Officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Spanish: Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit. “Free Associated State of Puerto Rico”)[b] and briefly called Porto Rico, is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Miami, Florida.
An archipelago among the Greater Antilles, Puerto Rico includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller ones, such as Mona, Culebra, and Vieques. The capital and most populous city is San Juan. Its official languages are Spanish and English, though Spanish predominates. The island’s population is approximately 3.4 million. Puerto Rico’s history, tropical climate, natural scenery, traditional cuisine, and tax incentives make it a destination for travelers from around the world.
Originally populated by the indigenous Taíno people, the island was claimed in 1493 by Christopher Columbus for Spain during his second voyage. Later it endured invasion attempts from the French, Dutch, and British. Four centuries of Spanish colonial government influenced the island’s cultural landscapes with waves of African slaves, Canarian, and Andalusian settlers. In the Spanish Empire, Puerto Rico played a secondary, but strategic role when compared to wealthier colonies like Peru and the mainland parts of New Spain. Spain’s distant administrative control continued up to the end of the 19th century, helping to produce a distinctive creole Hispanic culture and language that combined elements from the Native Americans, Africans, and Iberians. In 1898, following the Spanish–American War, the United States acquired Puerto Rico under the terms of the Treaty of Paris. The treaty took effect on April 11, 1899.
Puerto Ricans are by law citizens of the United States and may move freely between the island and the mainland. As it is not a state, Puerto Rico does not have a vote in the United States Congress, which governs the territory with full jurisdiction under the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950. However, Puerto Rico does have one non-voting member of the House called a Resident Commissioner. As residents of a U.S. territory, American citizens in Puerto Rico are disenfranchised at the national level and do not vote for president and vice president of the United States, and do not pay federal income tax on Puerto Rican income. Like other territories and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico does not have U.S. senators. Congress approved a local constitution in 1952, allowing U.S. citizens on the territory to elect a governor. A 2012 referendum showed a majority (54% of those who voted) disagreed with “the present form of territorial status”. A second question asking about a new model, had full statehood the preferred option among those who voted for a change of status, although a significant number of people did not answer the second question of the referendum. A fifth referendum was held on June 11, 2017, with “Statehood” and “Independence/Free Association” initially as the only available choices. At the recommendation of the Department of Justice, an option for the “current territorial status” was added. The referendum showed an overwhelming support for statehood, with 97.18% voting for it, although the voter turnout had a historically low figure of only 22.99% of the registered voters casting their ballots.
In early 2017, the Puerto Rican government-debt crisis posed serious problems for the government. The outstanding bond debt had climbed to $70 billion at a time with 12.4% unemployment. The debt had been increasing during a decade long recession. This was the second major financial crisis to affect the island after the Great Depression when the U.S. government, in 1935, provided relief efforts through the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration. On May 3, 2017, Puerto Rico’s financial oversight board in the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico filed the debt restructuring petition which was made under Title III of PROMESA. By early August 2017, the debt was $72 billion with a 45% poverty rate.
In late September 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, causing devastating damage. The island’s electrical grid was largely destroyed, with repairs expected to take months to complete, provoking the largest power outage in American history. Recovery efforts were somewhat slow in the first few months, and over 200,000 residents had moved to the mainland State of Florida alone by late November 2017
Beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico is growing in popularity as a tourist destination because of its interesting architecture and overall charm. However, as with any major metropolitan city, there are safe places and areas to avoid in San Juan.
According to most statistics, there are approximately 250 violent crimes a year in San Juan. However, most of these crimes are related to drug trafficking, and for the most part, tourists tend not to be targeted as victims. Very few crimes are committed in highly populated tourist areas. Overall, San Juan is a beautiful, safe place, but just as in Philadelphia or even Oklahoma City, there are a few places visitors would be better off to avoid.
1. La Perla
Tourists are advised to avoid the area known as “La Perla,” one of San Juan’s most dangerous places. “The Pearl” district in Old San Juan is a slum area where a lot of drug trafficking takes place. Despite recent law enforcement crackdowns, it remains one of the most dangerous places in Puerto Rico. It isn’t difficult to spot, as it is decrepit and quite run-down.