Puerto Rico at a Glance
In 1898, the treaty that ended the Spanish-American War made Puerto Rico a territory of the United States. Laws beginning with a 1900 statute authorized Puerto Ricans to exercise increasing measures of self-government on local affairs. The Jones Act of 1917 granted U.S. citizenship to individuals born in Puerto Rico. The granting of self-government on local affairs was largely completed with U.S. congressional approval of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1952. The Constitution of Puerto Rico is considered comparable to a State government constitution.
Puerto Rico & the Federal Government
- As of the political relation with the United States, all federal laws apply in Puerto Rico.
- The 3.7 million residents in the Island are represented in the federal government by a sole Resident Commissioner in the U.S. House of Representatives who can vote in committees but not in the full House.
- The U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico do not have representation in the U.S. Senate and cannot vote for President.
- Residents of Puerto Rico pay federal taxes as determined by federal law. The federal government currently collects Social Security and Medicare taxes, and income taxes on income from outside the island.
Puerto Rico’s Local Government
- Commonwealth exercising self-government on local affairs.
- Head of State: President Barack Obama.
- Head of local government: Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla.
- Legislative branch: bicameral Legislative Assembly; all seats elected every four years.
- The Island is divided into 78 municipalities.
Puerto Rico & the U.S. Military
- Over 200,000 American citizens from Puerto Rico have served in the U.S. Armed Forces in every conflict since World War I.
- The U.S. Army’s 65th Infantry Division, comprised almost entirely of Puerto Ricans, was one of the most decorated units in the Korean War.
- Four Puerto Ricans have been awarded the Medal of Honor: PFC Fernando Luis Garcia, U.S. Marine Corp (Korea); PFC Carlos James Lozada, U.S. Army (Vietnam); Capt. Euripides Rubio, U.S. Army (Vietnam); Sp4c Hector Santiago-Colón, U.S. Army (Vietnam).
- More than 120,000 American veterans currently call Puerto Rico home.
- Currently more than 10,000 active duty military personnel from Puerto Rico serve across the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
- 10,000 more Puerto Ricans serve in the territorial National Guard.
- Since 9-11, more than 15,000 soldiers and air personnel from the Puerto Rico National Guard have been mobilized worldwide. Hundreds of Puerto Rico National Guardsmen and women are currently serving worldwide.
Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, founded by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1521, is the oldest city under the American flag. La Fortaleza, “the Fortress,” is the longest serving governor’s mansion in the Western Hemisphere.
Puerto Rico is approximately 950 miles southeast of Miami, Florida, and comprises 3,492 square miles, nearly the size of Connecticut. Its main islands are Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra.
With over 3.7 million residents, Puerto Rico is larger than Oregon and slightly smaller than Kentucky in terms of population.