Puerto Rico’s Culture and Politics: Photo Essay

My trip home is in T minus 8 days. Can’t wait to see paradise again along with my fam! For this reason, I felt inspired 😀 I present you a photo essay of Puerto Rico’s culture, politics, and history for this week’s Beach Thursday.

Puerto Rico flag

My beautiful, Puerto Rican flag!

Geography of Puerto Rico

While it is famously known as La Isla Del Encanto (“The Enchanted Island”), Puerto Rico is actually an archipelago with an area of 9,104 km2 in the Caribbean. The main island, however, is just 100 miles by 34 miles.

Puerto Rico's culture and Caribbean map

Puerto Rico and the Caribbean

The smallest of the Greater Antilles, Puerto Rico is located east of La Española (Haiti/Dominican Republic) and west of the USVI and the string of islands known as the Lesser Antilles. Due to its strategic geographical location, it was known as the Gateway of the New World during colonial times, back in the 1500’s.

Carlos Arroyo, Athens 2004

Puerto Rico vs USA – 2004 Summer Olympics

Historical and Political Overview

Puerto Rico was discovered by Christopher Columbus on his second journey to the New World on November 19th, 1493. For more than 400 years, it was a colony of Spain.

However, Borinquén (as the native Taínos called it) was attacked repeatedly by different colonial powers, most notably England, France, and the Netherlands. Ironically, though, Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1898, after winning the Spanish-American War.

What most people (and, ironically, most Americans) do not know is that Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917.

What’s curious about this Act is that while it granted most rights associated with citizenship (established a bill of rights, Puerto Ricans could now carry U.S. passports, etc.), it did not allow for proper representation in Congress.

Rather, Puerto Ricans could now elect a Resident Commissioner every four years, who basically acts as any other U.S. Representative, except his/her votes don’t count.

Puerto Rico vs USA 2004 Olympics

Puerto Rico became the first-ever in history to beat the USA’s (NBA!) Dream Team” during the 2004 Summer Olympics. Final score? 92 – 76!

Speaking of the political ambuiguity of Puerto Rico: Its official name is Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico (literally “Associated Free State of Puerto Rico”). In simple terms, a Commonwealth.

What’s that?

An unincorporated territory of the U.S., which according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Insular Cases is “a territory belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States” (Wiki).

We have both a federal government (USA) and a state government (PR), like any other state of the union. However, Puerto Ricans cannot vote for the President of the United States nor can they receive all benefits that U.S. citizens living in any other state enjoy.

Additionally, Puerto Rico cannot free trade with other countries directly–the U.S. must always be the intermediary. Thus, under article 73(e) of the UN Charter, Puerto Rico is a non-self-governing territory.

What’s the most curious fact about Puerto Rico’s unique political status, though?

In all other aspects, it is an independent country.

Huh!? Yes!

Puerto Rico fully participates in most international (non-political) events as a separate country. We send our own delegates to Miss Universe, have our own team in the Basketball World Championship, and even the Olympics–meaning we do not go under the U.S. flag or name, but under our own, Puerto Rico. Isn’t that cool?! 😀

Heritage and Culture of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican culture is a rich heritage, primarily Spanish, African, and Taíno (indigenous-aboriginal). Once Conquistadors came to the island, they intermarried Taínas and also slaves that they brought from Africa. Thus, as far as looks go, the possibilities are endless 😉

Some tourists get confused when they see us, as they imagine Puerto Ricans to be like the Telenovela stars with long, dark hair, olive skin, and brown eyes. Those are common, too, but so are the green-eyed African Puerto Ricans and the blondes with ultra-curly African locks!

Puerto Rico's culture and ethnicities

All people on this pic – 100% Puerto Rican! (and ME almost a DECADE ago! lol)

Puerto Rican ethnicities

Even more 100% Puerto Ricans!

Puerto Rican races

The guy on the right? His name is Brahany, and yes, 100% Puerto Rican as well!

When it comes to music, all the Latin vibes are quite popular, but so are the American tunes. Salsa, bachata, merengue are the usual tunes for proms, while the YMCA and American oldies are played toward the end of each party or at special-themed nights in selected clubs.

What’s funny, though, is how most Puerto Rican islanders see those Boricuas who like American music as come-mierdas (bad word for conceited) and “condescending,” believing those who like American music to be “gringo wannabes” that feel they are better than everyone else.

This depends on the area you live, of course, but usually locals living in the metro area around San Juan are considered “too gringo” to be Puerto Rican by those from the middle-to-low classes living toward the interior of the island.

And now some Puerto Rico beach pictures!

That shall be it for this wonderfully-educational photo essay about mi patria, Puerto Rico!

I will leave you with some awesome pictures + videos of my friends and me at different beaches from all over Puerto Rico 😀

Hope you enjoyed this Beach Thursday special – have a great weekend!

Culebra, Puerto Rico

My sis Karla Michelle, cousin Sharoliz & me in Culebra, an islet off the east coast of mainland Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico beach

Beach in Vieques, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican girl in Playa Santa, Guanica

Me (11 years ago!) in Playa Santa, Guanica – located on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican girl in Isla Verde, Carolina

Me (2008) in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico – one of closest beaches to the capital, San Juan, on the northeast coast

Have you visited Puerto Rico? What did you think of my island?


