What Is Puerto Rico?
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 is 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, by land area, the smallest of the Greater Antilles. With around 3.6 million people, it ranks third in population among that group of four islands, which include Cuba, Hispaniola, and Jamaica. The capital and largest city is San Juan. Due to its location, Puerto Rico has a tropical climate and is subject to hot weather all-year-round. The national language is Spanish but English is recognized as an official language as well.
Originally populated for centuries by the 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, it was colonized while the Taíno were forced into slavery and suffered high fatalities from epidemics of European infectious diseases. Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony for over 400 years, despite attempts to capture the island by the French, Dutch, and British.
On November 25, 1897, Spain's central government in Madrid granted the island the Autonomic Charter and finally the colony of Puerto Rico ceased to exist. Instead, Puerto Rico was annexed to the rest of Spain as an overseas autonomous province in full equality with the other provinces of the Spanish nation. The complete integration of Puerto Rico to Spain automatically extended Title I of the Spanish constitution turning all Puerto Ricans into Spanish citizens and allowed Puerto Rico to have full representation in the Spanish Courts of Madrid. In 1898, Spain was forced by the United States to cede the Autonomous Province of Puerto Rico as a result of the Spanish–American War under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.
In 1917, the U.S. granted citizenship to Puerto Ricans. In 1948, Puerto Ricans were given the right to elect their own governor. In 1952, under request by the United States, a local territorial constitution was adopted and ratified by the electorate. Under the tenets of the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act, residents of the island are still subject to the plenary jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress. Puerto Rico remains a U.S. territory, although its political status is a subject of ongoing debate among residents.
Puerto Ricans often call the island Borinquen - a derivation of 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, meaning "the island of enchantment".
Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista, in honor of the Catholic Saint John the Baptist, while the capital city was named Ciudad de Puerto Rico . 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.
History-Pre Columbian era
The ancient history of the archipelago known today as Puerto Rico is not well known. Unlike other larger, more advanced indigenous communities in the New World whose people left behind abundant archeological and physical evidence of their societies, the indigenous population of Puerto Rico left scant artifacts and evidence. The scarce archaeological findings and early Spanish scholarly accounts from the colonial era constitute the basis of knowledge about them. 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 who migrated from the South American mainland. Some scholars suggest that their settlement dates back 4000 years. An archeological dig at the island of Vieques in 1990 found the remains of a man, named the "Puerto Ferro Man", which was dated to around 2000 BC. The Ortoiroid were displaced by the Saladoid, a culture from the same region that arrived on the island between 430 and 250 BC. The natives lived in small villages, each led by a cacique. They subsisted by hunting and fishing, done generally by men, as well as by the women's gathering and processing of indigenous cassava root and fruit. This lasted until Columbus arrived in 1493.
When Columbus arrived in Puerto Rico during his second voyage on, 1493, the island was inhabited by the Taíno. They called it Borikén . Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista, in honor of the Catholic saint, John the Baptist. Juan Ponce de León, a lieutenant under Columbus, founded the first Spanish settlement, Caparra, on August 8, 1508. He later served as the first governor of the island. 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 the beginning of the 16th century, the Spaniards began to colonize the island. They forced the Taíno into an encomienda system of forced labor and used them for laborers. Together with the harsh working conditions, the Taíno suffered epidemics of infectious disease, to which they had no natural immunity. For example, a smallpox outbreak in 1518–1519 killed much of the Island's indigenous population.
In 1520, King Charles I of Spain issued a royal decree collectively emancipating the remaining Taíno population. By that time, the Taíno people were few in number. The Spanish began to import slaves from sub-Saharan Africa to have sufficient laborers to develop agriculture and settlements. However, the number of slaves on the island was smaller than on Cuba, Saint-Domingue and Guadeloupe, where Spanish and French developed large sugar plantations based on slave labor.
African slaves were used primarily in the coastal ports and cities where the island's population was concentrated. The interior of the island continued to be essentially unexplored and undeveloped. Puerto Rico soon became an important stronghold and a significant port for the Spanish Main colonial expansion. They built various forts and walls, such as La Fortaleza, El Castillo San Felipe del Morro and El Castillo de San Cristóbal, to protect the strategic port of San Juan from numerous European raids and invasion attempts. San Juan served as an important port-of-call for ships of all European nations, who needed to take on water, food and other commercial provisions and mercantile exchange as part of the Atlantic trade.
During the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Spain concentrated its colonial efforts on the more prosperous mainland North, Central, and South American colonies. The island of Puerto Rico was left virtually unexplored, undeveloped, and largely unsettled before the 19th century. As independence movements in the larger Spanish colonies gained success, Spain began to pay attention to Puerto Rico as one of its last remaining maritime colonies.
In 1890, Captain Alfred Thayer 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, which would serve as coaling and naval stations. They would serve as strategic points of defense with the construction of a canal through the Isthmus of Panama, to allow easier passage of ships between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
William H. Seward, the former Secretary of State under presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, had also stressed the importance of building a canal in Honduras, Nicaragua or Panama. He suggested that the United States annex the Dominican Republic and purchase Puerto Rico and Cuba. The U.S. Senate did not approve his annexation proposal, and Spain rejected the U.S. offer of dollars for Puerto Rico and Cuba. Recent research suggests that the U.S. did consider Puerto Rico valuable as a naval station, and recognized that it and Cuba generated lucrative crops of sugar – a valuable commercial commodity which the United States lacked.
On July 25, 1898, during the Spanish–American War, the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico with a landing at Guánica. As an outcome of the war, Spain ceded Puerto Rico, along with the Philippines and Guam, then under Spanish sovereignty, to the U.S. under the Treaty of Paris. Spain relinquished sovereignty over Cuba, but did not cede it to the U.S.
The United States and Puerto Rico began a long-standing metropolis-colony relationship. In the early 20th century, Puerto Rico was ruled by the military, 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.
Its judicial system was constructed to follow the American legal system; a Puerto Rico Supreme Court and a United State District Court for the territory were established. It was authorized a non-voting member of Congress, by the title of "Resident Commissioner", who was appointed. In addition, this Act extended all U.S. laws "not locally inapplicable" to Puerto Rico, specifying, in particular, exemption from U.S. Internal Revenue laws.
