Puerto Rico

From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty
Puerto Rico
The Republic of Puerto Rico
Location of Puerto Rico
EstablishedBeginning of Spanish Colonialism (1493)

Articles of Dominionship ratified (1883) Independence from Spain (1934)

Current Constitution (1943)
CapitalSan Juan
Largest City
  • San Juan
Population3.2 Million
Government TypeUnitary constitutional republic
Area9,104 km2
  • Spanish (Official)
  • Puerto Rican Peso (PRP)

Puerto Rico ('Spanish for 'Rich Port'; abbreviated PR), officially the The Republic of Puerto Rico (Spanish: La República de Puerto Rico) is an island country in the northeast Caribbean Sea located amongst the the Greater Antilles archipelago. The country is situated between the nation of Saint-Domingue and the Virgin Islands.


Early History

Originally populated by the indigenous Taíno people, Puerto Rico was colonized by Spain following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493. Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista, in honor of St John the Baptist. At the beginning of the 16th century, the Spanish people began to colonize the island. Despite the Laws of Burgos of 1512 and other decrees for the protection of the indigenous population, some Taíno Indians were forced into an encomienda system of forced labor in the early years of colonization. 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. Enslaved Africans had already begun to be imported to compensate for the native labor loss, but their numbers were proportionate to the diminished commercial interest Spain soon began to demonstrate for the island colony.

San Juan served as an important port-of-call for ships driven across the Atlantic by its powerful trade winds. West Indies convoys linked Spain to the island, sailing between Cádiz and the Spanish West Indies. The colony's seat of government was on the forested Islet of San Juan and for a time became one of the most heavily fortified settlements in the Spanish Caribbean earning the name of the "Walled City". During the Spanish-Dutch war of 1850 Dutch forces briefly captured the island but abandoned it after 10 weeks due to needing to focus resources elsewhere. In the 1790's the Spanish empire received an offer from the Republic of Genoa to buy the island and according to court records actually considered selling the island but thought that the offer presented by the Genoans for the island was too low. The consideration of the sale of the island was halted due to the invasion of Genoa by the French army and the Austino wars.


During the Spring of Nations in the 1830's Puerto Rico spawned an liberal-minded independence movement seeking to drive out the Spanish crown and establish a republic. While Spanish authorities were primarily occupied with unrest in the Iberian peninsula, independentistas occupied the island of Vieques and attempted to muster an army to take the city San Juan to no avail. In the spring of 1839 the Sociedad por la Liberación del Pueblo de Puerto Rico or commonly known as Los Libertadores rose up in the southern coast of Puerto Rico centered around Ponce and Peñuelas. The leader of the rebels Miguel López de Vigo declared The Republic of Puerto Rico that summer in Ponce. Throughout the rebellion the rebels were plagued by infighting and unsuccessfully tried to take San Juan twice in the winter of 1839. In the spring of 1840 the Spanish navy took the island of Vieques and Ponce and by the beginning of the summer the rebel army was either dispersed or captured.


The unrest of the 1840's shook Spanish colonial officials and reinforced the belief that administration of the Spanish American colonies needed reform. In 1842 slavery was abolished by order of Spanish royal decree, in which fears of slave rebellions in Puerto Rico and Cuba was commonly cited as major reason. Increasing resentment by colonials to Spanish rule throughout the colonies combined with economic issues at home in Spain led to a series of liberal agitations across Spanish America in the mid 19th century and small local independentistas rebellions led to to the independence and formation of popular governance in most of the Spanish Americas in the 1880s. On June 28th, 1883, Puerto Rico was granted popular sovereignty in the Royal Articles of Dominionship approved by the King of Spain and the governor general of Puerto Rico. The articles created a constitution for the island which set up a sovereign unitary constitutional monarchy under the Spanish Crown in place of the old colonial administration of the island.

Independence from Spain