The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, previously known as Borinquén by its indigenous people, is the smallest and easternmost of the Greater Antilles. It is bounded by the Caribbean Sea to the South and the Atlantic Ocean to the North. Puerto Rico includes the offshore islands of Culebra, Mona, and Vieques. Christopher Columbus visited the island in 1493 and named it San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist). Juan Ponce de León began the actual conquest in 1508, landing at San Juan harbor, which he called Puerto Rico (rich port).
At the end of the Spanish-American War, December 1898, Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States of America. In 1917, the Jones Act stipulated that Puerto Rico was a U.S. territory whose inhabitants were granted U.S. citizenship. In 1952 the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was proclaimed; its political status (statehood, commonwealth, or independence) remains an important issue.
Under the leadership of Luis Muñoz Marín, the first elected Governor in 1948, "Operation Bootstrap" helped to reform both the agricultural and industrial sectors. Encouraged by duty-free access to the United States and by tax incentives, American firms have invested heavily in Puerto Rico since the 1950s. Puerto Rico has one of the most dynamic economies in the Caribbean region today. The leading exports include apparel, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and chemicals. Sugar production has lost out to dairy production and other livestock products, currently only three sugar mills remain. Tourism has traditionally been an important source of income for the island, with estimated arrivals of nearly 4 million tourists in 1993. A map of Vieques is featured.
The Columbia Gazeteer, CIA World Factbook, 1998