users online
 
Contact me

PUERTO RICO

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Yunque National Forest

Luquillo

Bioluminescent bay

Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto, 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 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, which means "Land of the Valiant Lord". 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.

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 Íñigo Abbad y Lasierra in 1786, almost three 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 region of the Orinoco river, in northern South America. 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.

Soon thereafter, The Spanish began to colonize the island. The indigenous population 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. For example, the smallpox outbreak in 1518–1519 wiped out much of the Island's indigenous population. In 1520, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor issued a royal decree that collectively emancipated the remaining Taíno population. Essentially, the Taíno presence while not completely extinct had almost vanished.

The importation of Sub-Saharan African slaves was introduced to provide the new 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.

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.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 and Atlantic maritime Spanish provinces.

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. Puerto Rico today still receives Spanish and European immigration.
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.
In 1890, Captain Alfred Thayler Mahan, a member of the Navy War Board and leading U.S. strategic thinker, wrote a book titled The Influence of Sea Power upon History in which he argued for the creation of a large and powerful navy modeled after the British Royal Navy. Part of his strategy called for the acquisition of colonies in the Caribbean Sea which would serve as coaling and naval stations and which would serve as strategical points of defense upon the construction of a canal in the Isthmus.

This idea was not new, since William H. Seward, the former Secretary of State under the administrations of various presidents, among them Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, had stressed that a canal be built either in Honduras, Nicaragua or Panama and that the United States annex the Dominican Republic and purchase Puerto Rico and Cuba. The idea of annexing the Dominican Republic failed to receive the approval of the U.S. Senate and Spain did not accept the 160 million dollars which the U.S. offered for Puerto Rico and Cuba.
Since 1894, the Naval War College had been formulating contingency plans for a war with Spain. By 1896, the Office of Naval Intelligence had prepared a plan which included military operations in Puerto Rican waters. This prewar planning did not contemplate major territorial acquisitions. Except for one 1895 plan which recommended annexation of the island then named Isle of Pines, a recommendation dropped in later planning, plans developed for attacks on Spanish territories were intended as support operations against Spain's forces in and around Cuba. However, Jorge Rodriguez Beruf, recognized as a foremost researcher on United States militarism in Puerto Rico, writes that not only was Puerto Rico considered valuable as a naval station, Puerto Rico and Cuba were also abundant in sugar - a valuable commercial commodity which the United States lacked.

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 Vito Marcantonio and the "Hays Commission" led by Arthur Garfield Hays. Nineteen were killed and over 200 were badly wounded, many in their backs while running away. An American Civil Liberties Union 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.

No comments:


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MUCH MORE ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Packing List

Subway Maps

Currency Exchange

View Guestbook Sign Guestbook Weather Transportation Accomodation Maps