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Puerto Rico


Populated for centuries by aboriginal peoples, the island was claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1493 following Columbus' second voyage to the Americas. In 1898, after 400 years of colonial rule that saw the indigenous population nearly exterminated and African slave labor introduced, Puerto Rico was ceded to the US as a result of the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship in 1917 and popularly elected governors have served since 1948. In 1952, a constitution was enacted providing for internal self-government. In plebiscites held in 1967, 1993, and 1998 voters chose to retain commonwealth status.



Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic

Geographic coordinates:

18 15 N, 66 30 W

Map references:

Central America and the Caribbean


total: 9,104 sq km
water: 145 sq km
land: 8,959 sq km

Area - comparative:

slightly less than three times the size of Rhode Island

Land boundaries:

0 km


501 km

Maritime claims:

exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM


tropical marine, mild; little seasonal temperature variation


mostly mountains, with coastal plain belt in north; mountains precipitous to sea on west coast; sandy beaches along most coastal areas

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Cerro de Punta 1,338 m

Natural resources:

some copper and nickel; potential for onshore and offshore oil

Land use:

arable land: 3.72%
permanent crops: 5.07%
other: 91.21% (1998 est.)

Irrigated land:

400 sq km (1998 est.)

Natural hazards:

periodic droughts; hurricanes

Environment - current issues:

erosion; occasional drought causing water shortages

Geography - note:

important location along the Mona Passage - a key shipping lane to the Panama Canal; San Juan is one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean; many small rivers and high central mountains ensure land is well watered; south coast relatively dry; fertile coastal plain belt in north



3,885,877 (July 2003 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 22.9% (male 454,908; female 434,555)
15-64 years: 65.2% (male 1,212,764; female 1,322,356)
65 years and over: 11.9% (male 200,669; female 260,625) (2003 est.)

Median age:

total: 33.3 years
male: 31.6 years
female: 34.9 years (2002)

Population growth rate:

0.58% (2003 est.)

Birth rate:

15 births/1,000 population (2003 est.)

Death rate:

7.68 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.)

Net migration rate:

-1.54 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2003 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.77 male(s)/female
total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2003 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 9.38 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 8.41 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
male: 10.3 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 77.26 years
male: 73.27 years
female: 81.44 years (2003 est.)

Total fertility rate:

2.02 children born/woman (2003 est.)


noun: Puerto Rican(s) (US citizens)
adjective: Puerto Rican

Ethnic groups:

white (mostly Spanish origin) 80.5%, black 8%, Amerindian 0.4%, Asian 0.2%, mixed and other 10.9%


Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant and other 15%


Spanish, English


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93.8%
male: 93.7%
female: 94% (2001)


Country name:

conventional long form: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
conventional short form: Puerto Rico

Dependency status:

commonwealth associated with the US

Government type:



San Juan

Administrative divisions:

none (commonwealth associated with the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are 78 municipalities (municipios, singular - municipio) at the second order; Adjuntas, Aguada, Aguadilla, Aguas Buenas, Aibonito, Anasco, Arecibo, Arroyo, Barceloneta, Barranquitas, Bayamon, Cabo Rojo, Caguas, Camuy, Canovanas, Carolina, Catano, Cayey, Ceiba, Ciales, Cidra, Coamo, Comerio, Corozal, Culebra, Dorado, Fajardo, Florida, Guanica, Guayama, Guayanilla, Guaynabo, Gurabo, Hatillo, Hormigueros, Humacao, Isabela, Jayuya, Juana Diaz, Juncos, Lajas, Lares, Las Marias, Las Piedras, Loiza, Luquillo, Manati, Maricao, Maunabo, Mayaguez, Moca, Morovis, Naguabo, Naranjito, Orocovis, Patillas, Penuelas, Ponce, Quebradillas, Rincon, Rio Grande, Sabana Grande, Salinas, San German, San Juan, San Lorenzo, San Sebastian, Santa Isabel, Toa Alta, Toa Baja, Trujillo Alto, Utuado, Vega Alta, Vega Baja, Vieques, Villalba, Yabucoa, Yauco


none (commonwealth associated with the US)

National holiday:

US Independence Day, 4 July (1776); Puerto Rico Constitution Day, 25 July (1952)


ratified 3 March 1952; approved by US Congress 3 July 1952; effective 25 July 1952

Legal system:

based on Spanish civil code and within the US Federal system of justice


18 years of age; universal; indigenous inhabitants are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections

Source: CIA World Factbook