Open main menu

The New Student's Reference Work/Porto Rico

Por′to Rico (rē′kō̇), a West India island formerly belonging to Spain, first settled by Ponce de Leon in 1510. It is about 100 miles in length and 36 in width, and is traversed east and west by ranges of mountains, from whose bases rich tracts of soil extend to the sea on all sides. Its estimated area is 3,435 square miles. Rain falls in much greater abundance on the northern than on the southern part of the island. The chief towns are San Juan the capital (48,716), Mayaguez (16,563) and Ponce (35,005). The total population of Porto Rico by census of 1910 was 1,118,012, about forty per cent. being colored (including mestizos, negroes and a few Chinese). At the conclusion of the Spanish-American War in 1898 Porto Rico was ceded to the United States.

Government. According to the decision of the United States Supreme Court Porto Rico is a territory appurtenant and belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States within the revenue-clause of the constitution. The island was given a civil government by Act of Congress of May 1, 1900. The governor is appointed by the president of the United States. The upper house consists of eleven members, six of whom are heads of departments, five are natives, and all appointed by the president. The lower house consists of 35 delegates, elected by the people for two years. The franchise is exercised under a property and educational qualification. By proclamation of the president on July 25, 1901, free trade was established between Porto Rico and the United States.

Education. In 1899 over 83 per cent. of the population could neither read nor write. A school-system was organized in that year; a general board of education and local school-boards were formed; suitable accommodations were required to be provided; and school-attendance was made compulsory. In 1911 there were 1,025 common schools open, with 128,453 pupils; 19 high schools with 1,144 enrolled, and a system of night schools and kindergartens. Many of the teachers in these schools are from the United States.

Commerce. In 1911 the imports amounted to $38,786,997, and the exports to foreign countries, $39,918,367. Value of shipments of United States merchandise to Porto Rico, $23,272,170, and shipments from Porto Rico to the United States, $26,391,338.

Resources. So far as developed, the chief products of the island are agricultural, including coffee, sugar, tobacco, bananas, pineapples, oranges and vegetables. Some cotton is exported. With improved methods the yield can be largely increased. There is but little mining, though there are deposits of gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, mercury, platinum and nickel. There also are marble, gypsum and phosphates.