Puerto Rico, officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and briefly called Porto Rico, is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea.
An archipelago among the Greater Antilles, Puerto Rico includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller ones, such as Mona, Culebra, and Vieques. The capital and most populous city is San Juan. Its official languages are Spanish and English, though Spanish predominates. The island's population is approximately 3.4 million. Puerto Rico's history, tropical climate, natural scenery, traditional cuisine, and tax incentives make it a destination for travelers from around the world.
Originally populated by the indigenous Taíno people, the island was claimed in 1493 by Christopher Columbus for Spain during his second voyage. Later it endured invasion attempts from the French, Dutch, and British. Four centuries of Spanish colonial government influenced the island's cultural landscapes with waves of African slaves, Canarian, and Andalusian settlers. In the Spanish Empire, Puerto Rico played a secondary, but strategic role when compared to wealthier colonies like Peru and the mainland parts of New Spain. Spain's distant administrative control continued up to the end of the 19th century, helping to produce a distinctive creole Hispanic culture and language that combined elements from the Native Americans, Africans, and Iberians. In 1898, following the Spanish–American War, the United States acquired Puerto Rico under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.
Puerto Ricans are by law natural-born citizens of the United States and may move freely between the island and the mainland. As it is not a state, Puerto Rico does not have a vote in the United States Congress, which governs the territory with full jurisdiction under the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950. As a U.S. territory, American citizens residing on the island are disenfranchised at the national level and do not vote for president and vice president of the United States, and do not pay federal income tax on Puerto Rican income. Congress approved a local constitution, allowing U.S. citizens on the territory to elect a governor. A 2012 referendum showed a majority (54% of those who voted) disagreed with "the present form of territorial status". A second question asking about a new model, had full statehood the preferred option among those who voted for a change of status, although a significant number of people did not answer the second question of the referendum. Another fifth referendum was held on June 11, 2017, with "Statehood" and "Independence/Free Association" initially as the only available choices. At the recommendation of the Department of Justice, an option for the "current territorial status" was added. The referendum showed an overwhelming support for statehood, with 97.18% voting for it, although the voter turnout had a historically low figure of only 22.99% of the registered voters casting their ballots.
In early 2017, the Puerto Rican government-debt crisis posed serious problems for the government. The outstanding bond debt had climbed to $70 billion at a time with 12.4% unemployment. The debt had been increasing during a decade long recession. This was the second major financial crisis to affect the island after the Great Depression when the U.S. government, in 1935, provided relief efforts through the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration. On May 3, 2017, Puerto Rico's financial oversight board in the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico filed the debt restructuring petition which was made under Title III of PROMESA. By early August 2017, the debt was $72 billion with a 45% poverty rate.
In late September 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico causing devastating damage. The island's electrical grid was largely destroyed, with repairs expected to take months to complete, provoking the largest power outage in American history. Recovery efforts were somewhat slow in the first few months, and over 200,000 residents had moved to Florida alone by late November 2017. [more]