Puerto Rico

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Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico ( Spanish )
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( English )
Puerto Rico Free State
Puerto Rico flag
Puerto Rico coat of arms
flag coat of arms
Motto : Ioannes Est Nomen Eius
( Latin for Johannes is his name )
Official language Spanish and English
Capital San Juan
Form of government Unincorporated U.S. Territory
Head of state President Donald Trump
Head of government Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced
surface 8,959 km²
population 3,411,307 (2016 estimate)
Population density 381 inhabitants per km²
Population development   −1.73% per year
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nom.)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 98,805 million ( 64th )
  • $ 121,005 million ( 80th )
  • 30,488 USD ( 29. )
  • 37,339 USD ( 36. )
currency US dollar (USD)
National anthem La Borinqueña
Time zone UTC − 4
License Plate PRI
ISO 3166 PR , PRI, 630
Internet TLD .pr
Telephone code +1 (787) and +1 (939) see NANP
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The Free State of Puerto Rico ( Spanish Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico [ esˈtɑðo ˈliβɾe ɑsoˈsjɑðo ðe ˈpweɾto ˈriko ], English Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , formerly German also Portoriko ) is the largest and most populous of the outer areas of the United States of America . It also includes the Spanish Virgin Islands .

Puerto Rico means "rich port". The inhabitants of Puerto Rico are called Puerto Rican in German , in Latin American Spanish and also on the island itself as Boricua . The original name of the island of Puerto Rico is Borikén in Arawak , the Puerto Ricans often refer to their island as Borinquén . Spanish is the mother tongue of 95% of the population .

Geography and climate

Mountain landscape in Puerto Rico

The island state is located in the Caribbean and consists of the island of Puerto Rico and the smaller secondary islands Vieques , Culebra , Culebrita , Desecheo , Palomino , Mona , Caja de Muertos and Monito .

Puerto Rico is the easternmost and smallest island in the Greater Antilles . About 150 km to the west is the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic and Haiti , to the east are the Virgin Islands ; the Spanish Virgin Islands form two municipalities of Puerto Rico, and South America is 800 km south, across the Caribbean .

The surrounding ocean is very deep: in the north of the islands there is the approx. 8,400 meter deep Milwaukee Depth in the Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic , in the south there is the 5649 m deep Venezuelan Basin in the Caribbean . Much of the island is mountainous (60% of the surface), there are areas with rainforests and deserts .

The highest mountain is Cerro La Punta ( 1338  m ), the longest river of the Rio de la Plata (97 km).

The island has a tropical climate with average temperatures of around 28 ° C. The north coast and the highlands are more rainy than the south.

In the 20th century, the temperature in Puerto Rico rose by an average of 2 ° C. Climate change is noticeable through a sharp increase in the frequency of extreme heat waves, with negative effects on the flora and fauna.


The three and a half million inhabitants of Puerto Rico are spread over 78 communities . They are mostly descendants of Spaniards who mixed with the indigenous Taíno and African slaves in the early colonial times . Genetic tests showed 65% European, 20% Black African and 12% Indian genes. According to the 2011 US census, 75.4% of the population identify as white, 12.4% as black, 8.5% as other and 3.3% as mixed. The boundaries of ethnic self-identification are much looser in Puerto Rico than z. B. in the US mainland, as much of the population is of mixed race. 99% of the population speak Spanish.

More than 70% of Puerto Ricans are Roman Catholic (practiced by about 55%), 25% Protestant.

From 2005 to 2018, the island's population decreased. From 2010 to 2016, the population shrank by 7% - probably because of the poor economic situation. Young people in particular have left the island and settled in the heartland of the United States. A total of 1,744,000 Americans born in Puerto Rico have moved to the heartland of the United States, making Puerto Rico one of the highest emigration rates in the world. Immigrants in Puerto Rico itself often come from poorer Caribbean countries and are attracted by the higher standard of living. Only in 2019 there was a small increase in population again.

