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Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rico

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Quick Facts
CapitalSan Juan
CurrencyUS dollar (USD)
Areatotal: 9,104 sq km
water: 145 sq km
land: 8,959 sq km
Population3,957,988 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageSpanish, English
ReligionRoman Catholic 85%, Protestant and other 15%

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Populated for centuries by aboriginal peoples, the island was claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1493 following Columbus' second voyage to the Americas. In 1898, after 400 years of colonial rule that saw the indigenous population nearly exterminated and African slave labor introduced, Puerto Rico was ceded to the US as a result of the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship in 1917 and popularly elected governors have served since 1948. In 1952, a constitution was enacted providing for internal self-government. In plebiscites held in 1967, 1993, and 1998 voters chose to retain commonwealth status.


Map of Puerto Rico
Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic
Geographic coordinates 
18 15 N, 66 30 W
Map references 
Central America and the Caribbean
total: 9,104 sq km
water: 145 sq km
land: 8,959 sq km
Area - comparative 
slightly less than three times the size of Rhode Island
Land boundaries 
0 km
501 km
Maritime claims 
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
tropical marine, mild; little seasonal temperature variation
mostly mountains, with coastal plain belt in north; mountains precipitous to sea on west coast; sandy beaches along most coastal areas
Elevation extremes 
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Cerro de Punta 1,338 m
Natural resources 
some copper and nickel; potential for onshore and offshore oil
Land use 
arable land: 3.72%
permanent crops: 5.07%
other: 91.21% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land 
400 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards 
periodic droughts; hurricanes
Environment - current issues 
erosion; occasional drought causing water shortages
Geography - note 
important location along the Mona Passage - a key shipping lane to the Panama Canal; San Juan is one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean; many small rivers and high central mountains ensure land is well watered; south coast relatively dry; fertile coastal plain belt in north


3,957,988 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure 
0-14 years: 23.5% (male 476,726; female 453,782)
15-64 years: 65.8% (male 1,249,850; female 1,353,438)
65 years and over: 10.7% (male 180,053; female 244,139) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate 
0.51% (2002 est.)
Birth rate 
15.04 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate 
7.82 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate 
-2.12 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio 
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.74 male(s)/female
total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 
9.3 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth 
total population: 75.96 years
female: 80.66 years (2002 est.)
male: 71.5 years
Total fertility rate 
1.9 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate 
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS 
7,397 (1997)
HIV/AIDS - deaths 
noun: Puerto Rican(s) (US citizens)
adjective: Puerto Rican
Ethnic groups 
white (mostly Spanish origin) 80.5%, black 8%, Amerindian 0.4%, Asian 0.2%, mixed and other 10.9%
Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant and other 15%
Spanish, English
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 89%
male: 90%
female: 88% (1980 est.)


Country name 
conventional long form: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
conventional short form: Puerto Rico
Dependency status 
commonwealth associated with the US
Government type 
San Juan
Administrative divisions 
none (commonwealth associated with the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are 78 municipalities (municipios, singular - municipio) at the second order; Adjuntas, Aguada, Aguadilla, Aguas Buenas, Aibonito, Anasco, Arecibo, Arroyo, Barceloneta, Barranquitas, Bayamon, Cabo Rojo, Caguas, Camuy, Canovanas, Carolina, Catano, Cayey, Ceiba, Ciales, Cidra, Coamo, Comerio, Corozal, Culebra, Dorado, Fajardo, Florida, Guanica, Guayama, Guayanilla, Guaynabo, Gurabo, Hatillo, Hormigueros, Humacao, Isabela, Jayuya, Juana Diaz, Juncos, Lajas, Lares, Las Marias, Las Piedras, Loiza, Luquillo, Manati, Maricao, Maunabo, Mayaguez, Moca, Morovis, Naguabo, Naranjito, Orocovis, Patillas, Penuelas, Ponce, Quebradillas, Rincon, Rio Grande, Sabana Grande, Salinas, San German, San Juan, San Lorenzo, San Sebastian, Santa Isabel, Toa Alta, Toa Baja, Trujillo Alto, Utuado, Vega Alta, Vega Baja, Vieques, Villalba, Yabucoa, Yauco
none (commonwealth associated with the US)
National holiday 
US Independence Day, 4 July (1776)
ratified 3 March 1952; approved by US Congress 3 July 1952; effective 25 July 1952
Legal system 
based on Spanish civil code and adapted US state laws
18 years of age; universal; indigenous inhabitants are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections
Executive branch 
chief of state: President George W. BUSH of the US (since 20 January 2001); Vice President Richard B. CHENEY (since 20 January 2001)
election results: Sila M. CALDERON (PPD) elected governor; percent of vote - 48.6%
note: residents of Puerto Rico do not vote for US president and vice president
elections: US president and vice president elected on the same ticket for four-year terms; governor elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held 7 November 2000 (next to be held 2 November 2004)
head of government: Governor Sila M. CALDERON (since 2 January 2001)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor with the consent of the legislature
Legislative branch 
bicameral Legislative Assembly consists of the Senate (28 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) and the House of Representatives (51 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PPD 19, PNP 8, PIP 1, other 1; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PPD 30, PNP 20, PIP 1
note: Puerto Rico elects, by popular vote, a resident commissioner to serve a four-year term as a nonvoting representative in the US House of Representatives; aside from not voting on the House floor, he enjoys all the rights of a member of Congress; elections last held 7 November 2000 (next to be held 2 November 2004); results - percent of vote by party - PPD 49.3%; seats by party - PPD 1; Anibal ACEVEDO-VILA elected resident commissioner
elections: Senate - last held 7 November 2000 (next to be held 2 November 2004); House of Representatives - last held 7 November 2000 (next to be held 2 November 2004)
Judicial branch 
Supreme Court; Appellate Court; Court of First Instance composed of two sections: a Superior Court and a Municipal Court (justices for all these courts appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate)
Political parties and leaders 
National Democratic Party [Celeste BENITEZ]; National Republican Party of Puerto Rico [Luis FERRE]; New Progressive Party or PNP (pro-US statehood) [Carlos PESQUERA]; Popular Democratic Party or PPD (pro-commonwealth) [Sila M. CALDERON]; Puerto Rican Independence Party or PIP (pro-independence) [Ruben BERRIOS Martinez]
Political pressure groups and leaders 
Armed Forces for National Liberation or FALN; Armed Forces of Popular Resistance; Boricua Popular Army (also known as the Macheteros); Volunteers of the Puerto Rican Revolution
International organization participation 
Caricom (observer), ECLAC (associate), FAO (associate), ICFTU, Interpol (subbureau), IOC, WCL, WFTU, WHO (associate)
Diplomatic representation in the US 
none (commonwealth associated with the US)
Diplomatic representation from the US 
none (commonwealth associated with the US)
Flag description 
five equal horizontal bands of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; a blue isosceles triangle based on the hoist side bears a large, white, five-pointed star in the center; design initially influenced by the US flag, but similar to the Cuban flag, with the colors of the bands and triangle reversed


