Geography & Population of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico (PR), Spanish for “Rich Port,” is an unincorporated United States territory.  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.  PR’s population is far more than that of some U.S. states, including Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Maine, Montana, and Rhode Island, to 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 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., granting 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 do not have to pay 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 island’s positioning between the 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.  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 remain 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 mainland.  One of the most common animals indigenous to the island is the Coquí, a small frog type.  In the northeast, the El Yunque National rainforest is home to 240 different plants and 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 and Ft. Buchanan and Muñiz Air Base.

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

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