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Puerto Rico Things to Know Before You Go

Puerto Rico FlagPuerto Rico Facts:

Since we are about to embark on our research of Puerto Rico as a possible early retirement destination, we started looking into information about the island. We found some pretty interesting things we’d like to share with you.

Puerto Rico Things to Know Before You Go:

As you probably already know, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory with a commonwealth status. It is under U.S. Customs jurisdiction and hence the borders between P.R. and U.S. are open and allow free movement of both people and goods. Yay, you don’t need a passport!

Capital: San Juan

Official Language: Spanish and English are both official languages. Beware, however, that Spanish is the dominant language and only about 20% of Puerto Ricans speak fluent English.

Population: 3,620,897. Majority are white (75%), black/African American (12%), and only 8.5% are of Indian decent. Given its population, Puerto Rico is one of the most densely populated islands in the world.

Currency: USD $ – Puerto Ricans often refer to it as “peso”.

Fun FACT: Florida is gaining a net of 7,300 Puerto Ricans a year, much more than any other U.S. state.

Fun FACT: 99% population in Puerto Rico is Latino.

Main Religion: Roman Catholic – 85%

Culture: Puerto Ricans are known for being a warm and friendly people. They are comprised of many backgrounds and cultures; hence, making the culture very diverse and making racism practically nonexistent.  Varied array of food, music, and customs are observed.

Fun FACT: More than 20% of Puerto Ricans hold a bachelor’s degree.

Brief History: Christopher Columbus and his crew were the first Europeans to “discover” Puerto Rico on Nov. 19, 1493. This date is now celebrated as a national holiday. At the time of the Spanish arrival the island was populated by aboriginal Arawak Indian tribes who called themselves Taínos and thrived on the island through fishing and agriculture. Following the date of “discovery”, the Spanish Crown ruled the island for 400 years, during which time the indigenous population was nearly exterminated and African slave labor was introduced. Puerto Rico was ceded to the U.S. as a result of the Spanish-American War and all Puerto Rican citizens were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917.

Weather: Weather in Puerto Rico is tropical. So, you can expect heat. However, due to the vast differences in terrain (from coastal beaches to mountains to desert in the south), the temperatures fluctuate not only based on time of year, but also your location. In general you can expect average temperatures to be between 70 to 89 degrees.

Fun FACT: The southern coast of Puerto Rico is actually a dry desert terrain!

Fun FACT: El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in U.S. National Forest system.

Government: Puerto Rico is a self-governed territory and elected governors have served since 1948. In 1952 Puerto Rico enacted a ratified constitution providing for the internal self government. It is based on Spanish civil code and within the framework of the U.S. federal system. There were four polls held since then in which voters chose to decline to change their existing political status with U.S. However, the result of the last vote in 2012 left open the possibility of U.S. statehood.

Fun FACT: Puerto Rico has no regular military forces.

Economy: Puerto Rico has historically had one of the most vibrant economies in the Caribbean region. However, the last few years have seen negative growth with unemployment reaching nearly 16% in 2011. Puerto Rico went from being mostly an agricultural economy to industrial one. Tourism is still an important source of income on the island. Puerto Rico produces rum, sugarcane, coffee, pineapples, plantains, bananas, livestock and chicken.

Fun FACT: Puerto Rico produces 70% of all rum sold in the U.S.

Terrain: Puerto Rico is very mountainous except in the regional coasts. It has over 270 miles of beaches and provides an astonishing variety of topography: rain forest, deserts, beaches, caves, oceans and rivers.

Fun FACT: Puerto Rica is home to 3 out of the 5 remaining Bioluminescent Bays in the world.

You may also like our posts on Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama.



About Joanna

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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