Puerto Rico

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Populated for centuries by aboriginal peoples, the island was claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1493 following Christopher 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 with the US, but the results of a 2012 vote left open the possibility of American statehood. Economic recession on the island has led to a net population loss since about 2005, as large numbers of residents moved to the US mainland. The trend has accelerated since 2010; in 2014, Puerto Rico experienced a net population loss to the mainland of 64,000, more than double the net loss of 26,000 in 2010.



Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic

Geographic coordinates

18.15° N, 66.30° W

Area 163/257

total: 13,791 sq km

land: 8,870 sq km

water: 4,921 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly less than three times the size of Rhode Island

Land boundaries

0 km


501 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


tropical marine, mild; little seasonal temperature variation


mostly mountains with coastal plain in north; precipitous mountains to the sea on west coast; sandy beaches along most coastal areas


mean elevation:

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

Land use

agricultural land: 22%

arable land 6.6%; permanent crops 5.6%; permanent pasture 9.8%

forest: 63.2%

other: 14.8% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

220 sq km (2012)

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

People and Society


noun: Puerto Rican(s) (US citizens)

adjective: Puerto Rican

Ethnic groups

white 75.8%, black/African American 12.4%, other 8.5% (includes American Indian, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander, and others), mixed 3.3%

note: 99% of the population is Latino (2010 est.)


Spanish, English


Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant and other 15%

Population 131/238

3,598,357 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 17.72% (male 325,944/female 311,520)

15-24 years: 14.3% (male 263,337/female 251,215)

25-54 years: 38.39% (male 661,124/female 720,160)

55-64 years: 12.1% (male 197,073/female 238,351)

65 years and over: 17.5% (male 271,633/female 358,000) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 50%

youth dependency ratio: 28.3%

elderly dependency ratio: 21.7%

potential support ratio: 4.6% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 39.1 years

male: 37.1 years

female: 41 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 227/233

-0.6% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 180/224

10.86 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 73/225

8.67 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 208/222

-8.15 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)


urban population: 93.6% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: -0.21% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

SAN JUAN (capital) 2.463 million (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.92 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.83 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female

total population: 0.92 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 140/184

14 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 157/224

total: 7.57 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 8.38 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 6.75 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 48/224

total population: 79.25 years

male: 75.62 years

female: 82.94 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 176/224

1.64 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Drinking water source


urban: 93.6% of population

rural: 93.6% of population

total: 93.6% of population


urban: 6.4% of population

rural: 6.4% of population

total: 6.4% of population (2001 est.)

Sanitation facility access


urban: 99.3% of population

rural: 99.3% of population

total: 99.3% of population


urban: 0.7% of population

rural: 0.7% of population

total: 0.7% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate


HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS - deaths


Education expenditures


School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 15 years

male: 14 years

female: 15 years (2013)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 33/134

total: 26.6%

male: 28.9%

female: 23.1% (2012 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

conventional short form: Puerto Rico

etymology: Christopher COLUMBUS named the island San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist) and the capital city and main port Cuidad de Puerto Rico (Rich Port City); over time, however, the names were shortened and transposed and the island came to called Puerto Rico and its capital San Juan

Government type



name: San Juan

geographic coordinates: 18.28° N, 66.07° W

time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

none (territory of the US with commonwealth status); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are 78 municipalities (municipios, singular - municipio) at the second order; Adjuntas, Aguada, Aguadilla, Aguas Buenas, Aibonito, Anasco, Arecibo, Arroyo, Barceloneta, Barranquitas, Bayamon, Cabo Rojo, Caguas, Camuy, Canovanas, Carolina, Catano, Cayey, Ceiba, Ciales, Cidra, Coamo, Comerio, Corozal, Culebra, Dorado, Fajardo, Florida, Guanica, Guayama, Guayanilla, Guaynabo, Gurabo, Hatillo, Hormigueros, Humacao, Isabela, Jayuya, Juana Diaz, Juncos, Lajas, Lares, Las Marias, Las Piedras, Loiza, Luquillo, Manati, Maricao, Maunabo, Mayaguez, Moca, Morovis, Naguabo, Naranjito, Orocovis, Patillas, Penuelas, Ponce, Quebradillas, Rincon, Rio Grande, Sabana Grande, Salinas, San German, San Juan, San Lorenzo, San Sebastian, Santa Isabel, Toa Alta, Toa Baja, Trujillo Alto, Utuado, Vega Alta, Vega Baja, Vieques, Villalba, Yabucoa, Yauco


none (territory of the US with commonwealth status)

National holiday

US Independence Day, 4 July (1776); Puerto Rico Constitution Day, 25 July (1952)


previous 1900 (Organic Act, or Foraker Act); latest ratified 3 March 1952, approved 3 July 1952, effective 25 July 1952; note - constitutional amendments introduced in 2012 were rejected in a referendum (2015)

