History

Populated for centuries by Taino indians, the island they called Boriken was discovered by Christopher Columbus for the Spanish Crown in 1493 during Columbus' second voyage to the Americas and designs for colonization  began as early as the following year.  In 1508, this would lead to Ponce De León founding the first major settlement in Puerto Rico on the northeastern portion of the island and later  settlers naming it Caparra. San Juan was founded a year later in 1509. 

 Like most other Spanish Colonies in New Spain (present day Cuba , the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Mexico...) Puerto Rico  was founded as part of a gigantic trade route where galleons would bring what in today's money would be billions of dollars worth of goods and treasure back to Europe:in raw treasure, it included silver and gold from Mexico, emeralds, sapphires, and gold from Venezuela and Colombia, silver and gold from Peru, and, brought by pack mule across the isthmus of Panama to port on the Caribbean, pearls from Manila (the Phillipines.) A bit later Spain engaged in the trade of  other agricultural goods that would have been totally unknown in the Old World or incredibly difficult to buy for all but the wealthiest men: chocolate, coffee, tomatoes, passionfruit,  pineapples, papayas,  sugarcane, rum, and maize are but a short list of items brought east across the Atlantic to be sold at first in Spain and then all over Europe, changing the diet of the area forever and making Spain incredibly rich and its colonies prosperous for the merchants that lived there.

As the trade grew in the Caribbean, so did the jealousy of nations that were never included in the Treaty of Tordesillas and the competition  to get rich in the New World. Most of the time, the ships carrying such raw wealth were sent to Havana, Cuba, before they were dispatched to Europe but not all of these made it out of port in one piece. Just as mercantilism was spreading its wings in the New World, so did the greed for pieces of eight and doubloons: piracy.  The Spanish were thus forced to fortify many of the cities it had founded and use them as points to spy on ships offshore to be certain the goods left the Caribbean for Spain. Puerto Rico was one of the sites where both trade in these exotic goods and where protection of them was paramount owing to its location as the most easterly of the Antilles and its status as being second only to Cuba for trade: this is why its name translates to "Port of Riches." 

 Spanish culture became dominant with a blend of, in Puerto Rico's case, Taino roots and African influence (due to slaves that were introduced in the 18th century). By the end of the 19th century a Puerto Rican national identity was being formed within the sovereignty of Spain. In 1868 the first independence revolt against the Spanish crown occurred in the mountain region municipality of Lares by Puerto Rican patriots and was named 'El Grito de Lares' (the Cry of Lares). In 1898, after 400 years of Spanish colonial rule , Puerto Rico was ceded to the U.S. as a result of the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans were granted statutory US.citizenship in 1917, and popularly elected governors have served since 1948 as the head of government. In 1950, Puerto Rico lived its most recent and less known fight for independence in the town of Jayuya. In fact, the US army destroyed more than 50% of Jayuya during air raids trying to control the revolt, which they obviously managed. In 1952, a constitution was enacted by Puerto Ricans and ratified by the people of Puerto Rico thru votes in a referendum providing for self-government as a commonwealth associated to the US ( official name : Estado Libre Associado de Puerto Rico). Even though Puerto Rico is not a sovereign state, it is considered a country (non sovereign) by the United Nations since 1953 when self government was recognized by the international community. Puerto Rico participates as a nation in all international sport events  and cultural events and has its own National Olympic team. In plebiscites held in 1967, 1993, and 1998, voters chose to retain the Associated Free State or Commonwealth status ( Estado Libre Asociado), rather than the annexation as a US state or a fully independent nation option. 

   Vieques Island is 8 miles off the coast of the main island of Puerto Rico, due south east of the city of San Juan.  Vieques is considered part of Puerto Rico.  Vieques was for a long time many years ago used as a test bombing site for the US Navy and much of the island is still off limits to both natives, residents, and visitors. As a result of an accident involving the death of a Puerto Rican civilian, the people of Puerto Rico took the streets in massive protests and civil disobedience in order to get the US Navy out of Vieques. This issue is still part of an ongoing struggle by the locals to get their lands restored and returned. The US Navy has cleaned up some of the area they used for testing and have actually opened a large wildlife preserve on the old military base, which of note has some of the most beautiful beaches on the island, but there are still large parts of the island that are contaminated and destroyed.

The island also has an original fort for which the islands history is listed (all in Spanish).  The island is not very large, but the people are extremely friendly.  There are a lot of Americans who have bought property and live on the island.