The Run Diary Tidbit #2 ~ Puerto Rico

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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The Run Diary Tidbit #2 ~ Puerto Rico

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Mar 30, 2010 10:20 am


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Puerto Rico is an archipelago consisting of the main island of Puerto Rico and various smaller islands, including Vieques, Culebra and Mona. The main island is approximately 105 miles in length by 35 miles is width. The population is approximately 4 million.

While Puerto Rico was under Spanish control for more than 400 years, from 1493 until 1898, the culture and history of the island has been shaped by numerous other cultures, including Amerindian, African, and eventually American. Still, it is the Spanish who dominate the history of this rich and vibrant Caribbean nation.

The early history of Puerto Rico is monopolized by a number of different indigenous tribes. The first Arawaks, the Archaic Indians from Venezuela, are believed to have been in Puerto Rico as early as 4500 B.C. Another group, the Igneri, arrived around 200 A.D. but were quickly replaced by the Taínos. The Taíno Indians, a group of Arawaks that slowly made their way north through the Caribbean from South America, inhabited the island between 500 A.D. and 800 A.D. The Taíno, a deeply religious group of people, survived primarily on the cultivation of indigenous crops such as cassava and sweet potato. The Tainos called the island Boriquén or Borinquén, meaning"land of the great lords."

This largely peaceful family of autonomous tribes had developed a sophisticated culture, language and religious system. Unusually, the Tainos had female chiefs as well as male, who were entitled to numerous husbands, the foremost of which was burned with his wife at the time of her death Tainos received prophecy from gods and the dead through such mind-altering practices as inhaling a hallucinatory powder made from cohoba seeds and crushed shells. They invented the rubber ball and the results of their contests were of oracular value. Batey was the Taíno name for the clay surfaced court on which they played a ball-game with a rubber ball. The Spanish first saw balls made from latex in the Caribbean. They exaggerated the bouncing ability of this "new" substance and believed the result of witchcraft. On the mainland this very popular, often spiritual game was also played in a large stone enclosed stadium. Players, wore a carved stone belt, used only hip, elbow or head to keep the heavy, solid ball airborne. Both men and women played this popular game.

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When the Spanish came in contact with the Tainos, new words such as hurricane, canoe, barbecue, hammock, tobacco, cannibal, cay (or key), barracuda, maize and savanna entered world languages.

After the successful first voyage of Christopher Columbus that landed in San Salvador in The Bahamas in 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain sent Columbus back across the Atlantic with the intent of colonizing the newly discovered land. When Columbus did land in Puerto Rico in 1493, he found as many as 50,000 Taínos and a river full of gold nuggets. The island was immediately claimed for Spain and called San Juan Bautista. In 1508, Juan Ponce de León, a soldier who had served with Columbus, would found the first Spanish settlement on the island at Caparra in 1508. Caparra was not far from where San Juan stands currently.

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Almost immediately upon settling, tensions arose between the Spanish and Taínos. Quickly subjected to forced labor. In 1511 the Tainos rebelled from their slave-like position, and drowned a Spanish settler in hopes of discovering whether the Spanish were mortal. The reaction from the Spanish was severe, and 6,000 Taínos were ordered shot by Ponce de León. The native people were either forced to surrender or flee – many chose to make their homes with the Caribs who had taken hold in the eastern portion of the island.

In 1513, African slaves were also introduced to Puerto Rico, and the slave practice would not be abolished until 1873. The African slaves, along with the Taíno Indians, would marry with Spanish settlers and create a rich and diverse culture that survives to the present day.

While the British would persistently test the resolve of the Spanish on the island, and would even control it for a few months, the Spanish essentially ruled uninterrupted until the end of the 19th century. Hurricanes and even earthquakes would also frequently complicate life for the settlers. In 1521, the settlers moved to a peninsula where they would call their settlement "rich port," or Puerto Rico. Under threat from other European colonial powers, the Spanish quickly strengthened their defenses on the island.

