|Commonwealth of Puerto Rico|
Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico
|Government||United States territory|
|Language||Spanish, English (official)|
|Area||3,515 sq mi|
|GDP 2007||$77.4 billion|
|GDP per capita||$19,600|
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is part of the United States with Commonwealth status, located in the Caribbean Sea. It is the smallest of the Greater Antilles islands, which include Cuba (the largest), Hispaniola (divided between the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and Jamaica. Puerto Rico is only 100 miles long by 35 miles wide. It is 1000 miles from Miami.
Puerto Rico is often referred to as Borinquen or Borikén, indigenous names, as well as Isla del Encanto (Island of Enchantment) and Perla del Caribe (Pearl of the Caribbean). Puerto Ricans speak Spanish and refer to themselves as Puertorriqueños or Boricuas. Boricua is used as a term of endearment and cultural affirmation.
Before the Spaniards discovered Puerto Rico, it was populated by Taíno Indians. The Taínos were a peaceful, gentle nation. They welcomed the conquistadores and shared their homes and food and gave the Spaniards many gifts.
Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain in his second voyage and discovered Puerto Rico on December 19, 1492. He named the island San Juan Bautista. Columbus thought this island to be very beautiful and wrote so in his diary. Soon after, the island's name was changed to Puerto Rico. Columbus's ships were named La Niña, La Pinta, and the Santa María. Juan Ponce de León colonized Borinquen in 1508 and became its first governor. The Spaniard conquistadores were looking for gold. They made slaves of the Indians slowly killing them from overwork. Soon thereafter African families were brought to the island as slaves. Ponce de León, the incredible explorer, was born in Valencia, Spain, in 1460. As a teenager he joined Spanish forces that defeated the Moors. In 1492 he accompanied Colombus in his second voyage to America. Later Ponce de León was granted a commission to explore Borinquen. He then set out to colonize the island of San Juan Bautista and build the first settlement called Caparra. He served as first governor from 1509-12. During his term as governor the island's name was changed from San Juan Bautista to Puerto Rico. Ponce de Leon went on to achieve other great accomplishments. His tomb is found at the San Juan Cathedral in Old San Juan. His family estate is the Casa Blanca, a popular tourist site.
Many families from Spain and other European nations moved to the island. Slowly the Taíno Indians married either Africans or Europeans forming a new ethnic group called the Criollas. Today there are many European, African, and Criolla families in Puerto Rico.