Puerto Rico is an American territory found in the Caribbean Sea to the east of Hispaniola and close to the Virgin Islands. The term Puerto Rico refers both to the largest island in the archipelago and the territory as a whole, which includes the main island, Culebra, Mona, and Vieques. Puerto Rico covers a total area of more than three thousand five hundred square miles, and includes a total of more than three million, seven hundred and twenty five thousand residents. The human history of Puerto Rico dates back more than four thousand years, according to recent archeological evidence. These first inhabitants were from the Ortoiroid tribe, although they were subsequently supplanted by the Igneri and Tainos over the next several hundred years. The first European to discover Puerto Rico was Christopher Columbus, who came across the archipelago in 1493. The Spanish settled the island in the early sixteenth century, and maintained control over Puerto Rico until the United States took control of the archipelago during the Spanish American War. The United States has held the territory ever since, although there have been a plethora of efforts to change the status of the island to either an independent nation or the fifty-first state of the Union.
Puerto Rico is substantially more mountainous than many other Caribbean nations, and the interior of the main island is dominated by mountain ranges. The most significant of these is the Central Range, which includes the highest point on the island, called Cerro de Punta. Puerto Rico has fifty naturally occurring rivers which flow from the mountains to the ocean, but has no naturally occurring lakes. Puerto Rico has some of the best weather of the United States, rivaled only by Florida and Hawaii. The average annual temperature in Puerto Rico is just over eighty two degrees Fahrenheit, and the median rarely tops ninety degrees or drops below seventy degrees. Puerto Rico has an impressive range of endemic flora and fauna, including hundreds of plants and dozens of animal species, many of which are rare amphibians, birds, and reptiles. Many of these species are protected and enshrined in the Guanica Commonwealth Forest Reserve, which covers about fifteen square miles in the southwest of Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico’s economy is based heavily on manufacturing and tourism, although there are also agricultural and pharmaceutical sectors on the island. Puerto Rico has a diverse and unique culture, drawing on influences ranging from Spain and the Taino to African and American. This cultural diversity has expressed itself in both musical styles and culinary art. Puerto Rico has a comprehensive and free public education system, as well as colleges including the Pontifical Catholic University, the Universidad del Turabo, Metropolitan University, and the Universidad del Sagrado Corazon. Puerto Rico is home to a number of sports, including volleyball and basketball, although the territory’s strongest showings are arguably in the sports of baseball and boxing. Of course, the archipelago is also home to numerous historic sites, such as churches and forts, as well as museums and cultural centers. Puerto Rico hosts more than five million tourists every year, thanks largely to its location along major cruise ship routes and its beautiful and numerous white sand beaches.