At the start of the 18th century, Spain and Britain were at war. The European War of the Spanish Succession lasted from 1701 through 1714, and during this time some tensions also spilled over into Caribbean waters. Piracy grew rapidly, and even Puerto Rico had famous privateers.
Privateers from Puerto Rico were often called guarda costas, or"coast guards." They plundered and pillaged like any other pirates, but they did so in the name of protecting Spanish trade restrictions. This would later cause more problems for Spain.

Almost all of Puerto Rico's economy was based on illegal trade, so there were nearly always ships from other countries for these Spanish guarda costas to stop. They would then be taken into a harbor to be looked over. British ships in particular were targeted by these privateers.

Spain and Britain had been at odds for quite some time, and the actions of privateers on both sides had caused a bit of a stir. However, it was the British who officially protested the damages by the Spanish guarda costas in 1730. It was clear that they had reason to protest: In 1734, six British ships were taken during the month of February alone.

The island of Puerto Rico was filled with smuggling and illegal trade, in part due to Spanish laws that dictated that the only legal port of entry was San Juan. San Juan was far from many of the other population centers of the island, and with little internal infrastructure, it was nearly impossible to trade through only one port.

In 1753, Felipe Remírez de Estenós became the Capitan General for four years. He set to work improving the island: encouraging coffee growth, new settlements, and even promoting trade with Spain. A focus on increasing island production also helped to improve the situation. Both encouraging farmers to begin farming sugar again and ending a great deal of military corruption would help to strengthen Puerto Rico. He also helped to reorganize the local militias.

As always, there were also suggestions of strengthening the fortifications around San Juan. In 1765, the Junta de Guerra (war council) convened and discussed plans. Both San Cristóbal and El Morro fortresses were strengthened. Workers brought in for these fortifications helped to grow the population.

Fuerte San Cristobal:

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Fuerte El Morro:

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Education, too, was to be developed. Ethnically integrated schools were to be provided for all children. These would be encouraged by the establishment of new towns and the building of roads and bridges – which also helped to improve communication on the island.

In the earlier days of the island's colonization, there had been only five urban centers, but by 1760 there were 18, and at the turn of the century there were 39. Cities founded during this period included: Ponce (1752), Mayagüez (1760), Fajardo (1760), and Humacao (1793). Population growth exploded, too.

In the 19th century New World, politics and trade were greatly influenced by the neutrality as well as the purchasing power of the United States. Trade with America was important to the still-warring nations of Europe as a means to acquire necessities and export goods. Puerto Rico took advantage of its close proximity to this new national power.

This closeness was of particular importance in the early 1800s when the Napoleonic wars were wracking Europe. Spain was taken by Napoleon's troops, and though a new Spanish government was set up, King Ferdinand VII came back into power at the end of the war. This conflict gave the United States added importance in trade, though the War of 1812 disrupted operations.

The restored Spanish king in 1815 made a decree called the Real Cédula de Gracias in which Puerto Rico was opened to world trade, with higher tariffs for the non-Spanish traders. It also confirmed the 1778 declaration of the island's opening to settlers, offering free land as well. Whites were offered land per person, and a smaller portion of land for each slave they brought. Blacks were offered a lesser amount of land per person, and a similarly smaller amount of land per slave as well.

During this time, coffee production became extremely important on the island. The bean had been introduced in the mid-1700s, but coffee plantations had spread throughout the interior of the island. Mayagüez and Ponce's ports were nearest to the coffee regions, helping to develop their ports.

In 1869, political parties began to form on the island, and in 1873 the monarchy was replaced by a republic in Spain. Spanish rule in Puerto Rico would be nearing an end, however, as the United States would acquire Puerto Rico and a number of other Spanish possessions after the conclusion of the Spanish-American War in 1898. However, the states did not know what to do with a colony that was largely non-white and entirely Spanish-speaking. The 20th century was filled with the troubles of what to do with the island.

During the first 20 years of American control, two different governmental policies were established. In the Foraker Act of 1900, the United States modeled its governmental style after that of the British Crown Colonies.
The Act included the following provisions:

• Islanders would be citizens of Puerto Rico but not the United States.
• Beginning in 1902, there would be no tariffs on goods between Puerto Rico and the United States.
• The U.S. President would be responsible for the appointment of the island governor and its Supreme Court.
• The U.S. Congress would retain veto power over any laws in Puerto Rico.
• There will be an 11-member Executive Council named by the governor.
• The House of Delegates (35 members) would be elected by popular vote.