The Act empowered the civil government to legislate on "all matters of legislative character not locally inapplicable," including the power to modify and repeal any laws then in existence in Puerto Rico, though the U.S. Congress retained the power to annul acts of the Puerto Rico legislature. During an address to the Puerto Rican legislature in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt recommended that Puerto Ricans become U.S. citizens.
In 1914, the Puerto Rican House of Delegates voted unanimously in favor of independence from the United States, but this was rejected by the U.S. Congress as "unconstitutional," and in violation of the 1900 Foraker Act. Opponents, who included all of the Puerto Rican House of Delegates, which voted unanimously against it, said that the US imposed citizenship in order to draft Puerto Rican men into the army as American entry into World War I became likely.
Puerto Rico consists of the main island of Puerto Rico and various smaller islands, including Vieques, Culebra, Mona, Desecheo, and Caja de Muertos. Of these last five, only Culebra and Vieques are inhabited year-round. Mona is uninhabited most of the year except for employees of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources. There are also many other smaller islands, including Monito and "La Isleta de San Juan," which includes Old San Juan and Puerta de Tierra, and is connected to the main island by bridges.
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has an area of, of which is land and is water. The maximum length of the main island from east to west is, and the maximum width from north to south is . Puerto Rico is the smallest of the Greater Antilles. It is 80% of the size of Jamaica, just over 18% of the size of Hispaniola and 8% of the size of Cuba, the largest of the Greater Antilles.
The island is mostly mountainous with large coastal areas in the north and south. The main mountain range is called "La Cordillera Central" . The highest elevation in Puerto Rico, Cerro de Punta,
Puerto Rico has 17 lakes, all man-made, and more than 50 rivers, most originating in the Cordillera Central. Rivers in the northern region of the island are typically longer and of higher water flow rates than those of the south, since the south receives less rain than the central and northern regions.
Puerto Rico is composed of Cretaceous to Eocene volcanic and plutonic rocks, overlain by younger Oligocene and more recent carbonates and other sedimentary rocks. Most of the caverns and karst topography on the island occurs in the northern region in the carbonates. The oldest rocks are approximately years old and are located at Sierra Bermeja in the southwest part of the island. They may represent part of the oceanic crust and are believed to come from the Pacific Ocean realm.
Puerto Rico lies at the boundary between the Caribbean and North American plates and is being deformed by the tectonic stresses caused by their interaction. These stresses may cause earthquakes and tsunamis. These seismic events, along with landslides, represent some of the most dangerous geologic hazards in the island and in the northeastern Caribbean.
The most recent major earthquake occurred on, 1918, and had an estimated magnitude of 7.5 on the Richter scale. It originated off the coast of Aguadilla, several miles off the northern coast, and was accompanied by a tsunami. It caused extensive property damage and widespread losses, damaging infrastructure, especially bridges. It resulted in an estimated 116 deaths and $4 million in property damage. The failure of the government to move rapidly to provide for the general welfare contributed to political activism by opponents and eventually to the rise of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.
The Puerto Rico Trench, the largest and deepest trench in the Atlantic, is located about north of Puerto Rico at the boundary between the Caribbean and North American plates.
Government and Politics
Puerto Rico has 8 senatorial districts, 40 representative districts and 78 municipalities. It has a republican form of government with separation of powers subject to the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United States. Its current powers are all delegated by the United States Congress and lack full protection under the United States Constitution. Puerto Rico's head of state is the President of the United States.
The government of Puerto Rico, based on the formal republican system, is composed of three branches: the executive, legislative, and judicial branch. The executive branch is headed by the governor, currently Alejandro García Padilla. The legislative branch consists of a bicameral legislature called the Legislative Assembly, made up of a Senate as its upper chamber and a House of Representatives as its lower chamber. The Senate is headed by the President of the Senate, while the House of Representatives is headed by the Speaker of the House. The governor and legislators are elected by popular vote every four years with the last election held in November 2012.
The judicial branch is headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico. Members of the judicial branch are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Puerto Rico is represented in the United States Congress by a nonvoting delegate, the Resident Commissioner, currently Pedro Pierluisi. Current congressional rules have removed the Commissioner's power to vote in the Committee of the Whole, but the Commissioner can vote in committee.
Puerto Rican elections are governed by the Federal Election Commission and the State Elections Commission of Puerto Rico. While residing in Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in U.S. presidential elections, but they can vote in primaries. Puerto Ricans who become residents of a U.S. state can vote in presidential elections.
Puerto Rico is not an independent country and, as such, it hosts no embassies. It is host, however, to consulates from 41 countries, mainly from the Americas and Europe. Most consulates are located in San Juan. As an unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rico does not have any first-order administrative divisions as defined by the U.S. government, but has 78 municipalities at the second level. Mona Island is not a municipality, but part of the municipality of Mayagüez.
Municipalities are subdivided into wards or barrios, and those into sectors. Each municipality has a mayor and a municipal legislature elected for a four-year term. The municipality of San Juan, was founded first, in 1521, San Germán in 1570, Coamo in 1579, Arecibo in 1614, Aguada in 1692 and Ponce in 1692. An increase of settlement saw the founding of 30 municipalities in the 18th century and 34 in the 19th. Six were founded in the 20th century; the last was Florida in 1971.
The insular legal system is a blend of civil law and the common law systems.
Puerto Rico is the only current U.S. possession whose legal system operates primarily in a language other than American English: namely, Spanish. However, because the U.S. federal government operates primarily in English, the result is that all Puerto Rican attorneys must be bilingual in order to litigate in English in U.S. federal courts and to litigate federal preemption issues in Puerto Rican courts.
Title 48 of the United States Code outlines the role of the United States Code to United States territories and insular areas such as Puerto Rico. After the U.S. government assumed control of Puerto Rico in 1901, it initiated legal reforms resulting in the adoption of codes of criminal law, criminal procedure, and civil procedure modeled after those then in effect in California. Although Puerto Rico has since followed the federal example of transferring criminal and civil procedure from statutory law to rules promulgated by the judiciary, several portions of its criminal law still reflect the influence of the California Penal Code.
The judicial branch is headed by the Chief Justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, which is the only appellate court required by the Constitution. All other courts are created by the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico.
