Interesting Facts About Puerto Rico

Sources: penpaland.com / buzzle.com

Puerto Rico is a popularly loved tourist destination, and is well-known for its vast, majestic beaches. The island is embedded with various interesting features...

Puerto Rico, also known as the 'Island of Enchantment' is a Caribbean island, situated east of the Dominican Republic and West of the British Virgin Islands. Puerto is actually an archipelago, within another archipelago called Antilles. This means Puerto Rico is a group of islands, situated within another set of Antilles islands. The Puerto Rican archipelago includes the main Puerto Rico island and smaller islands like Vieques, Culebrita, Culebra, the Spanish Virgin Islands, Desecheo, Mona, etc. The Puerto Rican archipelago is 100 miles long by 35 miles wide, with mostly flat coastal areas and mountainous interiors. Over 3.9 million people inhabit the island of Puerto Rico, making it one of the most densely populated islands in the world. Moreover, the standard of living in Puerto Rico happens to be amongst the highest in the West. Here are a few well-known and mesmerizing Puerto Rico facts.

Some Interesting Facts about Puerto Rico

Christopher Columbus discovered Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico was discovered by Christopher Columbus on November 19th, 1493, during his second voyage to the new world. At the time of his discovery, the archipelago was inhabited by Taíno Indians, who called it 'Borinquen'. Columbus renamed the archipelago as "San Juan Bautista" for St. John the Baptist; claimed it for Spain and never returned. It was in the early 1500s, when the Spanish (Juan Ponce de León and his men) invaded the archipelago. This invasion brought rich Spanish culture into the land of Puerto Rico. Cuisine, music, language, lifestyle, etc. of the Taíno Indians were influenced in a remarkable manner by the Spanish.

The Spanish invaders were also the ones responsible for introducing trade, legal systems, government systems, etc. into the land. They also brought in the Africans into Puerto Rico, primarily as slaves; to look for gold, plant and harvest crops. This again added to the diversity. Later, the archipelago was named Puerto Rico (meaning 'rich port') by the Spanish, due to its worth as an important sea port.

Puerto Rico is US territory
Puerto Rico has never been an independent nation. From 1493, when it was discovered by Christopher Columbus, it was a part of Spain for over 400 years. The arrival of American troops in the year 1898 marked another historic event in the history of Puerto Rico. With the end of the American-Spanish War in 1898, Puerto Rico became a part of the United States. Today, Puerto Rico is a freely associated territory of the United States. Moreover, since 1917, Puerto Ricans were given American citizenship. As US citizens, Puerto Ricans have to abide by most federal laws, as required by all US citizens. The head of State in Puerto Rico is by default the President of the US.

No passports required for US citizens
Since Puerto Rico is the commonwealth of the US, US citizens can travel to Puerto Rico and back without passports. All they require is a photo identification proof! Moreover, after the invasion of the US, the US dollar has become the official currency of Puerto Rico. But even after 100 years of using the American dollar, the locals still refer to their currency as 'peso'. The American tourists are the ones who are grateful that USD is the currency of the land. This eliminates the unnecessary hassle of converting currency during their visit. Puerto Rico also uses the US postal service.

Puerto Ricans don't call themselves Americans
Puerto Ricans consider themselves Americans, however, they don't usually call themselves so. They are proud of their individuality and also like to assert their independence. They call themselves Puertorriqueños or Boricuas, as a cultural affirmation. When they say 'my country', they are actually referring to Puerto Rico and not the United States. The Puerto Ricans are a blend of Spanish, Taino Indian and African cultures. They don't consider themselves of any race, but call themselves Puerto Ricans. However, the numbers calling themselves black or American Indians have risen considerably in the last decade.

Official Language is Spanish and English
Both Spanish and English are the official languages of the island, however, Spanish is undoubtedly predominant. Puerto Ricans have their own version of Spanish, as several Taíno words have been incorporated into the language, with pronunciation being slightly influenced by the African dialects. The US authorities tried enforcing the English language as the medium of instruction in schools, however, the Puerto Ricans were far from relenting. Today, Spanish is the primary language of instruction and English is the second language, taught in all public and private schools. However, in all federal proceedings, English is the official language. Almost 90% of the population converses in Spanish all the time, unless they have no option but to speak in English. This is because the locals are shy of conversing in English, even if they know it.

