Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Porto Rico

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PORTO RICO, the most easterly of the Greater Antilles Islands of the West Indies, a territorial possession of the United States. It has an area of 3,606 square miles. The island is roughly rectangular in shape. It is about 100 miles in length. The coast line is about 360 miles long, with comparatively few important indentations. A broken irregular range of hills passes across the island from east to west, ranging in height from 2,000 to 3,000 feet.

The annual range of temperature is from 90° to 50°, with an average of 76°. Rail falls almost daily, the annual precipitation being nearly 77 inches.

The island is famous for the number and size of its trees, which include several species of palms. There are also several varieties of hard wood useful in building. Although several metals occur on the island there is little or no mining. Gold, carbonate, and sulphide of copper have been found. No systematic survey of the mineral resources of the island has been made.

Collier's 1921 Porto Rico - country home and native family.jpg
© E. M. Newman

The chief industry of the people is agriculture. The principal crops are sugar cane, coffee, tobacco, and fruit. Of sugar, there were in 1918 256,431 acres under cultivation, and the total production was 453,796 tons. The production in 1919 was 406,002 tons. The exports of sugar in 1919 amounted to 351,910 tons, valued at $48,132,419. The exports of leaf and scrap tobacco in 1919 were valued at $8,420,538. The coffee production decreased from 37,618,613 pounds in 1918 to 27,897,971 pounds in 1919.

Collier's 1921 Porto Rico - plowing with modern machinery.jpg
© Newman Traveltalks and Brown & Dawson

In 1918-1919 1,307 American and foreign vessels entered Porto Rico from the United States and foreign countries. The harbor of San Juan, chief port and naval station, has been improved and has an entrance of 600 yards square and 30 feet deep. There are about 1,100 miles of road on the island and about 339 miles of railway. The railway system nearly encircles the island and also penetrates the interior.

The total enrollment in the public schools in 1919 was 160,794. The total number of children of school age was about 440,000. There were enrolled in the rural schools about 98,000 pupils, and in the elementary schools about 54,000. Great advances have been made in education since the American occupation of the island.

Health conditions have greatly improved under the American administration, owing to the installation of sanitary systems in the larger cities and to more careful attention to sanitation in all parts of the island.

The total receipts for the fiscal year 1918-1919 amounted to $13,578,608, and the disbursements to $13,017,734. There was a balance on hand on July 1, 1919, of $5,022,316.

Collier's 1921 Porto Rico - Governor's Palace.jpg
© E. M. Newman

Government.—Porto Rico is governed in accordance with the terms of the Act of Congress of 1917. American citizenship was granted to the people. There is a representative government, the franchise being restricted to citizens of the United States, 21 years of age or over. The executive power resides in a governor, appointed by the President of the United States. There is a legislature of two elective houses. The Senate is composed of 19 members and the House of Representatives of 39 members. There is a resident commissioner to the United States who has a seat in Congress. There are six heads of departments which form a council to the governor known as the executive council. There is a Supreme Court of five members, appointed by the President, and seven district judges appointed by the governor. There are also municipal courts, the judges and officials of which are appointed by the governor.

History.—Porto Rico was discovered by Columbus on his second voyage, in 1493, and was afterward visited by other Spanish explorers. Ponce de Léon occupied the island with a large military force and maintained headquarters there for ten years. The Spaniards remained in control of the island until 1898. It was visited often by pirates. San Juan was sacked in 1595 by Sir Francis Drake. Other attacks by English forces were defeated. Porto Rico was created a province of Spain in 1869, and slavery was abolished in 1873, The fortifications of San Juan were bombarded by a fleet under Admiral Sampson, in July, 1898, and a military expedition under General Miles took possession without opposition. By the Treaty of Paris, in 1898, Porto Rico was ceded to the United States. With the exception of political struggles, the American administration was without important event. In 1912 laws were passed providing for sanitary reform, a bureau of labor, and the minority representation. The inhabitants of Porto Rico were granted citizenship on March 2, 1917. Prohibition was voted by the people on July 16 of the same year. During 1918 officers' training camps were opened on the island and a large number of young men were trained for military service. In 1918-1919 a new election law was passed. Amendments were also made to the labor laws. The population of Porto Rico in 1910 was 1,118,012; in 1920, 1,297,772. The chief towns are San Juan, Ponce, and Mayaguez.

Collier's 1921 Porto Rico.jpg
Copyright, L. L. Poates Eng. Co., 1921