Statsraad Lehmkuhl visits Puerto Rico March 12-16 2023
The archipelago of Puerto Rico is located in the Caribbean, midway in the long arc of islands that stretches from Cuba in the northwest, to Trinidad and Tobago in the southeast.
The state consists of one large island, Puerto Rico, which is slightly larger than Cyprus, and a number of smaller ones. 3.2 million people live on the main island, most of the small islands are uninhabited. San Juan on the north east coast of the main island is tha largest city, but there are cities and villages all around the coast.
Almost 95 percent of the inhabitants have Spanish as their mother tongue, the rest English.
The indigenous people called the archipelago Borikén. They have probably lived here for several thousand years, but unlike several of the old cultures on the mainland, the inhabitants here left few traces behind.
When Christopher Columbus arrived in Puerto Rico on his second expedition in November 1493, somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 people inhabited the islands. They stayed in scattered small villages, and lived from hunting and fishing, and simple agriculture.
This Taíno culture disappeared suddenly when the Spanish arrived. The Europeans brought with them diseases the indigenous population had no resistance to, and forced labor also took its toll. As early as the 16th century, the Spanish began importing African slaves to compensate for the lack of local workers.
The Spanish retained control of Puerto Rico until the Spanish-American War of 1898. The war ended with the United States taking control of many of the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico.
No voting rights
Puerto Rico now functions as a kind of US state, governed by a governor. The residents have been US citizens since 1917, and can travel freely into the US. But they do not have the right to vote in presidential elections, nor do they pay federal taxes to the United States.
Whether this association should continue has been discussed for a long time, and in a referendum in 2020, 52% of Puerto Ricans answered YES to the question of whether Puerto Rico should become a full-fledged state in the United States.
If Puerto Rico becomes a normal US state, it will be the poorest in the country measured by gross domestic product. But for a Latin American state the country is prosperous.
In 2019, 3.7 million tourists visited the country, and many get their income from here. But industrial production is the most important means of livelihood; pharmaceutical and petrochemical products, textiles and electronics.
Located where the Caribbean and North American continental plates meet, Puerto Rico is of volcanic origin, like St. Helena. Along the main island stretches a mountain range with peaks up to 1000-1300 meters.
The climate is hot and humid all year round, and outside the urban areas and plantations, the islands are covered by tropical rainforest. The archipelago is so far north of the equator that it is exposed to tropical cyclones. On average, one powerful hurricanes passes nearby the islands once every seven years. In 2017, not just one, but three hurricanes caused major damage to buildings and power supplies.
Normal maximum temperature in March: 29.3 ℃
Normal rainfall in March: 55 mm