Few were pleased with the Foraker Act: Wealthy Americans called it undemocratic while Puerto Ricans called it neither statehood, independence, nor home rule. Finally, after the United States acquired the Virgin Islands, President Woodrow Wilson made some changes and signed the Jones Act in 1917. The same year, approximately 20,000 Puerto Ricans were drafted into the United States Army to serve in World War I. Later to become a topic of hot controversy, the United States would purchase land for naval bases at Culebra and Vieques in 1941.

This act would be the basis of Puerto Rico's legal status until 1948. The provisions of the Jones Act are as follows:

• Puerto Ricans could freely travel to the U.S. mainland.
• Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens.
• Although Puerto Ricans could not vote in federal elections and were not taxed, they could be drafted during wartime.
• The Senate and House on Puerto Rico were elected by universal male suffrage until 1929, when women's suffrage was granted.
• Governor, Supreme Court, and top officials were to be appointed by the President.

The Jones Act was amended in 1947, granting Puerto Ricans the right to elect their own governor but kept the U.S. Congress as the source of Puerto Rico's rights. Luis Muñoz Marín began a campaign to become the island's first elected governor in 1948; his campaign platform was that Puerto Rico ought to become a commonwealth or free associated state.

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Muñoz Marín's mandate by the people with 61 percent of the vote gave Congress the impetus it needed to move quickly, and in July of 1950 Public Law 600 was signed into law by President Truman. It allowed the people of Puerto Rico to draft their own constitution. It was granted commonwealth status on July 25, 1952.

This unique status means that Puerto Rico is self-governing on local matters, but it also pays federal taxes. It is not fully independent; when it comes to defense and foreign relations, the United States is in control. However, Puerto Ricans receive many benefits from their association with America, including social benefits like food stamps.

Puerto Rico has had multiple elections regarding its status. In 1967, an election found that 61 percent favored remaining a commonwealth, while about 39 percent voted for statehood, with less than 1 percent voting for independence. The 1993 and 1998 votes each showed much closer results, around 50 percent each, for commonwealth status and statehood, with votes for independence being negligible, but Puerto Rico has remained a commonwealth in all three votes.

Before the United States acquired Puerto Rico, sugar was hardly an important industry. The United States had spent money on helping Cuba to develop its sugar industry, and, with its control of Puerto Rico, helped to develop the industry on this island as well. The lack of tariffs and the need to meet government quotas helped to encourage the industry's growth. The Foraker Act allowed American corporations the chance to create sugar mills (centrales) on Puerto Rican lands, but it limited their lands to 500 acres. This was less than enforceable during the earliest periods, and until the 1940s, lands for centrales were relatively unchecked.

Sugar became the island's top export (over coffee) before even 1925. America preferred South American coffee to Puerto Rican beans, so Europe remained the main importer of Puerto Rican coffee. Still, damaging hurricanes in 1899 and 1928 ruined crops, helping to bring the agricultural dominance of coffee to an end.

This did cause many workers to become landless laborers on the large sugar estates, and many suffered long periods of unemployment. American Samuel Gompers helped to form the Free Federation of Workers (FFW) in 1899, but only a few workers joined this Socialist Party-affiliated group.

Further American reforms helped improve the quality of the health services on the island, however, this caused other problems. When Puerto Rico's population doubled in fewer than 40 years, because of a lowered infant mortality rate and medicines to prevent diseases, problems such as unemployment became common. The great depression affected the island as well, and unemployment was high. The average income was approximately $122 per year in 1929, but it fell to $84 annually in 1933.

Luis Muñoz Marín began a career in politics long before his election to the governorship. He began as a leader in the Senate and helped to work through a great deal of reform in both government and social planning. The enforcement of the 500-acre limit on centrales was his first important reform initiative, and the government bought a great deal of land for farms. Sugarcane was then grown on these government farms and colonos, family-run farms.