Population development

year population
1950 2,218,000
1960 2,355,000
1970 2,710,000
1980 3,188,000
1990 3,518,000
2000 3,797,000
2010 3,717,000
2016 3,411,000

Source: UN


The fauna of Puerto Rico is - similar to the fauna of other island archipelagos - rich in endemic species, but low in alpha diversity . Bats are the only surviving native land mammals in Puerto Rico. All other land mammals such as cats , small mongooses , goats and sheep were introduced by humans. Dolphins , manatees and whales also live in the sea . Of the 349 species of birds, around 120 breed on the archipelago, and 47.5% are wanderers or rare species. Probably the most notable and famous animal in Puerto Rico is the cave whistle frog ( Eleutherodactylus coqui ) or Coquí , a small, endemic frog that forms one of the 85 species of the Puerto Rican herpetofauna . There are no native fish in the fresh waters , but there are some species introduced by humans. Most of the fauna is made up of invertebrates .

The arrival of the first humans 4,000 years ago, and to an even greater extent that of the Europeans 500 years ago, had a profound impact on the Puerto Rican fauna. Hunting , habitat destruction and the introduction of alien species led to extinction or local extinction. Conservation and conservation efforts, especially those for the endemic parrot species, the Puerto Rican Amazon , began in the second half of the 20th century. In 2002 there were 21 endangered species, including two mammals, eight breeding birds, eight reptiles, and three amphibians .


National monument for el jibaro , the simple farmer

The history of Puerto Rico began with the settlement of the archipelago by the Ortoiroid between 3000 and 2000 BC. Other tribes such as the Igneri and Arawak settled the island between 120 and 1000 AD. At the time of Christopher Columbus ' arrival in the New World , the Arawak-belonging Taíno were the dominant indigenous culture. It died out in the second half of the 16th century due to the exploitation, war and diseases that the Spaniards had brought in.

Thanks to its location in the northeastern Caribbean , Puerto Rico was a key point for the Spanish Empire in the early years of the exploration, conquest, and colonization of the New World. The smallest main island in the Greater Antilles was an important military base in many wars between Spain and other European powers for control of the region during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The island was an intermediate step on the way from Europe to Cuba , Mexico , Central America and the northern territories of South America . During the 19th century and until the end of the Spanish-American War , Puerto Rico and Cuba were the last two Spanish colonies in the New World and served as the final outpost in Spanish strategies to recapture the American continent .

In 1898 the USA occupied Puerto Rico in the course of the Spanish-American War and claimed the island for themselves. The first half of the 20th century was marked by struggles for more democratic rights from the United States. The Foraker Act of 1900, which established a civil government, and the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917.

On April 16, 1929, a law was passed giving all women who could read and write the right to vote and was to come into effect in 1932. Although this resulted in restricted women's suffrage , in fact most Puerto Rican women were excluded from the election. In 1935 a law was passed that guaranteed universal suffrage. Universal suffrage for men was recognized in the Jones Act for Puerto Rico in 1917.

The Foraker Act and the Jones-Shafroth Act paved the way for the Puerto Rico constitution and the first democratic elections in 1952, but Puerto Rico's political status remains controversial more than 500 years after it was first settled by Europeans.


Self-government and parties

The Capitol in San Juan, seat of the House of Representatives and the Senate

The local capital and largest city is San Juan . This is where the local administration and local government are based. Similar to the main US territory, there is a parliament with two chambers for self-government: the House of Representatives with 54 members and the Senate with 28 members. The governor of Puerto Rico is the head of the local government . This is elected directly every four years. The Secretary of State also acts as Deputy Governor.

The party landscape differs from that on the US mainland and is based on the position in relation to the status of Puerto Rico. The main political parties are:

The Democratic Party and the Republican Party also have their own associations in Puerto Rico. In elections, for example those for Congress delegates , the candidates from the major Puerto Rican parties enter into alternating coalitions with the federal parties. The current delegate, Pedro Pierluisi, is just as much a member of the PNP as his predecessor, the former governor Luis Fortuño , but in contrast to him is associated with the Democrats. Fortuño was a member of the Republican faction in Congress. Fortuño's successor as governor, Alejandro García Padilla , who was appointed to his post in January 2013, is a federal democrat, but a member of the PPD in Puerto Rico.

Status within the United States

View of the fortress and Old San Juan , UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. This means that Puerto Rico is neither a separate US state nor belongs to any other state. As part of the United States, Puerto Rico does not have a foreign policy of its own; all foreign affairs are handled by the United States. The currency is the US dollar . As a consequence of the Jones Shafroth Decree , all Puerto Ricans have been US citizens per se since 1917 . Since Puerto Rico is not a state or part of a state, Puerto Ricans do not have all the rights enshrined in the US constitution , but only basic rights. For example, they are not entitled to vote in the US presidential elections unless they are resident in one of the 50 states of the United States. However, the US parties are including Puerto Rico in the party's internal primaries for the presidential election. In the House of Representatives of Congress , Puerto Rico is represented by a delegate who, however, has no voting rights; currently this is Jenniffer González .