Since Puerto Rico is under United States sovereignty, there is also a Federal District Court for the island.
As an unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rico does not have any first order administrative divisions as defined by the U.S. Government, but there are 78 municipalities at the secondary level which function as counties. Municipalities are further subdivided into barrios, and those into sectors. Each municipality has a mayor and a municipal legislature elected to four-year terms.
The first municipality of Puerto Rico, San Juan, was founded in 1521. In the 16th century two more municipalities were established, San Germán and Coamo . Three more municipalities were established in the 17th century. These were Arecibo, Aguada and Ponce .
The 18th and 19th century saw an increase in settlement in Puerto Rico with 30 municipalities being established in the 18th century and 34 more in the 19th century. Only six municipalities were founded in the 20th century with the last, Florida, being founded in 1971. When the urban area is made up of only one barrio, it is called "Barrio Pueblo". Some urban areas are made up of multiple barrios: Ponce's urban area, for example, is made up of 12 barrios. All of San Juan's barrios are urban barrios, and the municipality of San Juan is composed of urban barrios only - thus, the entire municipality of San Juan consists of one large urban zone only.
The urban zone of each municipality shares the same name as the municipality. For example, the municipality of Caguas has an urban zone called Caguas - just like the municipality. Some municipalities' urban zones are termed "pueblo" while others are termed "ciudad" . The difference resides in the population of the municipality: if the municipality has an urban zone below 50,000 inhabitants, then its urban zone is called a pueblo. If a municipality has a population above 50,000 inhabitants in its urban zone, then its urban zone is called a ciudad.
Estado Libre Asociado
In 1950, the U.S. Congress granted Puerto Ricans the right to organize a constitutional convention via a referendum that gave them the option of voting their preference, "yes" or "no", on a proposed U.S. law that would organize Puerto Rico as a "commonwealth" that would continue United States sovereignty over Puerto Rico and its people. Puerto Rico's electorate expressed its support for this measure in 1951 with a second referendum to ratify the constitution. The Constitution of Puerto Rico was formally adopted on, 1952. The Constitutional Convention specified the name by which the body politic would be known.
On February 4, 1952, the convention approved Resolution 22 which chose in English the word Commonwealth, meaning a "politically organized community" or "state", which is simultaneously connected by a compact or treaty to another political system. Puerto Rico officially designates itself with the term "Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" in its constitution, as a translation into English of the term to "Estado Libre Asociado" .
In 1967, Puerto Rico's Legislative Assembly polled the political preferences of the Puerto Rican electorate by passing a plebiscite act that provided for a vote on the status of Puerto Rico. This constituted the first plebiscite by the Legislature for a choice among three status options . In subsequent plebiscites organized by Puerto Rico held in 1993 and 1998, the current political status failed to receive majority support. In 1993, Commonwealth status won by only a plurality of votes, while the "none of the above" option, which was the Popular Democratic Party-sponsored choice, won in 1998 with 50.3% of the votes . Disputes arose as to the definition of each of the ballot alternatives, and Commonwealth advocates, among others, reportedly urged a vote for "none of the above".
Within the United States
Constitutionally, Puerto Rico is subject to the plenary powers of the United States Congress under the territorial clause of Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. Laws enacted at the federal level in the United States apply to Puerto Rico as well, regardless of its political status. Their residents, however, do not have voting representation in the U.S. Congress. Like the different states of the United States, Puerto Rico lacks "the full sovereignty of an independent nation", for example, the power to manage its "external relations with other nations", which is held by the U.S. federal government. The Supreme Court of the United States has indicated that once the U.S. Constitution has been extended to an area, its coverage is irrevocable. To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this Court, say "what the law is.".
Puerto Ricans "were collectively made U.S. citizens" in 1917 as a result of the Jones-Shafroth Act. However, U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico cannot vote for the U.S. president, though both major parties, Republican and Democrat, run primary elections in Puerto Rico to send delegates to vote on a presidential candidate. Since Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory and not a U.S. state, the United States Constitution does not fully enfranchise US citizens residing in Puerto Rico. . Despite their American citizenship, however, only the "fundamental rights" under the federal constitution apply to Puerto Ricans. Various other U.S Supreme Court decisions have held which rights apply in Puerto Rico and which ones do not. Puerto Ricans have a long history of service in the U.S. armed forces and, since 1917, they have been included in the U.S. compulsory draft whenever it has been in effect.
Though the Commonwealth government has its own tax laws, Puerto Ricans are also required to pay many kinds of U.S. federal taxes, not including the federal personal income tax, but only under certain circumstances. In 2009, Puerto Rico paid into the US Treasury. Residents of Puerto Rico pay into Social Security, and are thus eligible for Social Security benefits upon retirement. However, they are excluded from the Supplemental Security Income, and the island actually receives a small fraction of the Medicaid funding it would receive if it were a U.S. state. Also, Medicare providers receive less-than-full state-like reimbursements for services rendered to beneficiaries in Puerto Rico, even though the latter paid fully into the system.
In 1992, President George H. W. Bush issued a memorandum to heads of executive departments and agencies establishing the current administrative relationship between the federal government and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This memorandum directs all federal departments, agencies, and officials to treat Puerto Rico administratively as if it were a state, insofar as doing so would not disrupt federal programs or operations.
Many federal executive branch agencies have significant presence in Puerto Rico, just as in any state, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Security Administration, Social Security Administration, and others. While Puerto Rico has its own Commonwealth judicial system similar to that of a U.S. state, there is also a U.S federal district court in Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rican judges have served in that Court and in other federal courts on the U.S. mainland regardless of their residency status at the time of their appointment. Puerto Ricans have also been regularly appointed to high-level federal positions, including serving as United States Ambassadors to other nations.
