Photos of Puerto Rico

Introduction

Background

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. Hurricane Maria struck the island on 20 September 2017 causing catastrophic damage, including destruction of the electrical grid that had been cripled by Hurricane Irma just two weeks before. It was the worst storm to hit the island in eight decades, and damage is estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

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

Geographic coordinates

18 15 N, 66 30 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean

Area

total: 9,104 sq km

land: 8,959 sq km

water: 145 sq km

country comparison to the world: 170

Area - comparative

slightly less than three times the size of Rhode Island

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

501 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical marine, mild; little seasonal temperature variation

Terrain

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

Elevation

mean elevation: 261 m

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% (2011 est.)

arable land: 6.6% (2011 est.)

permanent crops: 5.6% (2011 est.)

permanent pasture: 9.8% (2011 est.)

forest: 63.2% (2011 est.)

other: 14.8% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

220 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

population clusters tend to be found along the coast, the largest of these is found in and around San Juan; an exception to this is a sizeable population located in the interior of the island immediately south of the capital around Caguas; most of the interior, particularly in the western half of the island, is dominated by the Cordillera Central mountains, where population density is low

Natural hazards

periodic droughts; hurricanes

Environment - current issues

soil erosion; occasional droughts cause water shortages; industrial pollution

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

Nationality

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% (2010 est.)

note: 99% of the population is Latino

Languages

Spanish, English

Religions

Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant and other 15%

Age structure

0-14 years: 14.22% (male 231,406/female 222,061)

15-24 years: 12.78% (male 207,169/female 200,373)

25-54 years: 37.73% (male 573,114/female 630,276)

55-64 years: 13.5% (male 197,438/female 232,931)

65 years and over: 21.77% (male 297,749/female 396,551) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 57.7

youth dependency ratio: 24.8

elderly dependency ratio: 32.8

potential support ratio: 3 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 43.6 years

male: 41.6 years

female: 45.3 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 25

Birth rate

7.9 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 221

Death rate

9.53 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 48

Net migration rate

-13 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 229

Population distribution

population clusters tend to be found along the coast, the largest of these is found in and around San Juan; an exception to this is a sizeable population located in the interior of the island immediately south of the capital around Caguas; most of the interior, particularly in the western half of the island, is dominated by the Cordillera Central mountains, where population density is low

Urbanization

urban population: 93.6% of total population (2020)

rate of urbanization: -0.14% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas - population

2.448 million SAN JUAN (capital) (2020)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.91 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.85 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female

total population: 0.9 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

21 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 123

Infant mortality rate

total: 6.16 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 6.73 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 5.55 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 170

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 81.47 years

male: 78.23 years

female: 84.89 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 39

Drinking water source

improved: total: 97% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

3.06 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Sanitation facility access

improved: total: 97.2% of population

unimproved: total: 2.8% of population (2017 est.)

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 92.4%

male: 92.4%

female: 92.4% (2017)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 16 years

male: 15 years

female: 18 years (2018)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 26.6%

male: 28.9%

female: 23.1% (2012 est.)

country comparison to the world: 45

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

conventional short form: Puerto Rico

abbreviation: PR

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 be called Puerto Rico and its capital San Juan

Dependency status

unincorporated organized territory of the US; policy relations between Puerto Rico and the US conducted under the jurisdiction of the Office of the President

Government type

republican form of government with separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches; unincorporated organized territory of the US with local self-government

Note: reference Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act, 2 March 1917, as amended by Public Law 600, 3 July 1950

Capital

name: San Juan

geographic coordinates: 18 28 N, 66 07 W

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

etymology: the name dates to 1521 and the founding of the city under the name "Ciudad de San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico" (City of Saint John the Baptist of Puerto Rico)

Administrative divisions

none (territory of the US); 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

Independence

none (territory of the US with commonwealth status)

National holiday

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

Constitution

history: previous 1900 (Organic Act, or Foraker Act); latest ratified by referendum 3 March 1952, approved 3 July 1952, effective 25 July 1952

amendments: proposed by a concurrent resolution of at least two-thirds majority by the total Legislative Assembly membership; approval requires at least two-thirds majority vote by the membership of both houses and approval by a majority of voters in a special referendum; if passed by at least three-fourths Assembly vote, the referendum can be held concurrently with the next general election; constitutional articles such as the republican form of government or the bill of rights cannot be amended; amended 1952

Legal system

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

Citizenship

see United States

Suffrage

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 Joseph R. BIDEN Jr. (since 20 January 2021); Vice President Kamala D. HARRIS (since 20 January 2021)

head of government: Governor Pedro PIERLUISI (since 2 January 2021)