Legal system

civil law system based on the Spanish civil code and within the framework of the US federal system


see United States


18 years of age; universal; note - island residents are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections

Executive branch

chief of state: President Barack H. OBAMA (since 20 January 2009); Vice President Joseph R. BIDEN (since 20 January 2009)

head of government: Governor Alejandro GARCIA Padilla (since 2 January 2013)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by governor with the consent of the Legislative Assembly

elections/appointments: president and vice president indirectly elected on the same ballot by an Electoral College of 'electors' chosen from each state; president and vice president serve a 4-year term (eligible for a second term); under the US Constitution, residents of Puerto Rico do not vote in elections for US president and vice president; however, they may vote in Democratic and Republican party presidential primary elections; governor directly elected by simple majority popular vote for a 4-year term (no term limits); election last held on 6 November 2012 (next to be held in November 2016)

election results: Alejandro GARCIA Padilla elected governor; percent of vote - Alejandro GARCIA Padilla (Democratic Party) 48.2%, Luis FORTUNO (PNP) 47.1%, other 4.7%

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa consists of the Senate or Senado (27 seats; 16 members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 11 at-large members directly elected by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms); the House of Representatives or Camara de Representantes (51 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms)

elections: Senate - last held on 6 November 2012 (next to be held on 8 November 2016); House of Representatives - last held on 6 November 2012 (next to be held on 8 November 2016)

election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PPD 18, PNP 8, PIP 1; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PPD 28, PNP 23

note: Puerto Rico directly elects 1 member by simple majority vote to serve a 4-year term as a commissioner to the US House of Representatives; the commissioner can vote when serving on a committee and when the House meets as the Committee of the Whole House, but not when legislation is submitted for a “full floor” House vote; election of commissioner last held on 6 November 2012 (next to be held on 8 November 2016)

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice and 8 associate justices)

judge selection and term of office: justices appointed by the governor and confirmed by majority Senate vote; judges serve until compulsory retirement at age 70

subordinate courts: Court of Appeals; First Instance Court comprised of superior and municipal courts

note: the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Judiciary Act of 2003 reformed the judicial system

Political parties and leaders

National Democratic Party [Roberto PRATS]

National Republican Party of Puerto Rico [Carlos MENDEZ]

New Progressive Party or PNP [Pedro PIERLUISI] (pro-US statehood)

Popular Democratic Party or PPD [Alejandro Garcia PADILLA] (pro-commonwealth)

Puerto Rican Independence Party or PIP [Ruben BERRIOS Martinez] (pro-independence)

Political pressure groups and leaders

Boricua Popular Army or EPB (a revolutionary group also known as Los Macheteros)

International organization participation

AOSIS (observer), Caricom (observer), Interpol (subbureau), IOC, UNWTO (associate), UPU, WFTU (NGOs)

Flag description

five equal horizontal bands of red (top, center, and bottom) alternating with white; a blue isosceles triangle based on the hoist side bears a large, white, five-pointed star in the center; the white star symbolizes Puerto Rico; the three sides of the triangle signify the executive, legislative and judicial parts of the government; blue stands for the sky and the coastal waters; red symbolizes the blood shed by warriors, while white represents liberty, victory, and peace

note: design initially influenced by the US flag, but similar to the Cuban flag, with the colors of the bands and triangle reversed

National symbol(s)

Puerto Rican spindalis (bird), coqui (frog); national colors: red, white, blue

National anthem

name: "La Borinquena" (The Puerto Rican)

lyrics/music: Manuel Fernandez JUNCOS/Felix Astol ARTES

note: music adopted 1952, lyrics adopted 1977; the local anthem's name is a reference to the indigenous name of the island, Borinquen; the music was originally composed as a dance in 1867 and gained popularity in the early 20th century; there is some evidence that the music was written by Francisco RAMIREZ; as a commonwealth of the United States, "The Star-Spangled Banner" is official (see United States)