On November 27, 1953, shortly after the establishment of the Commonwealth, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved Resolution 748, removing Puerto Rico's classification as a non-self-governing territory under article 73 of the Charter from UN. But the General Assembly did not apply the full list of criteria which was enunciated in 1960 when it took favorable note of the cessation of transmission of information regarding the non-self-governing status of Puerto Rico. According to the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico's Political Status in its, 2007 report, the U.S., in its written submission to the UN in 1953, never represented that Congress could not change its relationship with Puerto Rico without the territory's consent. It stated that the U.S. Justice Department in 1959 reiterated that Congress held power over Puerto Rico pursuant to the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In a 1996 report on a Puerto Rico status political bill, the U.S. House Committee on Resources stated, "Puerto Rico's current status does not meet the criteria for any of the options for full self-government under Resolution 1541" national independence, free association based on separate sovereignty, or full integration with another nation on the basis of equality). The report concluded that Puerto Rico "... remains an unincorporated territory and does not have the status of 'free association' with the United States as that status is defined under United States law or international practice", that the establishment of local self-government with the consent of the people can be unilaterally revoked by the U.S. Congress, and that U.S. Congress can also withdraw the U.S. citizenship of Puerto Rican residents of Puerto Rico at any time, for a legitimate Federal purpose. The application of the U.S. Constitution to Puerto Rico is limited by the Insular Cases.
In 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011 the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization passed resolutions calling on the United States to expedite a process "that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence", and to release all Puerto Rican political prisoners in U.S. prisons, to clean up, decontaminate and return the lands in the islands of Vieques and Culebra to the people of Puerto Rico, to perform a probe into U.S. human rights violations on the island and a probe into the killing by the FBI of pro-independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios.
On June 15, 2009, the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization approved a draft resolution calling on the Government of the United States to expedite a process that would allow the Puerto Rican people to exercise fully their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.
On April 29, 2010, the U.S. House voted 223–169 to approve a measure for a federally sanctioned process for Puerto Rico's self-determination, allowing Puerto Rico to set a new referendum on whether to continue its present form of commonwealth, or to have a different political status. If Puerto Ricans voted to continue as a commonwealth, the Government of Puerto Rico was authorized to conduct additional plebiscites at intervals of every eight years from the date on which the results of the prior plebiscite were certified; if Puerto Ricans voted to have a different political status, a second referendum would determine whether Puerto Rico would become a U.S. state, an independent country, or a sovereign nation associated with the U.S. that would not be subject to the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution. During the House debate, a fourth option, to retain its present form of commonwealth political status, was added as an option in the second plebiscite.
Immediately following U.S. House passage, H.R. 2499 was sent to the U.S. Senate, where it was given two formal readings and referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. On December 22, 2010, the 111th United States Congress adjourned without any Senate vote on H.R.2499, killing the bill.
The latest Task Force report was released on March 11, 2011. The report suggested a two-plebiscite process, including a "first plebiscite that requires the people of Puerto Rico to choose whether they wish to be part of the United States or wish to be independent . If continuing to be part of the United States were chosen in the first plebiscite, a second vote would be taken between Statehood and Commonwealth." On June 14, 2011, President Barack Obama "promised to support "a clear decision" by the people of Puerto Rico on statehood". That same month, the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization passed a resolution and adopted a consensus text introduced by Cuba's delegate on June 20, 2011, calling on the United States to expedite a process "that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence." The first question asked voters whether they wanted to maintain the current status under the territorial clause of the U.S. Constitution. The second question posed three alternate status options if the first question was approved: statehood, independence or free association. For the first question, 54 percent voted against the current Commonwealth status. For the second question, 44.6% voted for statehood, 24.33% for a sovereign free associated state, and 4.05% for independence; there were also 26.02% blank ballots, and 0.99 invalid ballots. On December 11, 2012, Puerto Rico's Legislature passed a concurrent resolution to request to the President and the U.S. Congress action on the November 6, 2012 plebiscite results. But on April 10, 2013, with the issue still being widely debated, the White House announced that it will seek $2.5 million to hold another referendum, this next one being the first Puerto Rican status referendum to be financed by the U.S. Federal government.
Foreign and Intergovernmental Relations
Puerto Rico is subject to the Commerce and Territorial Clause of the Constitution of the United States and, therefore, is restricted on how it can engage with other nations, sharing most of the opportunities and limitations that state governments have albeit not being one. As is the case with state governments, regardless, it has established several trade agreements with other nations, particularly with Hispanic American countries such as Colombia and Panamá. It has also established trade promotion offices in many foreign countries and within the United States itself, which now include Spain, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Washington, D.C. and Florida, and has included in the past offices in Chile, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Such agreements require permission from the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Congress itself; most, however, are simply allowed by existent laws or trade agreements between the United States and other nations which supersede the trade agreement pursued by Puerto Rico.
At the local level, Puerto Rico established by law that its foreign affairs must be handled by the Department of State of Puerto Rico, an executive department. The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, along with the Office of the Resident Commissioner]], manage all its intergovernmental affairs before entities of or in the United States . Both entities frequently assist the Department of State of Puerto Rico in engaging with Washington, D.C.-based ambassadors and federal agencies that handle Puerto Rico's foreign affairs, such as the U.S. Department of State, the Agency for International Development, and others. The current Secretary of State is David Bernier from the Popular Democratic Party and member of the Democratic Party of the United States, while the current Director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration is Juan Eugenio Hernández Mayoral also from the Popular Democratic and member of the Democratic Party.
The Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, the delegate elected by Puerto Ricans to represent them before the U.S. Congress, sits in the United States House of Representatives, serves on congressional committees, and functions in every respect as a legislator except being denied a vote on the final disposition of legislation on the House floor, also engages in foreign affairs to the same extent as other members of Congress. The current Resident Commissioner is Pedro Pierluisi from the New Progressive Party and member of the Democratic Party of the United States.
The U.S. has had Puerto Rican ambassadors to different nations, mostly but not exclusively in Latin America. For example Maricarmen Aponte, the current U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, is Puerto Rican.
The military defense of Puerto Rico is the responsibility of the United States as part of the Treaty of Paris with the President of the United States as commander-in-chief. Locally, Puerto Rico has its own National Guard, the Puerto Rico National Guard, and its own state defense force, the Puerto Rico State Guard, which, by local law, is under the authority of the Puerto Rico National Guard. The commander-in-chief of both local forces is the governor of Puerto Rico who delegates his authority to the Puerto Rico Adjutant General, currently Brigadier General Juan José Medina Lamela. The Adjutant General, in turn, delegates the authority over the State Guard to another officer but retains the authority over the Puerto Rico National Guard as a whole.
