Facts about Puerto Rico

World Facts Index > Puerto Rico > San Juan

Puerto RicoPopulated 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. 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 not to alter the existing political status.

Geography of Puerto Rico

Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic
18 15 N, 66 30 W
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
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

Population of Puerto Rico

3,958,128 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 21.3% (male 428,610/female 409,484)
15-64 years: 65.8% (male 1,239,255/female 1,345,519)
65 years and over: 12.8% (male 218,045/female 286,275)
Median age:
34.7 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
9.14 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.4 years
male: 74.46 years
female: 82.54 years
Fertility rate:
1.75 children born/woman
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: 94.1%
male: 93.7%
female: 94.4%


Country name:
conventional long form: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
Dependency status:
unincorporated, organized territory of the US with commonwealth status; policy relations between Puerto Rico and the US conducted under the jurisdiction of the Office of the President
Government type:
San Juan
Administrative divisions:
there are 78 municipalities (municipios, singular - municipio)
none (commonwealth associated with the US)
National holiday:
US Independence Day, 4 July (1776); Puerto Rico Constitution Day, 25 July (1952)
ratified 3 March 1952; approved by US Congress 3 July 1952; effective 25 July 1952
Legal system:
based on Spanish civil code and within the US Federal system of justice
18 years of age; universal; island residents 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)
head of government: Governor Anibal ACEVEDO-VILA (since 2 January 2005)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor with the consent of the legislature
elections: under the US Constitution, residents of unincorporated territories, such as Puerto Rico, do not vote in elections for US president and vice president; however, they may vote in Democratic and Republican presidential primary elections; governor elected by popular vote for a four-year term (no term limits).
Legislative branch:
bicameral Legislative Assembly consists of the Senate (at least 27 seats - currently 29; 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)
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
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)


Puerto Rico has one of the most dynamic economies in the Caribbean region. A diverse industrial sector has far 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 2004. Growth fell off in 2001-03, largely due to the slowdown in the US economy, recovered in 2004-05, but declined again in 2006-07.

$72.61 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 1%
industry: 45%
services: 54%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
1.3 million
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 3%, industry 20%, services 77% 
revenues: $6.7 billion
expenditures: $9.6 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 99.2%
hydro: 0.8%
other: 0% (2001)
pharmaceuticals, electronics, apparel, food products, tourism
sugarcane, coffee, pineapples, plantains, bananas, livestock products, chickens
chemicals, electronics, apparel, canned tuna, rum, beverage concentrates, medical equipment
Export partners:
US 90.3%, UK 1.6%, Netherlands 1.4%, Dominican Republic 1.4%
chemicals, machinery and equipment, clothing, food, fish, petroleum products
Import partners:
US 55.0%, Ireland 23.7%, Japan 5.4%
US dollar (USD)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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