Puerto Rico History

First Settlements

As early as 2000 BC portions of Puerto Rico were settled by indian tribes. Eventually, by 1000 AD the Tainos indians had supplanted previous indigenous peoples that had all disappeared. The Tainos indians had also established themselves on many of the surrounding Caribbean islands including Cuba, Jamaica, and Hispaniola,

Christopher Columbus

In 1493, on his second trip to the new world from Spain, Christopher Columbus lands on Puerto Rico and names it San Juan Bautista. However, Columbus quickly sails on to other islands in the Caribbean, including Hispaniola where he sets up a settlement.

Juan Ponce de Leon

On the island of Hispaniola, Spanish soldiers led by Juan Ponce de Leon conquer the indigenous people to take control of the island. In 1508, the Spanish send Juan Ponce de Leon on to explore Puerto Rico (known then by the Spanish as San Juan Bautista). He discovers gold on the island, conquers the indian tribes on Puerto Rico, and is named the first Governor of Puerto Rico by the Spanish crown. Several years later he is forced out of power in a political battle and replaced by Diego Columbus, the son of Christopher Columbus. Juan Ponce de Leon continues his travels and sails on to discover Florida and claim portions of it for Spain. He is then sent by the Spanish government back to colonize the Bahamas and Florida, but on his way he stops in Puerto Rico and builds the city of San Juan.

Attacks on Puerto Rico

Over the next 300 years, Puerto Rico came under attack numerous times by various countries and pirates. British invaders, in the midst of various wars with the Spanish, attacked Puerto Rico on numerous occasions. Assaults on the island by the British were lead by Francis Drake, the Third Earl of Cumberland, and Sir Ralph Abercromby. Other attacks were initiated by the Netherlands as well as various pirates including the infamous Blackbeard. Although the various attacks caused serious damage, including the occupation of the city of San Juan on several occasions and the burning of large portions of the city, the various invaders were not able to conquer Puerto Rico and all eventually had to retreat. The port city of San Juan played a central role is the defense of the country from the invaders with its protective forts of La Fortaleza, El Morro Fort, and San Cristobal Fort.

United States takeover of Puerto Rico

At the conclusion of the Spanish-American war in 1898, Spain turns over control of Puerto Rico to the United States. The following year, the United States Congress signs the Foraker Act setting up a U.S. run government in Puerto Rico. In 1917, Congress approves the Jones Act which officially makes Puerto Rico a territory of the United States and develops a structure for local leadership as well as more local rights. With the Jones Act, Puerto Ricans are officially United States citizens. Between 1948 and 1952, Congress allows Puerto Rico to develop their own constitution and elect their own governor, Luis Munoz Marin. With the creation of their own constitution and the election of their own representation, Puerto Rico officially becomes a commonwealth of the United States in 1952.

Puerto Rico, the 51st State of the United States?

Over the years, Puerto Rico has struggled with the question of whether to become a state of the United States, an independent nation, or to continue on as a commonwealth of the United States. There have been various referendum over the years in Puerto Rico addressing the question of the status of Puerto Rico. Most recently, in a referendum in 2012, Puerto Ricans voted 61% in favor of statehood versus 33% for a status of Free Association and 5% for Independence. Subsequently, in December of 2012, the Puerto Rican legislature formally asked the U.S. Congress and President of the United States to begin the process of making Puerto Rico the 51st state of the United States. The President of the United States has vowed to support the will of the Puerto Rican people and has allocated money in the budget to fund a Puerto Rican referendum.