Editor's note: The New York Times, in its report on the governor of Puerto Rico acknowledging its debts are 'not payable,' called the admission 'startling.' The Times: 'A broad restructuring by Puerto Rico sets the stage for an unprecedented test of the United States municipal bond market, which cities and states rely on to pay for their most basic needs, like road construction and public hospitals'. - Tom
Puerto Rico (English /ˌpɔrtə ˈriːkoʊ/ or /ˌpwɛərtə ˈriːkoʊ/; Spanish: [ˈpweɾto ˈriko]), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Spanish: Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, pronounced: [esˈtaðo ˈliβɾe asoˈsjaðo ðe ˈpweɾto ˈriko]), is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rico (Spanish for "rich port") is an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands, the largest of which are Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. The main island of Puerto Rico is, by land area, the smallest of the Greater Antilles. With around 3.6 million people, it ranks third in population among that group of four islands, which include Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica. The capital and largest city is San Juan. Due to its location, Puerto Rico has a tropical climate and is subject to hot weather all-year-round. The national language is Spanish but English is recognized as an official language as well.
Originally populated for centuries by the aboriginal people known as Taíno, the island was claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain during his second voyage to the Americas on November 19, 1493. Like Cuba, Puerto Rico remained a Spanish colony until 1898. Despite the Laws of Burgos of 1512 and other decrees for the protection of Indians, some Taíno peoples were forced into slavery in the early years of colonization. Others suffered high fatalities from epidemics of European infectious diseases. In four centuries of Spanish rule, the island's culture and physical landscape were transformed. European knowledge, customs and traditions were introduced, namely Christianity, the Spanish language, and advances of European civilization such as agriculture, construction in stone, and new technologies such as the clock and the printing press. Numerous public buildings, forts, churches and public infrastructure were built during Spanish colonization, including ports, roads and lighthouses, many of which survive to this day. For over three centuries the island was linked to Spain through regular convoys of the West Indies Fleet which sailed from Cadiz to the Spanish West Indies every year. Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony for over 400 years, despite attempts to capture the island by the French, Dutch, and British.
On November 25, 1897, Spain's central government in Madrid granted the island the Autonomic Charter and finally the colony of Puerto Rico ceased to exist. Instead, Puerto Rico was annexed to the rest of Spain as an overseas autonomous province in full equality with the other provinces of the Spanish nation. The complete integration of Puerto Rico to Spain automatically extended Title I of the Spanish constitution turning all Puerto Ricans into Spanish citizens and allowed Puerto Rico to have full representation in the Spanish Courts of Madrid. In 1898, Spain was forced by the United States to cede the Autonomous Province of Puerto Rico as a result of the Spanish–American War under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.
In 1917, the U.S. granted citizenship to Puerto Ricans. In 1948, Puerto Ricans were given the right to elect their own governor. In 1952, under request by the United States, a local territorial constitution was adopted and ratified by the electorate. Under the tenets of the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act, residents of the island are still subject to the plenary jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress. Puerto Rico remains a U.S. territory, although its political status is a subject of ongoing debate among residents.