Puerto Rico

Geography & Population of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico (PR), which is Spanish for “Rich Port” is an unincorporated territory of the United States.  The island is located in the northeastern part of the Caribbean Sea and its total area is approximately 3,515 square miles.

Puerto Rico’s total current population is 3,660,647.  The population of PR is far more than that of some U.S. states including Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Maine, Montana, and Rhode Island, just to name a few.  Puerto Rico ranks 29th on the list of largest populations of U.S. states and territories, as of 2017.  The capital of PR, and also the largest city in the country, is San Juan, with a total population of just under 400,000.

By law, Puerto Ricans are natural-born citizens of the U.S., which grants citizens the right to move freely from the U.S. back to the island.  Puerto Ricans do not vote for the President and Vice President of the U.S. and also do not have to pay for federal income tax.

PR is the main island but consists of smaller islands such as Culebra, Mona, Desecheo, Caja de Muertos, and Vieques.  Puerto Rico is both mountainous and coastal.  The country’s landscape is built from volcanic, plutonic, sedimentary, and carbonate rocks, and it is believed that the oldest rocks are roughly 190 million years old.  Due to the positioning of the island between Caribbean and North American tectonic plates, the island is heavily susceptible to earthquakes, hurricanes, landslides, and tsunamis.

History of Puerto Rico

Christopher Columbus arrived in Puerto Rico on November 19th, 1493, becoming the first European settler on the island.  Previously, indigenous people from a group called Taíno occupied the island for centuries.  Spain would then gain control of the island and continued to have power for over four centuries.  In July 1898, the U.S. gained control of Puerto Rico, ceasing Spain’s power.

Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory at the start of the 20th century, and in 1947, was granted the right to have and elect their own governor.  Today, the sovereignty and regulations of Puerto Rico still remains a relevant topic of discussion.

Facts About Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s climate is considered tropical with an average temperature of 82.4 degrees, although temperatures vary slightly between the lowlands and coastal areas.

Puerto Rico is known for its biodiversity with nearly 40 species of reptiles/amphibians, 16 species of birds, and 239 types of flora on the main land.  One of the most common animals, indigenous to the island is the Coquí, a type of small frog.  In the northeast, the El Yunque National rainforest is home to 240 different kinds of plants and to 50 species of birds.

The U.S. navy had a large presence on the island with as many as 25 naval bases in the 20th century.  The most famous naval stations include the former Roosevelt Naval Stations, The Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility, and the National Guard.  Today, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Puerto Rico National Guard are the main facilities, along with Ft. Buchanan and Muñiz Air Base.

Unfortunately, in early 2017, the debt crisis of the Puerto Rican government was the second greatest recession since the Great Depression, with a debt of $70 million and 46% poverty rate.  Due to Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico saw the largest power outage in American history when the majority of the island’s electrical grid was destroyed.


By Alexandra R. Fasulo – published on STL.News by St. Louis Media, LLC


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