What rights Puerto Ricans have over and above basic rights has in part been the subject of negotiations in the United States Supreme Court . However, are obliged Puerto Ricans to substantially all US federal taxes payable. Puerto Rico contributed US $ 3.742 billion to the US budget in 2009 . The fundamental exception to the tax liability of Puerto Ricans with regard to US federal taxes is income tax . The local government can enact its own tax laws for this as well as for other areas. Puerto Rico residents also contribute to the United States' social security system and are therefore eligible for retirement benefits. Puerto Ricans were also always obliged to serve in the US military in times of conscription . The US over- the-horizon radar for monitoring South America is housed on Fort Allen . Many important US federal agencies, such as the FBI , have offices in Puerto Rico. In 1992, then- US President George Bush sent a letter to the heads of the federal authorities regarding the relationship with Puerto Rico. Here the president instructed that Puerto Rico should be treated as if it were a state, provided that this did not conflict with ongoing programs.

Puerto Rican Day Parade takes place in Manhattan every year on the second Sunday in June .

On November 6, 2012, a referendum was held on the status of Puerto Rico , in which the residents of Puerto Rico could first vote on whether they want to keep their current status or have a different status. In a second step, a vote was also taken on whether Puerto Rico should become a fully fledged US state, a fully independent state or a freely associated state (in contrast to the current status, Puerto Ricans would no longer be US citizens, for example). The residents voted against the status quo with 54.00% of the valid votes , 61.14% were in favor of the goal of a fully fledged US state. As a result of the referendum, on December 11, 2012, the Puerto Rican local government submitted a request to the relevant US authorities to make Puerto Rico the 51st state .

Another referendum took place on June 11, 2017. With a turnout of 23%, 97.2% of the participants voted for the conversion to a US state, 1.3% for the retention of the status quo and 1.5% for independence from the USA. The opposition had called for a boycott of the vote.

Relationship with the motherland

Some points of contention have created disagreements with the US metropolitan area. The US Navy has been testing weapons in Vieques , a small offshore island, since the Second World War . Citizens had repeatedly occupied the site. They fought, partly with the support of local politicians, to end the maneuvers . Ammunition, including uranium ammunition , and chemical residues have led to increased cancer rates among children and other health problems among the population. In 2001, after decades of political struggle, an agreement was found with the US government, so that in May 2003 the Navy troops began to withdraw from Vieques.

Economy and Infrastructure

San Juan Harbor

Puerto Rico is the richest area in Latin America by per capita income. The economic output per capita in 2016 was 37,700 US dollars after adjustment for purchasing power and was thus on a par with Italy . According to the World Bank , Puerto Rico is one of the states and territories with a high income. However, with the financial crisis in the United States, the island's economic situation has deteriorated rapidly. From 2006 to 2016, the gross domestic product shrank every year, making Puerto Rico one of the longest phases of recessive economic performance in recent global economic history. In 2015, Puerto Rico was unable to service its debt for the first time.

Economic structure

Important agricultural products are sugar cane , bananas , coffee , pineapple , ginger and tobacco ; In addition, the fishing of importance. Other important branches of industry are the food , textile , pharmaceutical and cement industries as well as mechanical engineering .

The world-famous rum " Bacardi " is produced in Puerto Rico . In order to avoid the high import tariffs , a production facility was built on the island, through which the import of rum into the United States was made easier and cheaper. Previously, the popular rum always had to be imported from the Bermuda Islands (territory of the United Kingdom ), with high customs duties being payable.

The tourism is another important industry of Puerto Rico; Americans in particular value the Caribbean island as a holiday destination.

The seaport in San Juan is one of the largest in Latin America.

Lufthansa Technik AG has been operating an overhaul and maintenance location at Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla since July 2015 .

Puerto Rico relies on large subsidies from the United States. Also because of these subsidies, Puerto Rico's infrastructure and health system are excellent in a Latin American comparison.

The unemployment rate in 2017 was 11.5%.