U.S. military installations in Puerto Rico are part of the U.S. Atlantic Command, which has authority over all US military operations that take place throughout the Atlantic. Puerto Rico has been seen as crucial in supporting LANTCOM's mission. Both the Naval Forces Caribbean and the Fleet Air Caribbean were formerly based at the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station. The NFC has authority over all US Naval activity in the waters of the Caribbean while FAIR has authority over all US military flights and air operations over the Caribbean. With the closing of the Roosevelt Roads and Vieques Island training facilities, the US Navy has basically exited from Puerto Rico, except for the ships that steam by, and the only significant military presence in the island is the U.S. Army at Ft Buchanan, the Puerto Rican Army and Air National Guards, and the U.S. Coast Guard.
A branch of the U.S. Army National Guard is stationed in Puerto Rico —known as the Puerto Rico Army National Guard— which performs missions equivalent to those of the Army National Guards of the different states of the United States, including ground defense, disaster relief, and control of civil unrest. The local National Guard also incorporates a branch of the U.S. Air National Guard —known as the Puerto Rico Air National Guard— which performs missions equivalent to those of the Air National Guards of the U.S. states.
At different times in the 20th century, the U.S. had about 25 military or naval installations in Puerto Rico, some very small ones, as well as large installations. The largest of these installations were the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Ceiba, the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility on Vieques, the National Guard training facility at Camp Santiago in Salinas, Fort Allen in Juana Diaz, the Army's Fort Buchanan in San Juan, the former U.S. Air Force Ramey Air Force Base in Aguadilla, and the Puerto Rico Air National Guard at Muñiz Air Force base in San Juan. The former U.S. Navy facilities at Roosevelt Roads, Vieques, and Sabana Seca have been deactivated and partially turned over to the local government. Other than U.S. Coast Guard and Puerto Rico National Guard facilities, there are only two remaining military installations in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Army's small Ft. Buchanan and the PRANG Muñiz Air Base . In recent years, the U.S. Congress has considered their deactivations, but these have been opposed by diverse public and private entities in Puerto Rico - such as retired military who rely on Ft. Buchanan for the services available there.
Puerto Ricans have participated in many of the military conflicts in which the United States has been involved. For example, they participated in the American Revolution, when volunteers from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico fought the British in 1779 under the command of General Bernardo de Gálvez, and have continued to participate up to the present-day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cities and towns in Puerto Rico are interconnected by a system of roads, freeways, expressways, and highways maintained by the Highways and Transportation Authority under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and patrolled by the Puerto Rico Police Department. The island's metropolitan area is served by a public bus transit system and a metro system called Tren Urbano . Other forms of public transportation include seaborne ferries as well as Carros Públicos .
The island has three international airports, the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Carolina, Mercedita Airport in Ponce, and the Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla, and 27 local airports. The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is the largest aerial transportation hub in the Caribbean, and one of the largest in the world in terms of passenger and cargo movement.
Puerto Rico has nine ports in different cities across the main island. The San Juan Port is the largest in Puerto Rico, and the busiest port in the Caribbean and the 10th busiest in the United States in terms of commercial activity and cargo movement, respectively.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority —Spanish: Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica — is an electric power company and the government-owned corporation of Puerto Rico responsible for electricity generation, power transmission, and power distribution in Puerto Rico. PREPA is the only entity authorized to conduct such business in Puerto Rico, effectively making it a government monopoly. The Authority is ruled by a Governing Board appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate of Puerto Rico, and is run by an Executive Director.
Telecommunications in Puerto Rico includes radio, television, fixed and mobile telephones, and the Internet. Broadcasting in Puerto Rico is regulated by the US Federal Communications Commission . As of 2007, there were 30 TV stations, 125 radio stations and roughly 1 million TV sets on the island. Cable TV subscription services are available and the US Armed Forces Radio and Television Service also broadcast on the island.
Puerto Rico has an operating budget of about $9.8 billion USD with expenses at about $10.4B; creating a structural deficit of $775 million . The practice of approving budgets with a structural deficit has been done for consecutive years starting in 2000. Throughout those years, including present time, all budgets contemplated issuing bonds to cover said projected deficits rather than make proper adjustments. This practice eroded Puerto Rico's treasury as the government had already been issuing bonds to balance its actual budget for four decades since 1973.
Projected deficits added substantial burdens to an already indebted nation which accrued a public debt of $71B or about 70% of Puerto Rico's gross domestic product. This sparked an ongoing government-debt crisis after Puerto Rico's general obligation bonds were downgraded to speculative non-investment grade by three credit rating agencies. In terms of financial control, almost 9.6% —or about $1.5 billion— of Puerto Rico's central government budget expenses for FY2014 is expected to be spent on debt service. Harsher budget cuts are expected as Puerto Rico must now repay larger chunks of debts in the following years.
For practical reasons the budget is divided into two aspects: a "general budget" which comprises the assignments funded exclusively by the Department of Treasury of Puerto Rico, and the "consolidated budget" which comprises the assignments funded by the general budget, by Puerto Rico's government-owned corporations, by revenue expected from loans, by the sale of government bonds, by subsidies extended by the federal government of the United States, and by other funds. Both budgets contrast each other drastically, with the consolidated budget being usually thrice the size of the general budget; currently $29B and $9.0B respectively. Almost one out of every four dollars in the consolidated budget comes from U.S. federal subsidies while government-owned corporations compose more than 31% of the consolidated budget.
The critical aspects come from the sale of bonds, which comprise 7% of the consolidated budget; a ratio that increased annually due to the government's inability to prepare a balanced budget in addition to being incapable of generating enough income to cover all its expenses. In particular, the government-owned corporations add a heavy burden to the overall budget and public debt as not a single one is self-sufficient, all of them carrying extremely inefficient operations. For example, in FY2011 the government-owned corporations reported aggregated losses of more than $1.3B with the Puerto Rico Highways and Transportation Authority reporting losses of $409M, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority reporting losses of $272M, while the Puerto Rico Aqueducts and Sewers Authority reported losses of $112M. All these losses were defrayed through the issuance of bonds compounding more than 40% of Puerto Rico's entire public debt today. Holistically, from FY2000–FY2010 Puerto Rico's debt grew at a compound annual growth rate of 9% while GDP remained stagnant.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Puerto Rico is high and has increased over the past decade. San Juan's in particular is higher than Atlanta, Dallas, and Seattle but lower than Boston, Chicago, and New York City. One factor is housing prices which are comparable to Miami and Los Angeles, although property taxes are considerably lower than most places in the United States. Statistics used for cost of living sometimes do not take into account certain costs, such as increased travel costs for longer flights, additional shipping fees, and the loss of promotional participation opportunities for customers "outside the continental United States". While some online stores do offer free shipping on orders to Puerto Rico, many merchants exclude Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and other United States territories.