At the outbreak of World War II the U.S. envisioned Vieques as a naval base. In 1941, the U.S. government originally bought a section of Vieques to help prepare troops for war. Vieques seemed perfect for training because it lay outside of commercial transportation lines, therefore allowing ships and aircraft to practice realistically, and thus increase combat effectiveness. However, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, investing in a small base in the middle of the Caribbean did not seem tactical.

From 1941 to 1942 the U.S. Navy expropriated 22,000 acres of Vieques’ 33,000 acres. At first it did not appear as though the Navy would return to the island as a strong presence; but with the onset of the Cold War, the U.S. switched from a policy of disarmament to a policy of “permanent armed competition”. By 1963 the Navy’s holdings totaled 22,600 acres, about 70% of the island.

In 1947 the Navy announced its desire to use Vieques for training. In 1948 bombing exercise began, and then continued for the next 55 years. The eastern half of Vieques was used for bombing practices, and the western half was used for weapons storage. Due to years of protests from the people of Vieques, in 2001 the Navy left western Vieques, which had been used as an ammunition depot. Now the United States Fish and Wildlife Service controls 3,100 acres of this land — about half of the formerly owned military property. Over the course of U.S. Navy occupancy, nearly 22 million pounds (10,000 tons) of military and industrial waste, such as oils, solvents, lubricants, lead paint, acid and 55 US gallon drums, were deposited on the western portion of the island. The extent of leaching is unknown. In 2005 the Navy was investigating 17 potentially contaminated sites. On May 1, 2003 the Navy finished turning over all of its lands to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The Industrial Incentive Act of 1947 jump-started the economy of the island. Industries were granted direct and indirect subsidies and exemption from corporate, personal, and property taxes for between 10 and 30 years. This stimulated growth throughout the 1960s. (DITHOT note: More on "The Boom" in a later tidbit.)

Tourism is another business that developed recently. In 1940, there were only 600 guest rooms on the island, but Puerto Rico's economic development plan included several government-built hotels, which in turn inspired outside investment. Tourism's growth coincided with the decline of agriculture, particularly sugar.

After the 1960s, rising wage levels and a preference for unskilled labor in other countries found U.S. corporations looking elsewhere. Semi-skilled workers dominated the scene in the 1970s and 1980s as chemical, metal, and petroleum plants came to the forefront in Puerto Rico. Rising oil prices caused many companies to close and move to countries with lower wages.
By 1976, both U.S. corporations in Puerto Rico and the commonwealth government petitioned Congress for tax relief, at which point they were placed under Section 936 of the tax code. Section 936 allows corporations to avoid taxes on profits sent back to the United States.

Tax exemptions spurred almost all of Puerto Rico's economic progress. Manufacturing of electronics, pharmaceuticals, and precision instruments became important industries on Puerto Rico after 1976. This caused changes in the financial sector, as interest on island profits received tax exemptions as well, leading some corporations to deposit money into Puerto Rican banks.
Despite the interest by U.S. corporations, Puerto Rico's economy faltered often during the 20th century. In fact, U.S. government assistance supports many of the islanders, whether through welfare or medical assistance. Many of Puerto Rico's jobs are also government positions.

For years, Puerto Ricans have compared themselves financially with the citizens of the U.S. mainland, even though they tend to be poorer than most Americans. However, the annual income for most Puerto Ricans is much higher than that of nearby islanders. The discrepancy in income between the island and the mainland, however, has driven a large number of Puerto Ricans to emigrate to the mainland in search of employment.

Those searching for employment on the mainland often settled in New York in the mid-1900s. These"Nuyoricans," as they called themselves, are the group that the musical West Side Story portrayed. Now, many Puerto Rican immigrants have settled in communities throughout the states.

Politically, a big change took place in 1964, when Muñoz Marín decided not to run for governor again. Although political rivalries began between the New Progressive Party (PNP) and Muñoz Marín's Popular Democratic Party (PPD), little forward progress was made.

In 1996, Puerto Rico was hard hit by one change: The loss of its Section 936 status. Companies already opening on the island would retain the exemption until 2005. Government companies were sold in an attempt to encourage U.S. business advancement.