Taxes and Public Debt

The island is also an important tax haven , from which the US pharmaceutical industry in particular benefited. Pfizer and other companies produce a large part of their goods here for the USA and the world market. They were able to transfer the profits to the USA tax-free for years. In addition, there are virtually no unions in Puerto Rico .

If you move your center of life to Puerto Rico, you will not pay any capital gains tax until 2035 . 2013 negotiated about 40 rich Americans about moving to Puerto Rico, including 35 hedge funds - Manager .

At 70%, Puerto Rico has a debt ratio many times higher than any of the 50 US states. The national debt in 2015 was US $ 72 billion. At the end of June 2015, Governor Padilla declared that Puerto Rico could no longer service loans that were due. The island was unable to repay a bond due on August 1, 2015. Puerto Rico is as good as bankrupt .

According to Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla's announcement, the state-run Government Development Bank did not repay a USD 422 million (EUR 370 million) installment of USD 70 billion in total debt on May 2, 2016. The next installment of $ 1.9 billion would have been due on July 1, 2016.

On May 3, 2017, Puerto Rico filed for bankruptcy protection against total debt of $ 123 billion in outstanding loans and pension obligations. Shortly before, US President Trump had rejected a haircut on Twitter.


All public and private elementary and secondary schools in Puerto Rico are overseen by the Department of Education. The Puerto Rico Education Council controls academic standards and decides on the approval of foreign education providers. School attendance is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 18. The largest college in the country is the Public University of Puerto Rico with more than 10 campuses across the country. There are around 250,000 students in total.


At Arecibo is located in a valley, the third largest radio telescope in the world, the Arecibo Observatory . Research is carried out u. a. also in the field of biotechnology.



The premier sport in Puerto Rico is baseball . The Free State has its own baseball league with five clubs, the Liga de Béisbol Profesional de Puerto Rico . The largest baseball stadium is the Estadio Hiram Bithorn in San Juan-Santurce, which offers space for around 18,000 people.

Puerto Rico has produced nine Olympic medalists to date. In addition to the only gold medal in the individual tennis competition for Mónica Puig in Rio de Janeiro 2016 , all other Puerto Ricans received silver and bronze medals, mostly in the sport of boxing (see also list of Olympic medal winners from Puerto Rico ).

Other popular sports are basketball in the Baloncesto Superior Nacional and volleyball .

In 2004 the Puerto Rican national basketball team around NBA star Carlos Arroyo sensationally beat the United States team in the preliminary round at the Olympic Games in Athens (92:73). Ultimately, however, they failed in the quarter-finals against the team from Italy , the later silver medalist.

Another sport is surfing. In 2010 the Ripcurl Pro Search took place, a professional tour stop of the World Championship Tour (WCT), where the best professionals in the world make their debut. Here Kelly Slater decided 10th world championship title in the quarterfinals against the Brazilian Adriano da Souza. In the end, Slater won.


The media landscape in Puerto Rico is diverse. As in the USA, there is no public broadcasting system, but a number of commercial radio and television stations. A number of newspapers appear in English or Spanish.



Famous musicians of Puerto Rican origin have made a name for themselves around the world:

For some years now, after initial success in Latin America , musicians from Puerto Rico in a new style of music called reggaetón have been increasingly attracting attention worldwide. Well-known performers are Daddy Yankee , Pedro Pietri , Tego Calderón , Don Omar , Ivy Queen , Julio Voltio , Wisin y Yandel , Héctor y Tito and Arcángel .

The music video of the song Despacito by the two Puerto Rican singers Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee became the first video on YouTube in 2017 with more than 3 billion views.

Other sons and daughters of Puerto Rico

Misses Universe

Although Puerto Rico is politically part of the United States, it has the right (just as it is allowed to have its own team at the Olympic Games or the World Cup) to nominate its own Miss Universe. In addition to the seven Misses Universe of the motherland, Puerto Rico produced five of its own winners of the competition. When Marisol Malaret won the title of "Miss Universe" for the first time in 1970, this triggered a multi-day festival on the streets of the entire island. It was followed by: Deborah Carthy-Deu (1985), Dayanara Torres (1993), Denise Quiñones (2001) and Zuleyka Rivera (2006).