The median home value in Puerto Rico ranges from $100,000 USD to $214,000 USD, while the national median home value sits at $119,600.
One of the most significant contributors to the high cost of living in Puerto Rico is the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, which prevents foreign-flagged ships from carrying cargo between two American ports, a practice known as cabotage. Because of the Jones Act, foreign ships inbound with goods from Central and South America, Western Europe, and Africa cannot stop in Puerto Rico, offload Puerto Rico-bound goods, load mainland-bound Puerto Rico-manufactured goods, and continue to U.S. ports. Instead, they must proceed directly to U.S. ports, where distributors break bulk and send Puerto Rico-bound manufactured goods to Puerto Rico across the ocean by U.S.-flagged ships.
Puerto Rican consumers ultimately bear the expense of transporting goods again across the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea on U.S.-flagged ships subject to the extremely high operating costs imposed by the Jones Act. "Under the protection of federal statutes, a monopsony has been siphoning scarce resources from the poorest U.S. jurisdiction to sustain a segment of U.S. industry that has become uncompetitive due precisely to the protection it has enjoyed." "Although the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the United States should be considered the senior partners in a common market, the Cabotage laws, in practical terms, constitute a protective barrier that favors Mexican and Canadian ports of origin and destination against producers in Puerto Rico."
The local government of Puerto Rico has requested several times to the U.S. Congress to exclude Puerto Rico from the Jones Act restrictions without success. The most recent measure has been taken by the 17th Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico through . These measures have always received support from all the major local political parties. In 2013 the Government Accountability Office published a report which concluded that "repealing or amending the Jones Act cabotage law might cut Puerto Rico shipping costs" and that "shippers believed that opening the trade to non-U.S.-flag competition could lower costs."
The report, however, concluded that the effects of modifying the application of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico are highly uncertain for both Puerto Rico and the United States, particularly for the U.S. shipping industry and the military preparedness of the United States.
During the 19th century hundreds of Corsican, French, Lebanese, Chinese, and Portuguese families arrived in Puerto Rico, along with large numbers of immigrants from Spain and numerous Spanish loyalists from Spain's former colonies in South America. Other settlers included Irish, Scots, Germans, Italians and thousands others who were granted land by Spain during the Real Cedula de Gracias de 1815, which allowed European Catholics to settle in the island with land allotments in the interior of the island, provided they paid taxes and continued to support the Catholic Church.
The official languages of the executive branch of government of Puerto Rico are Spanish and English, with Spanish being the primary language. Spanish is, and has been, the only official language of the entire Commonwealth judiciary system, even despite a 1902 English-only language law. All official business of the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico is conducted in English. Although English is one of the two official languages in Puerto Rico, it is spoken by a small minority – less than 10% – of the population. Spanish is the dominant language of business, education and daily life on the island, spoken by over 95% of the population. Public school instruction in Puerto Rico is conducted entirely in Spanish. There are, however, pilot programs in about a dozen of the over 1,400 public schools aimed at conducting instruction in English only. English is taught as a second language and is a compulsory subject from elementary levels to high school. The languages of the deaf community are American Sign Language and its local variant, Puerto Rican Sign Language.
The Spanish of Puerto Rico has evolved into having many idiosyncrasies in vocabulary and syntax that differentiate it from the Spanish spoken elsewhere. While the Spanish spoken in all Iberian, Mediterranean and Atlantic Spanish Maritime Provinces was brought to the island over the centuries, the most profound regional influence on the Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico has been from that spoken in the present-day Canary Islands. As a result of the natural inclusion of indigenous vocabulary in all New World former European colonies, the Spanish of Puerto Rico also includes occasional Taíno words, typically in the context of vegetation, natural phenomena or primitive musical instruments. Similarly, words attributed to primarily West African languages were adopted in the contexts of foods, music or dances, particularly in coastal towns with concentrations of descendants of former enslaved Sub-Saharan Africans.
According to a study by the University of Puerto Rico, nine of every ten Puerto Ricans residing in Puerto Rico do not speak English at an advanced level. More recently, according to the 2005–2009 Population and Housing Narrative Profile for Puerto Rico, among people at least five years old living in Puerto Rico in 2005–2009, 95 percent spoke a language other than English at home. Of those speaking a language other than English at home, 100 percent spoke Spanish and less than 0.5 percent spoke some other language; 85 percent reported that they did not speak English "very well."
The Roman Catholic Church was brought by Spanish colonists and gradually became the dominant religion in Puerto Rico. The first dioceses in the Americas, including that of Puerto Rico, were authorized by Pope Julius II in 1511. One Pope, John Paul II, visited Puerto Rico in October 1984. All municipalities in Puerto Rico have at least one Catholic church, most of which are located at the town center or "plaza". African slaves brought and maintained various ethnic African religious practices associated with different peoples; in particular, the Yoruba beliefs of Santería and/or Ifá, and the Kongo-derived Palo Mayombe. Some aspects were absorbed into syncretic Christianity.
Protestantism, which was suppressed under the Spanish Catholic regime, has spread under United States rule, making modern Puerto Rico interconfessional. The first Protestant church, Holy Trinity Church in Ponce, was established by the Anglican diocese of Antigua in 1872. German settlers in Ponce founded the Iglesia Santísima Trinidad, an Anglican Church, the first non-Roman Catholic Church in the entire Spanish Empire in the Americas.
Growth has occurred among Pentecostals. Estimates of the Protestant population vary greatly. Pollster Pablo Ramos reported in 1998 that the population was 38% Catholic, 28% Pentecostals, 4% Baptist, and 18% members of independent churches; Protestants collectively numbered almost two million of an island population of 3.6 million. "The conclusion is that Puerto Rico is no longer predominantly Catholic." .
