On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced that he would visit the hurricane-devastated island of Puerto Rico next week. The announcement came after criticism mounted that the administration was not moving quickly enough to provide resources to the American territory.
Hurricane Maria’s damage was widespread, and authorities say it may take months to repair infrastructure and rebuild homes and businesses.
Many know the island as a tourist destination, but only about half who took part in a poll earlier this year knew that Puerto Rico is an American territory and that its residents are American citizens.
Here are some facts about the island and its relationship to the United States.
Is Puerto Rico part of the United States?
The commonwealth of Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. It became a territory of the U.S. in 1898 after the Spanish-American War.
What does unincorporated territory mean?
It means that as a U.S. territory, the Constitution of the United States applies to certain areas of life in Puerto Rico – such as interstate trade, immigration, commerce and foreign relations, among other areas. The government of Puerto Rico, like that of a U.S. state/U.S. federal government relationship –, controls internal issues,though how it handles them must not conflict with U.S. law.
Who is in charge of running the Puerto Rican government?
The head of the Puerto Rican government is the governor. He or she governs with the help of a cabinet and serves a four-year term. The island has a Senate and a House of Representatives. The Senate has 27 members, and the House has 51 members. There are seven justices on Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court.
As a U.S. territory, are Puerto Ricans U.S. citizens?
Yes, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. A child born in Puerto Rico to Puerto Rican parents is automatically an American citizen.
Do they have the same rights as U.S. citizens who live in a U.S. state?
Mostly. They cannot cast a vote for president, however. They participate in Republican and Democratic party primaries and conventions, though. They also do not have voting representation in the U.S. House or Senate.
Do they pay U.S. income tax?
Puerto Ricans file U.S. income tax returns only if they work for the federal government. Otherwise, they do not pay federal income taxes. They do pay payroll taxes, including Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes.
Will Puerto Rico become a state? Do the people there want the island to be a U.S. state?
Not in the near future. Puerto Ricans voted for U.S. statehood in 2012 and earlier this year. The vote does not have to be considered by the U.S. Congress.
How is Puerto Rico already like a state?
Puerto Ricans serve in the U.S. military.
They use the U.S. Postal Service to send and receive mail.
They use the U.S. dollar as their form of currency.
Other facts about Puerto Rico:
The capital is San Juan.
Christopher Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista. It later became known as Puerto Rico, or “rich port.”
The population is 3.411 million.
The official languages are Spanish and English.
Ninety-one percent of all people living in U.S. territories live in Puerto Rico