Personalities with Puerto Rican roots


  • Sam Erman: Almost Citizens: Puerto Rico, the US Constitution, and Empire. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2019, ISBN 978-1-108-40149-4 .

Web links

Commons : Puerto Rico  - collection of pictures, videos, and audio files
Wikivoyage: Puerto Rico  Travel Guide

Individual evidence

  1. QuickFacts - Puerto Rico. US Department of Commerce , accessed January 9, 2017 .
  2. Google Public Data Explorer. Google Inc. , accessed January 9, 2017 .
  3. www.imf.org , International Monetary Fund (English).
  4. ^ Climate change is killing off Earth's little creatures. The Conversation, February 19, 2019, accessed February 19, 2019 .
  5. Miguel Vilar: Genographic Project DNA Results Reveal Details of Puerto Rican History. National Geographic Society , July 25, 2014, accessed June 8, 2016 .
  6. a b CIA: Puerto Rico. In: The World Factbook. August 30, 2017, accessed September 4, 2017 .
  7. a b Puerto Rico population increases for 1st time since 2005. In: apnews.com . December 31, 2019, accessed January 1, 2020.
  8. When the salsa stops. In: The Economist , January 9, 2016.
  9. World Migration Flows , September 4, 2017 (English).
  10. World Population Prospects - Population Division - United Nations. Retrieved July 25, 2017 .
  11. Charles A. Sergile, Florence E. Woods: Biogeography of the West Indies. Patterns and Perspectives. 2nd Edition. CRC Press, Boca Raton FL et al. a. 2001, ISBN 0-8493-2001-1 (English).
  12. ^ Caribbean - Human impacts. In: Biodiversity Hotspots. Conservation International, archived from the original on May 15, 2005 ; Retrieved September 19, 2006 .
  13. ^ Biodiversity and protected areas - Puerto Rico. (PDF) (No longer available online.) EarthTrend, archived from the original on March 4, 2009 ; Retrieved September 14, 2006 .
  14. ^ Allison L. Sneider: Suffragists in an Imperial Age. US Expansion and the Women Question 1870-1929. Oxford University Press, New York, 2006, ISBN 978-0-19-532116-6 , p. 134.
  15. a b June Hannam, Mitzi Auchterlonie, Katherine Holden: International Encyclopedia of Women's Suffrage. ABC-Clio, Santa Barbara, Denver, Oxford 2000, ISBN 1-57607-064-6 , pp. 246-247.
  16. ^ Truman Clark: Puerto Rico and the United States 1917-1933. Pittsburgh 1975, ISBN 0-8229-3299-7
  17. ^ Allison L. Sneider: Suffragists in an Imperial Age. US Expansion and the Women Question 1870-1929. Oxford University Press, New York, 2006, ISBN 978-0-19-532116-6 , p. 117.
  18. On the result of the 2012 referendum ; accessed on November 9, 2012 (PDF; 150 kB; English).
  19. Puerto Rico, The 51st State? (Puerto Rican government asks the responsible US authorities to grant state status). In: The Huffington Post. March 16, 2016, archived from the original on February 20, 2013 ; Retrieved February 27, 2013 .
  20. Jump up ↑ Puerto Rico votes for state conversion. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . June 12, 2017.
  21. ^ The World Factbook - Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed August 6, 2018 .
  22. ^ Gabriel Zucman : La richesse cachée des nations. Inquiry on the paradis fiscaux . Seuil, Paris 2013, ISBN 978-2-02-111431-7 .
  23. a b Handelsblatt . No. 122 , June 30, 2015, p. 12 .
  24. Star investor Paulson toying with Puerto Rico. In: Handelsblatt. 12th March 2013.
  25. ^ Peter Mühlbauer: The Greece of the USA. In: Telepolis. June 30, 2015, accessed the same day.
  26. Puerto Rico is broke. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . August 4, 2015, accessed August 5, 2015 .
  27. Puerto Rico Will Not Pay Back Debt , orf.at, May 2, 2016, accessed May 2, 2016.
  28. Puerto Rico declares bankruptcy. Here's how it's going to unfold , USA Today, May 3, 2017.
  29. Donald J. Trump on Twitter. April 27, 2017. Retrieved June 15, 2017 .
  30. ^ Directory of Puerto Rican Online Newspapers. Retrieved March 22, 2020 .

Coordinates: 18 ° 15 ′  N , 66 ° 30 ′  W