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Puerto Rico:
Geography

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Puerto Rico Page


Background
Definition
Populated for centuries by aboriginal peoples, the island was claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1493 following COLUMBUS' second voyage to the Americas. In 1898, after 400 years of colonial rule that saw the indigenous population nearly exterminated and African slave labor introduced, Puerto Rico was ceded to the US as a result of the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship in 1917. Popularly-elected governors have served since 1948. In 1952, a constitution was enacted providing for internal self government. In plebiscites held in 1967, 1993, and 1998, voters chose not to alter the existing political status.
Location
Definition
Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic
Geographic coordinates
Definition
18 15 N, 66 30 W
Map references
Definition
Central America and the Caribbean
Area
Definition - World rank and map
total: 13,790 sq km
land: 8,870 sq km
water: 4,921 sq km
Area - comparative
Definition
slightly less than three times the size of Rhode Island
Land boundaries
Definition
0 km
Coastline
Definition
501 km
Maritime claims
Definition
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate
Definition
tropical marine, mild; little seasonal temperature variation
Terrain
Definition
mostly mountains with coastal plain belt in north; mountains precipitous to sea on west coast; sandy beaches along most coastal areas
Elevation extremes
Definition
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Cerro de Punta 1,339 m
Natural resources
Definition
some copper and nickel; potential for onshore and offshore oil
Land use
Definition - World rank and map
arable land: 3.69%
permanent crops: 5.59%
other: 90.72% (2005)
Irrigated land
Definition
400 sq km (2003)
Natural hazards
Definition
periodic droughts; hurricanes
Environment - current issues
Definition
erosion; occasional drought causing water shortages
Geography - note
Definition
important location along the Mona Passage - a key shipping lane to the Panama Canal; San Juan is one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean; many small rivers and high central mountains ensure land is well watered; south coast relatively dry; fertile coastal plain belt in north


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