Located 1000 miles southeast of Miami; 3 3/4 hours by plane from Atlanta and New York City, 4 hours from Boston and only 2 1/2 hours from Miami.
The island measures approximately 110 miles west to east and 35 miles north to south and lies between the Virgin Islands 40 miles to the east and Hispaniola, 75 miles to the west accross the Mona Passage. Total area is 3435 square miles including its adjacent islands of Vieques, Culebra and Mona.
The island's terrain ranges from palm-lined beaches on 272 miles of Atlantic and Caribbean coastlines to rugged mountaim ranges and , rolling hills and some desert dry areas.There are 20 forest reserve areas in the island.
The center of the island is quite mountainous especially at the Cordillera Central with elevations above 3000 ft. running east to west somewhat to the south of its center. Cerro de Punta is the highest elevation at 4389 ft. Geologists have identified the Cordillera--the towering mountains that rise above the central region as the high part of a chain of mountains whose mass is mostly submerged beneath the sea.These mountains form a dramatic relief in Puerto Rico. Geologists have calculated that if the base of this mountain chain were at sea level, it would be one of the largest land masses in the world, as the Puerto Rico trough off the northern island coast plunges to depths of more than 30,000 feet.
The climate is tropical but Puerto Rico has one of the most unvarying climates in the world with northeasterly trade winds moderating the temperatures. Along the north coast mean temperature ranges from 80 degrees F. in the Summer to 75 degrees in the Winter, with an average annual temperature of 78 degrees. The north is also wetter than the south which is drier and warmer while the interior mountain area is considerably cooler; the island's lowest recorded temperature, 39 degrees, was recorded there.The island is hottest and wettest in August, averaging 81 degrees and 7 inches of rain. Heavier rainfalls are from May to December and average 60 inches distributed evenly through the year.
Some 3.52 million people inhabit the island of Puerto Rico, making it one of the most densely populated islands in the world. It has an average of about 1,000 people per square mile, a ratio higher than that within any of the 50 states. Two million Puerto Ricans have migrated to the United States; it is said that more Puerto ricans live in New York City than in San Juan. There has been a reversal of this pattern in the last years with many Puerto Ricans returning home.
(1990 Census) 3,522,000 inhabitants.( 3.7 million in 1996)
Since 1952, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or "Estado Libre Asociado".
Essentially self-governing in internal matters under the Constitution of
Puerto Rico although Federal law governs many areas such as currency, post
office, customs, immigration and military.
A Governor, bicameral legislature and local city governments are elected in democratic elections every four years. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens with all rights and obligations but while residents of the island have no vote in federal elections and pay no federal taxes on island-generated income.
Per capita personal income(1996)-$7020 (half of Mississippi's)
Agriculture was the largest sector until 1955 but now provides only 3% of total employment. Industry is the mainstay of the economy especially pharmaceuticals, electronics, clothing and textiles. Trade, finance, insurance and tourism contribute greatly to the island's economy. Trade is mainly with the U.S. but is diversifying to other markets.
Chief minerals--sand,gravel, stone, cement, clays
Monetary unit--U.S. Dollar.
The island's 3.7 million people--including a million in the San Juan area--have forged ahead economically and made rapid strides. Their annual income is now the highest in Latin America and their average life expectancy has risen to 73 years. With the island's economy evolving from agriculture to manufacturing and tourism, a demand for educated forces has resulted in the average worker having at least 12 years of schooling. Despite this relative prosperity emanating from industrialization, personal income still lags behind that in the poorest U.S. state. The Commonwealth still relies on direct subsidies from the U.S. which amount to 25% of its gross domestic product.. Unemployment sometimes runs as high as 20%.
Spanish is the official language although English is widely spoken especially in hotels,restaurants, shops and nightclubs that attract tourists and many Puerto Ricans are bilingual. The linguistic marriage of English and Spanish after English was introduced in 1898 led to what many scholars call Spanglish, a colloquial dialect blending both languages into forms not considered classically correct in either linguistic tradition. This linguistic confusion was also accelerated by the mass migration to the U.S. mainland of thousands of Puerto Ricans, who quickly altered their speech patterns to conform to the language used in the urban Puerto Rican communities of cities such as New York and Chicago.
Complete freedom of Religion though predominantly Roman Catholic with
a large minority of Protestant adherents of perhaps 1500 evangelical churches.
Religious freedom is guaranteed by the Commonwealth Constitution. Puerto
Ricans do not generally follow Catholic dogma and rituals as assiduously
as do the churches of Spain and Italy. As throughout Latin America, the
practice of Catholicism in the island blends certain native Taino and African
traditions with mainstream teneths of the faith.. Spiritualism or Espiritismo,
a quasi-magical belief in occult forces still flourishes.