Economy - overview

Puerto Rico had one of the most dynamic economies in the Caribbean region until 2006, however, growth has been negative for each of the last nine years. The down-turn coincided with the phase-out of tax preferences that had led US firms to invest heavily in the Commonwealth since the 1950s, and a steep rise in the price of oil, which generates most of the island's electricity. Diminished job opportunities prompted a sharp rise in outmigration, as many Puerto Ricans sought jobs on the US mainland. Unemployment reached 16% in 2011, but declined to 13.7% in December 2014. US minimum wage laws apply in Puerto Rico, hampering job expansion. Per capita income is about half that of the US mainland. The industrial sector greatly exceeds agriculture as the locus of economic activity and income. Tourism has traditionally been an important source of income with estimated arrivals of more than 3.6 million tourists in 2008. Puerto Rico's merchandise trade surplus is exceptionally strong, with exports nearly 50% greater than imports, and its current account surplus amounts to about 10% of GDP. Closing the budget deficit while restoring economic growth and employment remain the central concerns of the government. The gap between revenues and expenditures narrowed to 0.2% of GDP in 2014, although analysts believe that not all expenditures have been accounted for in the budget and a better accounting of costs would yield an overall deficit of roughly 5% of GDP in 2014. Public debt rose to 105% of GDP in 2015, about $17,000 per person, or nearly three times the per capita debt of the State of Connecticut, the highest in the US. Much of that debt was issued by state-run schools and public corporations, including water and electric utilities. In June 2015, Governor Alejandro GARCIA Padilla announced that the island could not pay back at least $73 billion in debt and that it would seek a deal with its creditors.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 103/230

$61.46 billion (2013 est.)

$61.83 billion (2012 est.)

$63.61 billion (2011 est.)

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$61.46 billion (2013 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 202/225

-0.6% (2013 est.)

-2.8% (2012 est.)

-1.9% (2011 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 64/230

$28,500 (2013 est.)

$28,700 (2012 est.)

$29,500 (2011 est.)

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 90.7%

government consumption: 15.4%

investment in fixed capital: 12.9%

investment in inventories: 0.2%

exports of goods and services: 110.3%

imports of goods and services: -129.5%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 0.9%

industry: 50.8%

services: 48.4% (2015 est.)

Agriculture - products

sugarcane, coffee, pineapples, plantains, bananas; livestock products, chickens


pharmaceuticals, electronics, apparel, food products, tourism

Industrial production growth rate 169/202

-0.9% (2015 est.)

Labor force 141/233

1.139 million (December 2014 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 2.1%

industry: 19%

services: 79% (2005 est.)

Unemployment rate 145/207

13.7% (December 2014 est.)

15% (December 2013 est.)

Population below poverty line


Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%

highest 10%: NA%


revenues: $8.908 billion

expenditures: $9.402 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 197/219

14.5% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 50/220

-0.8% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 14/176

105.4% of GDP (2015 est.)

97.2% of GDP (2014 est.)

Fiscal year

1 July - 30 June

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 25/226

-0.3% (2015 est.)

0.9% (2014 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate 161/184

3.7% (31 December 2015 est.)

3.3% (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares

Exports 42/224

$68.19 billion (2015 est.)

$68.2 billion (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

chemicals, electronics, apparel, canned tuna, rum, beverage concentrates, medical equipment

Imports 52/223

$47.77 billion (2015 est.)

$47.92 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

chemicals, machinery and equipment, clothing, food, fish, petroleum products

Debt - external 62/206

$56.82 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

$52.98 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Exchange rates

the US dollar is used


Electricity - production 75/220

20.03 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 72/219

18.62 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 188/218

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 194/219

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 74/214

5.616 million kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 61/214

96.4% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 172/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 139/214

1.8% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 83/212

1.8% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 183/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 180/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 117/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 182/215

0 bbl (1 January 2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 124/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 72/212

133,700 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 103/214

2,520 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 37/213

149,700 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 121/216

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 82/215

1.663 billion cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - exports 170/215

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - imports 52/214

1.663 billion cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 187/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 77/212

26.81 million Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines 86/219

total subscriptions: 820,000

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 23 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 137/217

total: 3.2 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 89 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: modern system integrated with that of the US by high-capacity submarine cable and Intelsat with high-speed data capability

domestic: digital telephone system; mobile-cellular services

international: country code - 1-787, 939; submarine cables provide connectivity to the US, Caribbean, Central and South America; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (2011)

Broadcast media

more than 30 TV stations operating; cable TV subscription services are available; roughly 125 radio stations (2007)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 74, FM 53, shortwave 0 (2008)

Television broadcast stations

34 (2008)

Internet country code


Internet hosts 184/232

469 (2012)

Internet users 98/217

total: 2 million

percent of population: 55.0% (2014 est.)


Airports 119/236

29 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 17

over 3,047 m: 2

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 7

under 914 m: 5 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 12

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 1

under 914 m: 10 (2013)

Roadways 99/223

total: 26,862 km (includes 454 km of expressways) (2012)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Ensenada Honda, Mayaguez, Playa de Guayanilla, Playa de Ponce, San Juan

container port(s) (TEUs): San Juan (1,484,595)

LNG terminal(s) (import): Guayanilla Bay

Military and Security

Military branches

no regular indigenous military forces; paramilitary National Guard, Police Force

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

increasing numbers of illegal migrants from the Dominican Republic cross the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico each year looking for work