US & Canada

Puerto Rico profile

Map of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is the easternmost and smallest of the Greater Antilles, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Basin to the south.

Neither a state nor independent, the island has been a US territory with "commonwealth status" since 1952.

Everyone born on the island is an American citizen and holds a US passport but cannot vote in US presidential elections.

Puerto Rican culture is a blend of Amerindian Taino, Spanish and African influences with Spanish being the island's first language.

Tourism is an important money-earner and the island attracts millions of visitors each year. But crippling public debt, poverty and high unemployment have seen many of the islanders leave for the US mainland.

FACTS

Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

Capital: San Juan

  • Status Self-governing overseas territory of the United States

  • Population 3.7 million

  • Area 8,959 sq km (3,459 sq miles)

  • Main languages Spanish, English

  • Main religion Christianity

  • Currency US dollar

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LEADER

Head of State: President Barack Obama

Governor: Alejandro Garcia Padilla

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption US President Barack Obama (left) met Alejandro Garcia Padilla in 2011 while he was still a senator

Alejandro Garcia Padilla has served as governor of Puerto Rico since January 2013 after narrowly beating incumbent governor Luis Fortuno.

Since taking office, he has sought to reduce the $72 billion (£49 billion) debt burden that Puerto Rico owes its creditors.

In June 2015, the governor publicly declared that the island was unable to pay all of its obligations.

Unlike municipalities on the US mainland, Puerto Rico cannot legally file for bankruptcy, as American cities like Detroit have done when faced with similar crises.

In September 2015, the government unveiled what it called an economic recovery programme. Mr Padilla Garcia has worked with the island's development bank to restructure its debt burden.

He is a member of the Popular Democratic Party which seeks to maintain Puerto Rico's commonwealth status.

  • The commonwealth constitution is modelled on that of the United States with a governor elected for a four-year term and a bicameral legislature.

MEDIA

Image copyright Getty Images

Broadcasting is regulated by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Home-grown comedies, talk shows and Spanish-language soaps are staple fare on local TV stations. The multichannel offerings of cable TV are widely available.

News and talk and Spanish-language pop music are among the most popular radio formats.

There were 2.6 million internet users by June 2014 Internetworldstats.com).

TIMELINE

Some key dates in the history of Puerto Rico:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The San Felipe del Morro castle in San Juan is a UN World Heritage Site

1493 - Christopher Colombus claims the island for Spain on his second voyage to the Americas. Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon establishes the first settlement in 1508.

1500s - Indigenous Amerindian Taino population is virtually wiped out by disease and new settlers. African slave labour is imported.

1868 - A popular uprising against Spanish rule is suppressed but becomes a symbol of the independence struggle.

1898 - Spain cedes Puerto Rico to the US at the end of the Spanish-American War.

1900 - US Congress establishes a civil government under the Foraker Act but maintains strict control over island affairs. Puerto Ricans are granted US citizenship in 1917 under the Jones Act.

1940s - Puerto Rico gains partial self-rule with popularly elected governors.

1952 - Puerto Rico becomes a self-governing commonwealth of the United States. Under US administration, it experiences growth but nationalist sentiment is still present.

1960-70s - Violent separatism - A series of bombings and killings in the 1970s and 1980s are blamed on pro-independence group, the Macheteros, or Cane Cutters.

1998 - Puerto Ricans back continued commonwealth status in a referendum.

2003 - The US government stops military training on the offshore island of Vieques after protests.

2006 - The expiry of a federal tax break for US corporations in place since 1976 triggers economic recession.

2012 - Puerto Ricans vote for US statehood for the first time in a non-binding referendum on the island's status.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Vieques target range was used by the US navy until its closure following protests

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