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Puerto Rico

 The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Spanish: Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico) is a self-governing polity in association with the United States located east of the Dominican Republic in the northeastern Caribbean. Puerto Rico, the smallest of the Greater Antilles, includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands and keys, including Mona, Vieques, and Culebra.

 

 

 

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The nature of Puerto Rico's political relationship with the United States is the subject of ongoing debate in the island. Supporters of maintaining the status quo (i.e., Commonwealth status) insist that upon attaining this status, Puerto Rico entered into a voluntary association with the U.S. "in the nature of a compact", but opponents of Commonwealth disagree: according to them, Puerto Rico is no more than an unincorporated organized territory of the U.S., subject to the plenary powers of the United States Congress. According to several status polls, nearly half the population believes that Puerto Rico should join the United States as a state.

When Europeans first arrived, the island of Puerto Rico was inhabited by a group of Arawak Indians known as Taínos. The Taínos called the island "Borikén." The first European contact was made by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage to the Antilles, on November 19, 1493. Some say that Puerto Rico was not discovered by Columbus but by Martín Alonso Pinzón in 1492 when he separated from Columbus and went exploring on his own. The Pinzón family was given one year by the Spanish court to start a settlement in Puerto Rico which would give them a claim to the island. However, they did not succeed. Originally named San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John the Baptist, the island ultimately took the name of Puerto Rico (Rich Port), while the name San Juan is now delegated to its capital and largest city. Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León became the island's first governor to take office, while Vicente Yáñez Pinzón was the first appointed governor, although he never arrived on the island.

 

The island was soon colonized and briefly became an important stronghold and port for the Spanish empire in the Caribbean. However, colonial emphasis during the late 17th–18th centuries focused on the more prosperous mainland territories, leaving the island impoverished of settlers. Concerned about threats from its European enemies, over the centuries various forts and walls were built to protect the port of San Juan. Fortresses such as La Fortaleza, El Castillo San Felipe del Morro and El Castillo de San Cristóbal were built. The French, Dutch and English made attempts to capture Puerto Rico, but failed to wrest long-term occupancy of the island.

In 1809, while Napoleon occupied the majority of the Iberian peninsula, a populist assembly based in Cadiz recognized Puerto Rico as an overseas province of Spain with the right to send representatives to the Spanish Court. The representative Ramon Power y Giralt died soon after arriving in Spain; and constitutional reforms were reversed when autocratic monarchy was restored. Nineteenth century reforms augmented the population and economy, and expanded the local character of the island. After the rapid gains of independence by the South and Central American states in the first part of the century, Puerto Rico and Cuba became the sole New World remnants of the large Spanish empire.

Toward the end of the 19th century, poverty and political estrangement with Spain led to a small but significant uprising in 1868 known as "El Grito de Lares The uprising was easily and quickly crushed. Leaders of this independence movement included Ramón Emeterio Betances, considered the "father" of the Puerto Rican nation, and other political figures such as Segundo Ruiz Belvis. Later, another political stronghold was the autonomist movement originated by Roman Baldorioty de Castro and, toward the end of the century, by Luis Múñoz Rivera. In 1897, Múñoz Rivera and others persuaded the liberal Spanish government to agree to a Charters of Autonomy for Cuba and Puerto Rico. The following year, Puerto Rico's first, but short-lived, autonomous government was organized. The charter maintained a governor appointed by Spain, who held the power to annul any legislative decision he disagreed with, and a partially elected parliamentary structure.

On July 25, 1898 at the outbreak of the Spanish–American War, Puerto Rico, being a colony of Spain, was invaded by the United States of America with a landing at Guánica. Spain was forced to cede Puerto Rico, along with Cuba and the Phillippines, to the United States under the Treaty of Paris (1898) [1]. The twentieth century began under the military regime of the United States with officials, including the governor, appointed by the President of the United States. In 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act approved by the United States Congress granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship. Natural disasters and the Great Depression impoverished the island. Some political leaders demanded change; some, like Pedro Albizu Campos, would lead a nationalist (The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party) movement in favor of independence. He would eventually die by what he claimed was a conspiracy set in place by the U.S. Federal Government. Múñoz Rivera initially favored independence, but saw a severe decline of the Puerto Rican economy, as well as growing violence and uprisings, at the hands of the U.S. government and opted to create the "commonwealth" option as an eventual stepping stone to full independence.


Luis Múñoz Marín, first democratically elected governor of Puerto RicoChange in the nature of governance of the island came about during the latter years of the Roosevelt–Truman administrations, as a form of compromise spearheaded by Luis Múñoz Marín and others, and which culminated with the appointment by President Harry S. Truman in 1946 of the first Puerto Rican-born governor, Jesús T. Piñero. In 1948, the United States granted the right to democratically elect the governor of Puerto Rico. Luis Múñoz Marín would become the first elected governor of Puerto Rico.

On November 1, 1950, Puerto Rican nationalists Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo attempted to assassinate President Harry S. Truman. In response, Truman allowed for a genuinely democratic referendum in Puerto Rico to determine the status of its relationship to the United States [2].

Puerto Rico adopted its own constitution in 1952 which adopted a commonwealth relationship with the United States [3][4]. During the 1950s Puerto Rico experienced a rapid industrialization, with such projects as Operation Bootstrap which aimed to industrialize Puerto Rico's economy from agriculture-based into manufacturing-based.

Present-day Puerto Rico has become a major tourist destination and a leading pharmaceutical and manufacturing center. Still, Puerto Rico continues to struggle to define its political status. A number of plebiscites have been held in recent decades to decide whether Puerto Rico should request independence, enhanced commonwealth status, or statehood. Narrow victories by commonwealth supporters over statehood advocates have not yielded substantial changes in the relationship between the island and the United States. However, commonwealth--which once had the support of well over 75% of the voting population--now has less than 50% support. This decrease has been met with an expanded support for statehood for the island, with both groups holding an equal share of support. The independence ideal, once the second leading ideology on the island in the general elections, is now supported by 3–6% of the voting population.

 
 




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