The English translation of the words “Puerto Rico” is “Rich Port”. This region is a Commonwealth and a United States territory in the northeast Caribbean Sea. The islands lie 1,600 kilometres southeast of Miami, Florida.
As an archipelago in the Greater Antilles, the territory includes the main island of Puerto Rico and several smaller islands. The capital is the town of San Juan. The islands’ population of approximately 3.5 million speak Spanish and English. The islands’ history, tropical climate, natural scenery, traditional cuisine and tax incentives make them a destination for travellers from around the world. Notably, the famous Spanish dance “The Salsa” originated in Puerto Rico.
The Taíno people lived quietly on the main island until it was claimed by Christopher Columbus for the Spanish King, in 1493. Subsequently, invasion attempts by the French, Dutch, and British ensued. Hence, over four centuries of Spanish colonialism have greatly influenced the region.
Initially, Spanish, Canarian, and Andalusian settlers arrived and brought their African slaves with them. Consequently, Puerto Rico played a secondary, but strategic role in the Spanish Empire despite being of less “value” than Peru.
In 1898, after the Spanish–American War, the United States acquired Puerto Rico under the terms of the Treaty of Paris. Puerto Ricans have striven for independence ever since but without success.
Puerto Ricans are United States citizens by law. As a result of this, residents may move freely between the island and the US mainland. However, because it is not a US State, Puerto Rico does not have a vote in the United States Congress, nor can the citizens vote in US elections. Conversely, Puerto Rico does have one non-voting member of the House called a Resident Commissioner. A Governor runs the country.
An unlucky year
In April 2017, the debt crisis posed severe problems for the government. The outstanding national debt had climbed to over $70 billion. Concurrently there was a recorded 12.4% unemployment and 45% poverty.
Later the same year, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, causing devastation. The destruction of the island’s electrical grid provoked the most significant power outage in American history. Over 200,000 residents had to move to the State of Florida.