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On This Day in History: Puerto Rico Became a U.S. Colony

On This Day in History: Puerto Rico Became a U.S. Colony

Here’s where the United States and Puerto Rico’s history blend.

Only a year after Puerto Rico was successfully granted self-rule from Spain, the United States took control over the small island nation. Towards the end of the Spanish-American War, U.S. troops launched an invasion of the Spanish colony. With little resistance, American forces were able to secure the island on October 18th, 1898. When the Treaty of Paris was signed that December to end the war, Puerto Rico officially became an American territory.

Officially known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico), is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

Puerto Rico is only 100 miles long by 35 miles wide, making it the smallest island of the Greater Antilles. Puerto Rico (Spanish for “rich port”) consists of an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and several islands: Vieques, Culebra, Mona and numerous islets.

Throughout the first thirty years of its rule, the government of the United States attempted to Americanize Puerto Rico. For instance, it granted full U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans in 1917 and even considered an act that would make English the island’s official language.

However, a popular nationalist movement in the 1930’s gained support throughout the island. As a result, Puerto Ricans opposed further U.S. assimilation. By 1948 Puerto Ricans could elect their own governor, and by 1952 Congress approved a new constitution that made Puerto Rico an autonomous U.S. commonwealth.   This designation allowed the island to manage itself internally while its citizens retained their American citizenship.

While movements for Puerto Rican statehood and complete Puerto Rican independence both have supporters across the island, popular referendums in 1967 and 1993 have shown that the majority of Puerto Ricans still support their unique status as a U.S. commonwealth.

We at The Maria Sanchez Show hope you enjoyed learning more about the history of the relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico.  Don’t forget to check out our latest program, Shadow Politics with Senator Michael D. Brown.  Tune in on Sundays at 4:00 p.m. PDT/7:00 p.m. EDT.

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