Another researcher gave a more conservative assessment of the proportion of Protestants:
"Puerto Rico, by virtue of its long political association with the United States, is the most Protestant of Latin American countries, with a Protestant population of approximately 33 to 38 percent, the majority of whom are Pentecostal. David Stoll calculates that if we extrapolate the growth rates of evangelical churches from 1960-1985 for another twenty-five years Puerto Rico will become 75 percent evangelical." .
An Eastern Orthodox community, the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos/ St. Spyridon's Church is located in Trujillo Alto, and serves the small Orthodox community. The congregation represents Greeks, Russians, Serbians, Bulgarians, Americans, Moldavians, and Puerto Ricans.
In 1940, Juanita Garcia Peraza founded the Mita Congregation, the first religion of Puerto Rican origin. Taíno religious practices have been rediscovered/reinvented to a degree by a handful of advocates. Similarly, some aspects of African religious traditions have been kept by some adherents.
The architecture of Puerto Rico demonstrates a broad variety of traditions, styles and national influences accumulated over four centuries of Spanish rule, and a century of American rule. Spanish colonial architecture, Moorish, art deco, post-modern, and many other architectural forms are visible throughout the island. From town to town, there are also many regional distinctions.
Old San Juan is one of the two barrios, in addition to Santurce, that made up the municipality of San Juan from 1864 to 1951, at which time the former independent municipality of Río Piedras was annexed. With its abundance of shops, historic places, museums, open air cafés, restaurants, gracious homes, tree-shaded plazas, and its old beauty and architectonical peculiarity, Old San Juan is a main spot for local and internal tourism. The district is also characterized by numerous public plazas and churches including San José Church and the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, which contains the tomb of the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León. It also houses the oldest Catholic school for elementary education in Puerto Rico, the Colegio de Párvulos, built in 1865.
The oldest parts of the district of Old San Juan remain partly enclosed by massive walls. Several defensive structures and notable forts, such as the emblematic Fort San Felipe del Morro, Fort San Cristóbal, and El Palacio de Santa Catalina, also known as La Fortaleza, acted as the primary defenses of the settlement which was subjected to numerous attacks. La Fortaleza continues to serve also as the executive mansion for the Governor of Puerto Rico. Many of the historic fortifications are part of San Juan National Historic Site.
During the 1940s, sections of Old San Juan fell into disrepair, and many renovation plans were suggested. There was even a strong push to develop Old San Juan as a "small Manhattan." However, strict remodeling codes were implemented to prevent new constructions from affecting the common colonial Spanish architectural themes of the old city. When a project proposal suggested that the old Carmelite Convent in San Juan be demolished to erect a new hotel, the Institute had the building declared as a historic building, and then asked that it be converted to a hotel in a renewed facility. This was what became the Hotel El Convento in Old San Juan. The paradigm to reconstruct and renovate the old city and revitalize it has been followed by other cities in the Americas, particularly Havana, Lima and Cartagena de Indias.
Ponce Creole is an architectural style created in Ponce, Puerto Rico, in the late 19th and early 20th century. This style of Puerto Rican buildings is found predominantly in residential homes in Ponce that developed between 1895 and 1920. Ponce Creole architecture borrows heavily from the traditions of the French, the Spaniards, and the Caribbean to create houses that were especially built to withstand the hot and dry climate of the region, and to take advantage of the sun and sea breezes characteristic of the southern Puerto Rico’s Caribbean Sea coast. It is a blend of wood and masonry, incorporating architectural elements of other styles, from Classical revival and Spanish Revival to Victorian.
With the country's ethnically diverse background, Puerto Rican art reflects many influences. A form of folk art, called santos evolved from the Catholic Church's use of sculptures to convert indigenous Puerto Ricans to Christianity. Santos depict figures of saints and other religious icons and are made from native wood, clay, and stone. After shaping simple effigies, they are often finished by painting them in vivid colors. Santos vary in size, with the smallest examples around eight inches tall and the largest about twenty inches tall. Traditionally, santos were seen as messengers between the earth and Heaven. As such, they occupied a special place on household altars, where people prayed to them, asked for help, or tried to summon their protection.
Also popular, caretas are masks worn during carnivals. Similar masks signifying evil spirits were used in both Spain and Africa, though for different purposes. The Spanish used their masks to frighten lapsed Christians into returning to the church, while tribal Africans used them as protection from the evil spirits they represented. True to their historic origins Puerto Rican caretas always bear at least several horns and fangs. While usually constructed of papier-mâché, coconut shells and fine metal screening are sometimes used as well. Red and black were the typical colors for caretas but their palette has expanded to include a wide variety of bright hues and patterns.
The first school in Puerto Rico was the Escuela de Gramatica . It was established by Bishop Alonso Manso in 1513, in the area where the Cathedral of San Juan was to be constructed. The school was free of charge and the courses taught were Latin language, literature, history, science, art, philosophy and theology.
Education in Puerto Rico is divided in three levels—Primary, Secondary, and Higher Level . As of 2002, the literacy rate of the Puerto Rican population was 94.1%; by gender, it was 93.9% for males and 94.4% for females. According to the 2000 Census, 60.0% of the population attained a high school degree or higher level of education, and 18.3% has a bachelor's degree or higher.
Instruction at the primary school level is compulsory and enforced by the state between the ages of 5 and 18. The Constitution of Puerto Rico grants the right to an education to every citizen on the island. To this end, public schools in Puerto Rico provide free and non-sectarian education at the elementary and secondary levels. At any of the three levels, students may attend either public or private schools. As of 1999, there were 1532 public schools and 569 private schools in the island.
The largest and oldest university system is the public University of Puerto Rico with 11 campuses. The largest private university systems on the island are the Sistema Universitario Ana G. Mendez which operates the Universidad del Turabo, Metropolitan University and Universidad del Este, the multi-campus Inter American University, the Pontifical Catholic University, and the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. Puerto Rico has four schools of Medicine and three ABA-approved Law Schools.
The city of San Juan has an elaborate system of triage, hospital, and preventive care health services. The municipal government sponsors regular health fairs in different areas of the city focusing on health care for the elderly and the disabled.