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 3 November 2020 (next to be held on  November 2024)

election results: Pedro PIERLUISI elected governor; percent of vote - Pedro PIERLUISI (PNP) 32.9%, Carlos DELGADO (PPD) 31.6%, Alexandra LUGARO (independent) 14.2%, Juan DALMAU (PIP) 13.7%

note: on 24 July 2019, Governor Ricardo ROSSELLO announced his resignation effective 2 August 2019; as Secretary of State, Pedro PIERLUISI succeeded Governor Ricardo ROSSELLO; on 7 August 2019 the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico ruled Pedro PIERLUISI accession was unconstitutional and Wanda VAZQUEZ is sworn in as governor

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa consists of:
Senate or Senado (30 seats; 16 members directly elected in 8 2-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 14 at-large members directly elected by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms)
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 8 November 2016 (next to be held on 3 November 2020)
House of Representatives - last held on 8 November 2016 (next to be held on 3 November 2020)

election results:
Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PNP 21, PPD 7, PIP 1, Independent 1; composition - men 23, women 7, percent of women 23.3%
House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PNP 34, PPD 16, PIP 1; composition - men 11, women 4, percent of women 26.7%; total Legislative Assembly percent of women 16%
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 2018 (next to be held in November 2022)

Judicial branch

highest courts: 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

Political parties and leaders

National Democratic Party [Charlie RODRIGUEZ]
National Republican Party of Puerto Rico [Jenniffer GONZALEZ]
New Progressive Party or PNP [Ricardo ROSSELLO] (pro-US statehood)
Popular Democratic Party or PPD [Alejandro GARCIA Padillo] (pro-commonwealth)
Puerto Rican Independence Party or PIP [Ruben BERRIOS Martinez] (pro-independence)

International organization participation

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

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (territory of the US)

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (territory of the US with commonwealth status)

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 US, "The Star-Spangled Banner" is official (see United States)

Economy

Economic 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 11 years. The downturn coincided with the phaseout 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 11.5% in December 2017. US minimum wage laws apply in Puerto Rico, hampering job expansion. Per capita income is about two-thirds 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 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 amounted to 0.6% of GDP in 2016, 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. Public debt remained steady at 92.5% of GDP in 2017, 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.

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico square on in September 2017, causing electrical power outages to 90% of the territory, as well as extensive loss of housing and infrastructure and contamination of potable water. Despite massive efforts, more than 40% of the territory remained without electricity as of yearend 2017. As a result of the destruction, many Puerto Ricans have emigrated to the US mainland.

Credit ratings

Standard & Poors rating: D (2015)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$110.238 billion (2019 est.)

$108.944 billion (2018 est.)

$114.269 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$104.2 billion (2017 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$34,518 (2019 est.)

$34,116 (2018 est.)

$34,364 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 59

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 0.8% (2017 est.)

industry: 50.1% (2017 est.)

services: 49.1% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 87.7% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 12.2% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 11.7% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0.5% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 117.8% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -129.8% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

milk, plantains, bananas, poultry, tomatoes, mangoes/guavas, eggs, oranges, gourds, papayas

Industries

pharmaceuticals, electronics, apparel, food products, tourism

Labor force

1.139 million (December 2014 est.)

country comparison to the world: 136

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 2.1%

industry: 19%

services: 79% (2005 est.)

Budget

revenues: 9.268 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 9.974 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

51.6% of GDP (2017 est.)

50.1% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 97

Fiscal year

1 July - 30 June

Exports

$73.17 billion (2017 est.)

$73.2 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 55

Exports - commodities

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

Imports

$49.01 billion (2017 est.)

$48.86 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 59

Imports - commodities

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

Debt - external

$56.82 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

$52.98 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

country comparison to the world: 61

Exchange rates

the US dollar is used

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 758,869

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 23.42 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 81

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 3,724,680

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 114.95 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 133

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: modern system integrated with that of the US by high-capacity submarine cable and Intelsat with high-speed data capability; havoc caused by hurricane Maria in 2017 and earthquake in 2020, has left the island lagging behind the mainland US both economically and technologically; competition among network operators helps with growth; availability of LTE coverage increasing to 90%; operators expanding and securing 600 MHz spectrum, LTE reach and launching services based on 5G to majority of the population (2020)

domestic: digital telephone system; mobile-cellular services; fixed-line 23 per 100 and mobile-cellular 115 per 100 persons (2019)

international: country code - 1-787, 939; landing points for the GTMO-PR, AMX-1, BRUSA, GCN, PCCS, SAm-1, Southern Caribbean Fiber, Americas-II, Antillas, ARCOS, SMPR-1, and Taino-Carib submarine cables providing connectivity to the mainland US, Caribbean, Central and South America; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

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

Internet users

total: 2,326,006

percent of population: 70.6% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 114

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 609,027

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 18 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 80

Transportation

Airports - with paved runways

total: 17 (2017)

over 3,047 m: 2 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m: 7 (2017)

under 914 m: 5 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 12 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2013)

under 914 m: 10 (2013)

Roadways

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

country comparison to the world: 102

Ports and terminals

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

container port(s) (TEUs): San Juan (1,210,503) (2015)

LNG terminal(s) (import): Guayanilla Bay

Military and Security

Military and security forces

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

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the US

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