In May of 2006, the government of Puerto Rico shut down schools and government offices for two weeks due to lack of funding. Almost half of all males of working age are not currently employed in Puerto Rico, and the island has struggled to borrow more money to restart its faltering government.

On October 8, 2009, HR 2499, The Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009 was placed on the calendar of business for the House of Representaties but has not reached the floor for a vote. The Act authorizes the government of Puerto Rico: (1) to conduct a plebiscite giving voters the option to vote to continue Puerto Rico's present political status or to have a different political status; (2) if a majority of ballots favor continuing the present status, to conduct additional such plebiscites every eight years; and (3) if a majority of ballots favor having a different status, to conduct a plebiscite on the options of becoming fully independent from the United States, forming with the United States a political association between sovereign nations that will not be subject to the Territorial Clause of the Constitution, or being admitted as a state of the Union.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!

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Re: The Run Diary Tidbit #2 ~ Puerto Rico

Unread postby fansmom » Tue Mar 30, 2010 9:27 pm

What's all this fuss I hear about making Puerto Rico a steak? Let me warn all of you: if you make Puerto Rick a steak, the next thing they'll want is a baked potato-with sour cream and chives and little bacon bits. And then they'll probably want a salad bar! Why, they'll be lined up for miles! Emily Litella

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Re: The Run Diary Tidbit #2 ~ Puerto Rico

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:32 pm

:biglaugh:


That's "state", Emily, "state" not steak.

Oh! Well. Then nevermind. :blush:


:applause2: fansmom!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: The Run Diary Tidbit #2 ~ Puerto Rico

Unread postby nebraska » Wed Mar 31, 2010 5:11 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote::biglaugh:


That's "state", Emily, "state" not steak.

Oh! Well. Then nevermind. :blush:


:applause2: fansmom!

:biglaugh: :harhar: :biglaugh:

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Re: The Run Diary Tidbit #2 ~ Puerto Rico

Unread postby ladylinn » Wed Mar 31, 2010 5:54 pm

When I make my trip to Puerto Rico I want my steak medium and definately at baked potato!!!! :biglaugh:

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Re: The Run Diary Tidbit #2 ~ Puerto Rico

Unread postby Melzo » Fri Apr 02, 2010 12:55 am

You know, I've lived in the United States, basically my entire life. I knew Puerto Rico belonged to the U.S. and such, but I never really knew much about it. I knew it was a commonwealth, but that's as far as my knowledge reached. :lol: I used to work with a Puerto Rican man (a very attractive one at that :bigwink: ), and you could definitely see both the African and Spanish heritage/traits in him. They're definitely a very diverse culture. It's interesting to see that they had slavery for around 300 years, but they seemed to get their act together much quicker than the United States. We only had it for 100 years or so, and it took another 100 for schools to be integrated and such. :rolleyes: Something needs to happen about the unemployment, though. I know it's bad in the U.S. right now, as well, and that doesn't help, but
Almost half of all males of working age are not currently employed in Puerto Rico [. . .]
that's a lot of unemployed people. :-/ I am happy to see that the Fish and Wildlife Department and the Department of the Interior took over from the military, though. They've probably put the land to much better use. :biggrin: It's a very lovely place! Just look at that water:
Fuerte El Morro:

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Re: The Run Diary Tidbit #2 ~ Puerto Rico

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:17 am

I would love to visit someday! Today's tidbit will be a tour of the entire island so be sure to check it out!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: The Run Diary Tidbit #2 ~ Puerto Rico

Unread postby gemini » Fri Apr 02, 2010 3:09 pm

My cousin-in-law is Puerto Rican but born and raised in NY. She and my cousin just went over to visit her father. Like Melzo, I always knew it was there and must be beautiful but never gave it much thought until now. Very interesting tidbit DITHOT. :cool:
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers

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Re: The Run Diary Tidbit #2 ~ Puerto Rico

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Apr 02, 2010 6:13 pm

I have a sister-in-law from there. I would love to go over there sometime with her.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!


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