Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rico (Spanish for "rich port") comprises 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 theGreater Antilles. It ranks third in population among that group of four islands, which include Cuba, Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), and Jamaica. Due to its location, Puerto Rico enjoys a tropical climate and is subject to the Atlantic hurricane season. Official languages of the island are Spanish and English, with Spanish being the primary language.
Originally populated for centuries by an aboriginal people known as Taíno, the island was claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain during his second voyage to the Americas on November 19, 1493. Under Spanish rule, the island was colonized. The Taíno were forced into slavery and suffered high fatalities from epidemics of European infectious diseases. Spain held Puerto Rico for over 400 years, despite attempts at capture of the island by the French, Dutch, and British. In 1898, Spain ceded the archipelago, as well as the Philippines, to the United States as a result of its defeat in the Spanish–American War under the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1898. In 1917, the U.S. granted citizenship to Puerto Ricans; since 1948, they have elected their own governor. In 1952 the Constitution of Puerto Rico was adopted and ratified by the electorate.
A democratically elected bicameral legislature is in place but the United States Congress legislates many fundamental aspects of Puerto Rican life. The islanders may not vote in U.S. presidential elections because the territory is not a state. The island's current political status, including the possibility of statehood or independence, is widely debated in Puerto Rico. In November 2012, a non-binding referendum resulted in 54 percent of respondents voting to reject the current status under the territorial clause of the U.S. Constitution. Among respondents to a second question about alternatives, 61 percent voted for statehood as the preferred alternative to the current territorial status.
Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista, in honor of the Catholic Saint John the Baptist, while the capital city was namedCiudad de Puerto Rico (English: Puerto Rico City). Eventually, traders and other maritime visitors came to refer to the entire island as Puerto Rico while San Juan became the name used for the main trading/shipping port and the capital city.