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The official name of Puerto Rico is Commonwealth of Puerto Rich, and it is a self-governing island commonwealth of the West Indies. It is a territory of the United States. The nation is made up of the main island, Puerto Rico as well as Culebra, Mona, and Vieques and more than 140 smaller islands, islets, atolls, and cays. Its capital is San Juan.

It is situated in the northeast Caribbean Sea in the Greater Antilles.

The population of Puerto Rico is made up of a mingle of Spanish, Afro-Caribbean, and United States components. The official languages are Spanish and English.

In 1493, when Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Rico on his second voyage, Taino tribes inhabited the islands. Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista, after John the Baptist. His mission, given to him by the papal bull of Pope Alexander VI via King Ferdinand of Spain, was to use whatever actions he found necessary to expand both Catholicism and the Spanish Empire.

The Spanish colonized the island in the early 1500s, forcing many of the Taino people into forced labor. The fatalities from European diseases from which they had no immunities were very high.

In 1520, Spain's King Charles I decreed that the dwindling number of Taino be emancipated from all labor. This affected the economy of Spain, which soon lost interest in the island. Upon this decree, Spain began to import even more African slaves to make up the difference.

With Spain unwilling to pay wages for the work the enslaved Tainos were formerly doing and with no industry to speak of, they had very few choices so many of the newly-freed Taino slaves ended up in the interior of the island, eking out livings with subsistence farms and in a newly-developing subsistence economy as a whole. Over the years, the people in this economy set forth the template for what would become Puerto Rico's Jibaro culture.

The Spanish Empire was losing its strength and reputation toward the end of the 1500s. It had lost much of its territory, apparently because, in some cases, they simply didn't care to defend them and in other, simply could not. Britain, the Netherlands, and France invaded Spanish possessions more and more frequently. Spain's Atlantic Fleet, which carried silver back to Spain, were no longer able to count on safe passage.

Spanish urban planners and strategists redesigned the port settlement into military posts as Spain tried to defend its holdings in what has been referred to as a "bunker mentality."

Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, which is situated on the small island called the Islets de San Juan, became known as the "Walled City" because of its heavy fortification. To this day, numerous forts and walls are still standing there.

The Battle of San Juan, on September 24, 1625, saw Dutch commander Boudewijn Hendrikszoon and 17 Dutch ships heading in to attack San Juan.

The Spanish Governor, Juan de Haro y Sanvitores, a former military man, got wind of the impending attack shortly before it happened. He prepared as well as he could by ordering the main gate into San Juan Bay closed and sending the militia to keep the Dutch from entering Escambrón Inlet.

He went around the cannons which he knew were around the castle of San Felipe del Morro and he and his ships were able to sail into San Juan Bay. The shoals prevented the Dutch from disembarking their ships immediately, and the Spanish civilians took advantage of the little bit of time to flee inland. It also afforded de Haro to muster 330 more men as well as the time to install six more bronze 12-pounders (cannons) at the San Felipe del Morro citadel.

On September 26, Hendrikszoon led approximately 800 men ashore, and they succeeded in occupying the deserted city.

On the 28th, they occupied El Cañuelo, a small wooden fort, an islet made of rock.

They were unable to storm the citadel, they dug trench lines set up a six-gun battery, after which, they fired on Morro Castle. Over the next 21 days, both sides held their ground. Citizen guerrillas came to fight the Dutch. The Spanish militia ventured out several times to attack the Dutch, but they were not very successful, though they did manage to harass the Dutch. They also rendered several of the Dutch guns in the trench lines.

They did not surrender. Hendrickszoon finally gave up on taking San Juan. He ordered his men to ransack and burn the city to the ground. On October 16, the emboldened guerrilla fighters sallied forth from the citadel and killed two of the Dutch occupiers and captured fourteen.

The city was torched and the Dutch went back to their boats, but they had the guerrillas hot on their trail. The Dutch were essentially trapped in the harbor until November 2, when they were finally able to flee.

Puerto Rico was given over to the United States at a result of the Spanish-American War in 1898. It remains a U.S. territory.



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