Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island in the Greater Antilles archipelago. Its Spanish name is Puero Rico, which means rich port. In 2019, 3,193,694 people lived on the 9,104 km2 island. The area of Puerto Rico is therefore only slightly smaller than the South Bohemian Region. But why does it belong to the United States?
The island, which was originally inhabited by the Taíno, was first discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. It belonged to Spain for more than 400 years. However, Spain began to slowly decline under the weight of inflation at the end of the 16th century, and other powers in the region began to compete and attack each other in various ways. Spain therefore chose a defensive strategy and fortified Puerto Rico.
As with other islands in the Caribbean, slaves were imported from Africa into Puerto Rico. The reason was also the fact that the original indigenous population was almost exterminated in just 30 years of Spanish rule. During the 19th century, the colonies on the American continent began to become independent. Various uprisings also took place in Puerto Rico from time to time. The Spaniards sought to resolve the situation by inciting a major wave of European immigration to Puerto Rico. By the end of the 19th century, the Spaniards had only two colonies left in America, Puerto Rico and Cuba.
In the late 19th century, the United States were slowly gaining strength, and from 1890 onwards, following the example of the United Kingdom, it wanted to become a naval power. However, they needed, among other things, advanced bases in the Caribbean. The US Congress rejected the proposal for annexes to the Dominican Republic and Spain refused to sell Puerto Rico and Cuba. So the Americans began supporting the Cubans' growing struggle for independence and also planned to take over Puerto Rico.
On February 15, 1898, under mysterious circumstances, the USS Maine exploded in the port of Havana, causing the Americans to declare war on Spain. The Spanish fleet had no chance against the American. The war moved into the Pacific Ocean and after just ten weeks, Spain surrendered. The result was the Treaty of Paris, in which the United States, among others, gained Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.
Puerto Rico went through a turbulent period in the first decades of American rule. All efforts for independence failed. Gradually, however, the situation eased and Puerto Rico gained more political and civil liberties. Today, Puerto Rico is officially an unincorporated territory of the United States and Puerto Rican citizens are also United States citizens.
Interestingly, Christopher Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista and the capital Ciudad de Puerto Rico, but merchants coming exclusively to the capital began to call the island the other way around Puerto Rico and the capital San Juan. The name has become so familiar that they now have the island and capital exchanged official names.