There are twenty hospitals in San Juan, half of which are operated by the government. The largest hospital is the Centro Medico de Rio Piedras . Founded in 1956, it is operated by the Medical Services Administration of the Department of Health of Puerto Rico, and is actually a network of eight hospitals:
The city of San Juan operates nine other hospitals. Of these, eight are Diagnostic and Treatment Centers located in communities throughout San Juan. These nine hospitals are:
There are also ten private hospitals in San Juan. These are:
The city of Ponce is served by several clinics and hospitals. There are four comprehensive care hospitals: Hospital Dr. Pila, Hospital San Cristobal, Hospital San Lucas, and Hospital de Damas. In addition, Hospital Oncológico Andrés Grillasca specializes in the treatment of cancer, and Hospital Siquiátrico specializes in mental disorders. There is also a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic that provides health services to U.S. veterans. The U.S. Veterans Administration will build a new hospital in the city to satisfy regional needs. Hospital de Damas is listed in the U.S. News & World Report as one of the best hospitals under the U.S. flag.
Ponce has the highest concentration of medical infrastructure per inhabitant of any municipality in Puerto Rico.
On the island of Culebra, there is a small hospital in the island called Hospital de Culebra. It also offers pharmacy services to residents and visitors. For emergencies, patients are transported by plane to Fajardo on the main island.
The town of Caguas has three hospitals: Hospital Hima San Pablo, Menonita Caguas Regional Hospital, and the San Juan Bautista Medical Center.
The town of Cayey is served by the Hospital Menonita de Cayey, and the Hospital Municipal de Cayey.
Modern Puerto Rican culture is a unique mix of cultural antecedents: including Taíno, Spanish, African, European and, more recently, North American.
From the Spanish, Puerto Rico received the Spanish language, the Catholic religion and the vast majority of their cultural and moral values and traditions. The United States added English language influence, the university system and the adoption of some holidays and practices. On 1903, the University of Puerto Rico was officially founded, branching out from the "Escuela Normal Industrial", a smaller organism that was founded in Fajardo three years before.
Much of Puerto Rican culture centers on the influence of music. Like the country as a whole, Puerto Rican music has been shaped by other cultures combining with local and traditional rhythms. Early in the history of Puerto Rican music, the influences of Spanish and African traditions were most noticeable. The cultural movements across the Caribbean and North America have played a vital role in the more recent musical influences that have reached Puerto Rico.
The official symbols of Puerto Rico are the Reinita mora or Puerto Rican Spindalis, the Flor de Maga, and the Ceiba or Kapok . The unofficial animal and a symbol of Puerto Rican pride is the Coquí, a small frog. Other popular symbols of Puerto Rico are the jíbaro, and the carite.
Puerto Rico on Stamps
Puerto Rico has been commemorated on four U.S. postal stamps and four personalities have been featured. Insular Territories were commemorated in 1937, the third stamp honored Puerto Rico featuring 'La Fortaleza', the Spanish Governor's Palace. The first free election for governor of the US territory of Puerto Rico was honored on April 27, 1949, at San Juan, Puerto Rico. 'Inauguration' on the 3-cent stamp refers to the election of Luis Munoz Marin, the first democratically elected governor of Puerto Rico.
San Juan, Puerto Rico was commemorated with an 8-cent stamp on its 450th anniversary issued September 12, 1971, featuring a sentry box from Castillo San Felipe del Morro. In the “Flags of our nation series” 2008-2012, of the fifty-five, five territorial flags were featured. Forever stamps included the Puerto Rico Flag illustrated by a bird issued 2011.
Four Puerto Rican personalities have been featured on U.S. postage stamps. These include Roberto Clemente in 1984 as an individual and in the Legends of Baseball series issued in 2000., Luis Muñoz Marín in the Great Americans series, on February 18, 1990., and José Ferrer in the Distinguished American series, issued 2012.
Baseball was one of the first sports to gain widespread popularity in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Baseball League serves as the only active professional league, operating as a winter league. No Major League Baseball franchise or affiliate plays in Puerto Rico, however, San Juan hosted the Montreal Expos for several series in 2003 and 2004 before they moved to Washington, D.C. and became the Washington Nationals. The Puerto Rico national baseball team has participated in the World Cup of Baseball winning one gold, four silver and four bronze medals, the Caribbean Series and the World Baseball Classic. On, San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium hosted the opening round as well as the second round of the newly formed World Baseball Classic. Famous Puerto Rican baseball players include Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda and Roberto Alomar, enshrined in 1973, 1999, and 2011 respectively.
Boxing, basketball, and volleyball are considered popular sports as well. Wilfredo Gómez and McWilliams Arroyo have won their respective divisions at the World Amateur Boxing Championships. Other medalists include José Pedraza, who holds a silver medal, and three boxers who finished in third place, José Luis Vellón, Nelson Dieppa and McJoe Arroyo. In the professional circuit, Puerto Rico has the third-most boxing world champions and its the global leader in champions per capita. These include Miguel Cotto, Félix Trinidad, Wilfred Benítez and Gómez among others. The Puerto Rico national basketball team joined the International Basketball Federation in 1957. Since then, it has won more than 30 medals in international competitions, including gold in three FIBA Americas Championships and the 1994 Goodwill Games., 2004, became a landmark date for the team when it became the first team to defeat the United States in an Olympic tournament since the integration of National Basketball Association players. Winning the inaugural game with scores of 92–73 as part of the 2004 Summer Olympics organized in Athens, Greece. Baloncesto Superior Nacional acts as the top-level professional basketball league in Puerto Rico, and has experienced success since its beginning in 1930.
The Puerto Rico Islanders Football Club, founded in 2003, plays in the NASL, which constitutes the second tier of football in North America. Puerto Rico is also a member of FIFA and CONCACAF. In 2008, the archipelago's first unified league, the Puerto Rico Soccer League, was established.
Other sports include professional wrestling, road running and basketball. The World Wrestling Council and International Wrestling Association are the largest wrestling promotions in the main island. The World's Best 10K, held annually in San Juan, has been ranked among the 20 most competitive races globally. The "Puerto Rico All Stars" team, which has won twelve world championships in unicycle basketball.