Puerto Rico (Spanish for "rich port") comprises an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands, the largest of which are Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. The main island of Puerto Rico is the smallest by land area of the Greater Antilles. It, however, ranks third in population among that group of four islands, which also include Cuba, Hispaniola, andJamaica.
Puerto Ricans often call the island Borinquen, from Borikén, its indigenous Taíno name, which means "Land of the Valiant Lord". The terms boricua and borincano derive from Borikén and Borinquen respectively, and are commonly used to identify someone of Puerto Rican heritage. The island is also popularly known in Spanish as "La Isla del Encanto" which means "The Island ofEnchantment" in English.
Soon thereafter, the Spanish began to colonize the island. The indigenous population (Taínos) came to be exploited and forced into slavery. Within 50 years they were reduced to near extinction by the harsh conditions of work and by European infectious diseases to which they had no natural immunity. For example, the smallpox outbreak in 1518–1519 wiped out much of the Island'sindigenous population. In 1520, King of Spain Carlos I issued a royal decree collectively emancipating the remaining Taíno population. Essentially, the Taíno presence while not completely extinct had almost vanished.
The importation of Sub-Saharan African slaves was introduced to provide the new manual work force for the Spanish colonists and merchants. African slavery was primarilyrestricted to coastal ports and cities, while the interior of the island continued to be essentially unexplored and undeveloped. Spanish and other European colonists were concentrated in island's seaports. Puerto Rico soon became an important stronghold and a significant port for Spanish Main colonial expansion. Various forts and walls, such as La Fortaleza, El Castillo San Felipe del Morro and ElCastillo de San Cristóbal, were built to protect the strategic port of San Juan from numerous European invasion attempts. San Juan served as an important port-of-call for ships of all European nations for purposes of taking on water, food and other commercial provisions and mercantile exchange.
In 1950, the U.S. Congress granted Puerto Ricans the right to organize a constitutional convention via areferendum that gave them the option of voting their preference, "yes" or "no", on a proposed U.S. law that would organize Puerto Rico as a "commonwealth" that would continue United States sovereignty over Puerto Rico and its people. Puerto Rico's electorate expressed its support for this measure in 1951 with a second referendum to ratify the constitution. The Constitution of Puerto Rico was formallyadopted on July 3, 1952. The Constitutional Convention specified the name by which the body politic would be known. The purpose of Congress in the 1950 and 1952 legislation was to accord to Puerto Rico the degree of autonomy and independence normally associated with a State of the Union.
On February 4, 1952, the convention approved Resolution 22 which chose in English the word"Commonwealth", meaning a "politically organized community" or "state", which is simultaneously connected by a compact or treaty to another political system. Puerto Rico officially designates itself with the term "Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" on its constitution. The convention adopted a translation into Spanish of the term to "Estado Libre Asociado" (ELA). Literally translated into English the phrase EstadoLibre Asociado means "Associated Free
In 1967, the Puerto Rico's Legislative Assembly polled the political preferences of the Puerto Rican electorate by passing a plebiscite Act that provided for a vote on the status of Puerto Rico. This constituted the first plebiscite by the Legislature for a choice on three status options (commonwealth, statehood, and independence). Claiming "foul play" and...
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