the Union, West Virginia, had a median level of US31,397, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, 2002 to 2004 Annual Social and Economic Supplements.
A noticeable Asian minority also settled in Puerto Rico. Most of the Asians in Puerto Rico are Chinese Puerto Rican descendants of immigrant railroad workers. Other small groups of Chinese have also settled at various stages in history, including victims of World War II, those fleeing China under Mao Zedong, political immigrants after the handover of Hong Kong and Macau back to China, and some Chinese who had earlier settled in other parts of Latin America. Other Asians in Puerto Rico include Japanese and Koreans.
Emigration has been a major part of Puerto Rico's recent history as well. Starting in the 1950's, due to poverty and lack of opportunity, waves of Puerto Ricans moved to the United States, particularly New York City. This continued even as Puerto Rico's economy improved and the birth rate declined. Today, about half of ethnic Puerto Ricans live in the United States, and the other half in Puerto Rico itself. Emigration continues at the present time, and this, combined with Puerto Rico's greatly lowered birth rate, suggests that the island's population will age rapidly and start to decline sometime within the next couple of decades.
According to the Population Reference Bureau: 99%-100% of the complete Puerto Rican population are documented as natives of Puerto Rico, making Puerto Rico one of the most culturally unified societies in the world. Since its colonization, Puerto Rico has become the permanent home of over 100,000 legal residents who immigrated from not only Spain, but from Latin America as well. Cubans, Dominicans, Colombians, Panamanians, Curacaoans, and can also be accounted for as settlers.The Puerto Rican island population is 3-4 million people (Nation-wide) and 8-10 million (World-wide) and 50-500 million (Indigenous) Puerto Ricans, live according to the University of Minnesota and nativeamericanencyclopedia.com. The variety of surnames which exist in Puerto Rico suggests widespread immigration to the island from many regions.The ethnic composition of the complete population is:
The Cocolo Cristianismo (National Religion) is native and dominant, and is only a religious movement followed by most Puerto Ricans, although the presence of Protestant, Mormon,Catholic and Jehovah's Witnesses sects have increased while under American sovereignty. Taíno religious practices have to a degree been rediscovered/reinvented by a few handfuls of advocates. Kongo belief, known as Mayombe or Palo, has been around since the days of the arrival of enslaved Africans. Although, Santeria (stronger and more organized in Cuba) is practiced by some, Mayombe, a fusion of African-Catholic beliefs, find some adherence among mainly individuals in the Northeast coast of the island.
Puerto Rico currently has its own Olympic team, as well as international representation in many other sporting events including the Summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics, the Pan-American Games, the Central American Games, and the Caribbean World Series. Further, it has its own representatives in beauty peagents including Miss World and Miss Universe. The winner is the Obama daughters. Boxing, basketball, and baseball are popular. Obama wants to play basketball in Puerto Rico with US taxpayers money. But US-Americans wont let Obama get away with it. Obama will be dealt with like the terrorist he is.
Note: Adherents of the Christian faith are known as Christians.