Economy - overview 
Puerto Rico has one of the most dynamic economies in the Caribbean region. A diverse industrial sector has surpassed agriculture as the primary locus of economic activity and income. Encouraged by duty-free access to the US and by tax incentives, US firms have invested heavily in Puerto Rico since the 1950s. US minimum wage laws apply. Sugar production has lost out to dairy production and other livestock products as the main source of income in the agricultural sector. Tourism has traditionally been an important source of income, with estimated arrivals of nearly 5 million tourists in 1999. Growth fell off in 2001, largely due to the slowdown in the US economy.
purchasing power parity - $43.9 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate 
2.2% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita 
purchasing power parity - $11,200 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector 
agriculture: 1%
industry: 45%
services: 54% (1999 est.)
Population below poverty line 
Household income or consumption by percentage share 
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices) 
5.7% (2000 est.)
Labor force 
1.3 million (2000) (2000)
Labor force - by occupation 
agriculture 3%, industry 20%, services 77% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate 
9.5% (2000) (2000)
revenues: $6.7 billion
expenditures: $9.6 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY99/00)
pharmaceuticals, electronics, apparel, food products; tourism
Industrial production growth rate 
Electricity - production 
20.497 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source 
fossil fuel: 99%
hydro: 1%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption 
19.062 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports 
0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports 
0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products 
sugarcane, coffee, pineapples, plantains, bananas; livestock products, chickens
$38.5 billion f.o.b. (2000)
Exports - commodities 
pharmaceuticals, electronics, apparel, canned tuna, rum, beverage concentrates, medical equipment
Exports - partners 
US 88% (2000)
$27 billion c.i.f. (2000)
Imports - commodities 
chemicals, machinery and equipment, clothing, food, fish, petroleum products
Imports - partners 
US 60% (2000)
Debt - external 
Economic aid - recipient 
US dollar (USD)
Currency code 
Exchange rates 
the US dollar is used
Fiscal year 
1 July - 30 June


Telephones - main lines in use 
1.322 million (1997)
Telephones - mobile cellular 
169,265 (1996)
Telephone system 
general assessment: modern system, integrated with that of the US by high-capacity submarine cable and Intelsat with high-speed data capability
domestic: digital telephone system; cellular telephone service
international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat; submarine cable to US
Radio broadcast stations 
AM 72, FM 17, shortwave 0 (1998)
2.7 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations 
18 (plus three stations of the US Armed Forces Radio and Television Service) (1997)
1.021 million (1997)
Internet country code 
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) 
76 (2000)
Internet users 
600,000 (2002)


total: 96 km
narrow gauge: 96 km 1.000-m gauge,
note: rural, narrow-gauge system for hauling sugarcane; no passenger service (2001)
total: 14,400 km
paved: 14,400 km
unpaved: 0 km (1996)
Ports and harbors 
Guanica, Guayanilla, Guayama, Playa de Ponce, San Juan
Merchant marine 
total: 1 ship (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 19,046 GRT/22,582 DWT
ships by type: container 1 (2002 est.)
30 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways 
total: 19
over 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 8
under 914 m: 5 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways 
total: 12
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 10 (2002)


Military branches 
no regular indigenous military forces; paramilitary National Guard, Police Force
Military - note 
defense is the responsibility of the US

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international