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Aguadilla - Culebra Island - Isabel Segunda - Lajas - Rincon - San Juan - Vieques Island


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Populated for centuries by aboriginal peoples, the island was claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1493 following 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 and 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 to retain commonwealth status.
Location: Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic
Climate: Tropical marine, mild; little seasonal temperature variation
Borders: None
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When Christopher Columbus stepped ashore in Guánica (or Aguadilla, both towns claim the honor) in 1492 he encountered a flourishing Taíno culture. Within decades the Indians disappeared, but not before leaving their mark on the character that was to become Puerto Rican. African slaves replaced the Indians as laborers, and their culture too went into the crucible forged by more than four centuries of Spanish dominance. The symbol of the Institute of Puerto Rico Culture depicts these three influences: Indian, African and Spanish. In broad terms, that is an accurate ethnic amalgam, but culture and history are never easy to explain. Into the mix have to go Chinese workers, who built the railroads and remained; Spanish Loyalists fleeing revolution in South America; Corsicans who populated the coffee county out on the island; French immigrants from Haiti and Louisiana; a smattering of Scots and Irish; and droves of North Americans following the Spanish American War.


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