33 thoughts on “Puerto Rico’s Culture and Politics: Photo Essay

  1. We’really going to PR at the end of May and staying in Fajardo. We are visiting Culebra and El Yunque. Anything else we should do…cultural events?


    • Puerto Rico cultural events vary by season and even month, so I would advise you to ask your hotel concierge or locals if you book a rental to know exactly what’s going on during your visit! We’re always celebrating something 😉 Hope you love my island, Paul!

  2. Hello every body,I need your help, I want to visit Puerto rico and i haven’t decided yet which place i will stay in; so, any tips?

  3. ii freakin lovee PUERTO RICO.!! ii miss it so much. =( ii havent been there in about 5 years…
    but ikk im deff goin soon.! btw ii lovee ur “essay”♥. it was nice to read stuff about PR..!

  4. I’ve visited the Island 3 times, I’m from Guatemala and my wife is Salvadorean, and we love it!! Our daughters wanted to take a trip to Hawaii, but after I told them about the time it would take to get there, and showed them our pictures from past vacations (again) they got very excited about Puerto Rico, so we’re thinking of going at the end of July. Just need to find out what besides the obvious water sports, we can do over there with an 8, 10 and 15 year old. oh yeah, the hidden beaches and the Bacardi house are out of the question 🙂

    • The Camuy Caves (Cavernas de Camuy) are great.
      El Yunque Rain Forrest (the only one in US soil).
      El Morro Fort in San Juan.
      A trip to the city of Ponce in the south. Stop in the Jibaro monument in the Hoghway. In Ponce go to the Fire House, La Guancha walk, Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center, Castillo Serralles, Cruceta del Vigia, and make the trip to Caja de Muerto Island.
      In the city of Bayamon (near San Juan) visit the Science Park (Parque de las Ciencias).
      Enjoy you family trip.!

      • I agree Jim, good recommendations 😀 been to all of them several times, as I lived 18 years there. My Puerto Rico is so beautiful! 🙂

  5. Thanks for this background on PR. I had no idea that it’s the smallest of the Greater Antilles. Apart from the language, there are few similarities with Jamaica. I visited PR a few years ago. Loved Old San Juan. Would love to go back one of these days.

  6. Hahahaha, you make a good point!! =P Although I don’t know how I would feel about PR being a state…I don’t think I would like it =( nothing against the USA, I just *really* like PR competing against the WORLD at Olympics and other world games. It is such a sense of pride, seeing that Puerto Rican flag high whenever one of ours wins something. I feel it would be lost if we would become a state. Even if it takes years…still, look at Hawaii now for instance. I dont wanna lose it =(

    • That sounds good when you don’t live over here. We are second class american citizens and most people forget it. It will be good to be the most eastern state of the Union.
      We can keep the Olimpic and Miss Universe representations while being a state. That’s another miss conception. So, will you join us now in our goal to be the 51.

      • Jim, I have to slightly disagree with you. If anything, I think we would be better off as an Associated Republic, but with the current “culture” of living off the cupones and taking from the govt as much as we can, islanders just won’t progress. Becoming a state would be a huge problem, as many islanders do not speak English and there’s too much of a “cultural clash.” The islanders attitude needs to change first, if anything. Either way, a transition to either side–independence or statehood–would take years in order to be successful. But again I digress–the “take take take” culture that many islanders embrace is wrong and what’s sinking our island. In addition to drugs… but then again that’s all part of the “I want easy money” culture…

        As far as Miss Universe and the Olympics go, we would *not* be represented as you say. Puerto Rico would go on to participate in Miss Universe USA, and if our delegate wins, we would go on to represent the USA in Miss Universe. No “Miss Puerto Rico” in the international contest anymore. Trust me I know. Same with the Olympics.

        We could go on and on about what’s best for the island, but there are too many factors to consider that, of course, would not fit in a brief online discussion 😉

  7. Cool post to clear up some common misconceptions about PR, even tho I still don’t understand how a U.S. passport holder can compete against the US in the Olympics 🙂 We’ll make it there….eventually!

    • That’s great to hear!! 😀 Let me know when you’re full-time planning it so I can give you the best tips before you head out 😉

  8. Ahhh how I love my PR! I was not born there, but my parents were and of course half of my family still lives on the island. My mom has 16 brothers and sisters so visiting the island involves ALOT of family reunions! While I haven’t been back in 5 years, I remember it like yesterday always. So happy for you that you get to go back! I have a cousin getting married next November so maybe then for me!

    • Oh funny, I’m actually going for my little sister’s wedding! But a PR visit was due, so yeah 🙂 I hope you get to go in November! Puerto Rico will be more beautiful than you remember it 😉

  9. Thanks for your comments guys! Andi: That’s so exciting! I actually might be heading to PR again the last week of January! Maybe we can meet up?! If not then it should definitely be Miami for the Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias concert in October! 😉

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