Puerto Rican Holidays
Puerto Ricans love partying, thus, festivities are carried on frequently across the islands. Their festivals are categorized into three types: national holidays, harvest festivals and patron saint festivals. Since Puerto Rico was discovered on November 19th, Puerto Ricans observe this day as a national holiday. July 4th is also an official holiday, however, it's a comparatively low-key event. Besides these national holidays, Puerto Rico also observes another 22 official holidays. What's interesting about Puerto Rican holidays are that quite a few national holidays are held on Mondays, so that the locals get a longer weekend! There are about 25 patron saint festivals, each town celebrating at least one on a grand scale. Mainly based on Catholic saints, these festivals include dance, music, plays, banquets, delectable delicacies and religious processions, which go on for ten days. Harvest festivals are celebrated to mark the end of the harvest season.

San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico
Located in the northern region of the island, San Juan was founded in the year 1521. The city was encircled by various walls and forts, to protect its wealth within. Being the second oldest city in the US, San Juan has also been titled as one of the world's busiest cruise-ship ports. It is divided into two regions: new and old. The latter is marked off as national historic zone due to its museums and other historic treasures. The former is the business hub of Puerto Rico, with hotels, offices, refineries and neighborhoods. Besides San Juan, the other important cities in Puerto Rico are Caguas, Bayamon, Ponce, Arecibo and Cayey.

Puerto Rico has won the 'Miss Universe Title' 5 times
Although Puerto Rico is a US territory and has USD as its currency, it competes as an individual nation globally. Puerto Rico has won the Miss Universe title five times: Marisol Malaret (1970), Deborah Carthy-Deu (1985), Dayanara Torres (1993), Denisse Quiñones (2001), and Zuleyka Rivera (2006). It even hosted the Miss Universe pageant in 1972, and became the first Latin American country to host this contest. Moreover, it has its own Olympic team as well, which has won a total of 6 medals.

Tiny tree frog is the unofficial mascot
The unofficial mascot of the island is a tiny tree frog called 'Coqui', that measures only one inch in length. This frog is a cute and popularly loved symbol of the island. Its powerful melodic voice and high-pitched song can be heard for miles on the island. The sound it makes creates romantic evenings across the island. These frogs sing all through the night until dawn. Coqui frogs get their name from the melodious sound 'ko-kee' that they make. However, one should note that it's only the males that sing and not the females. Coqui may be brown, green or yellow in color. They lack webbing between their toes, thus, are incapable of swimming. Although native to Puerto Rico, these frogs have been introduced to places like Hawaii, Florida, Virgin Islands and Dominican Republic.

Puerto Rican Cuisine
Puerto Rican cuisine or cocina criolla (as termed by the locals) is unique, even though it is a blend of Spanish, African, Taíno Indian, American and culinary traditions. This is due to the addition of indigenous ingredients such as papaya, apio, plantains, coriander, cocoa and nispero, that give the cuisine its authentic island flavor. A thick sauce called sofrito, which is a combination of tomatoes, lean cured ham, onions, peppers, cilantro and garlic, is used to season most dishes. Arroz con Gandules is the national dish of Puerto Rico, which is a rice, pigeon pea and pork shoulder dish. It's seasoned with sofrito and diced ham. No Puerto Rican festival is complete without this dish. Puerto Rican food is very palatable, however, happens to be high in fat and sugar. The locals adopted the frying method of cooking from the Americans. The dessert popular in this region is the famous Spanish flan. Besides this there are several guava dessert variations as well. However, the younger generations are adopting American fast food culture.

Puerto Rican Culture
Puerto Ricans generally greet their family and close friends with a kiss on the cheek. They also consider it respectful to stand very close to someone during a conversation. Moreover, hand gestures are an important component of communication to them. Puerto Ricans do not find it offensive to ask personal questions during conversations. In terms of family bonding, the ties between family members are strong. Puerto Ricans have a lot of respect for their elders and ensure they come together for birthdays, wedding anniversaries, etc. Puerto Ricans are warm, friendly and hospitable. Tourists are welcomed wholeheartedly. Moreover, locals living in tourist areas speak to tourists in English, which solves the problem of communication in the land.

Cockfighthing is legal in Puerto Rico
Just as bullfighting is an integral part of Spanish culture, cockfighting is the most popular pastime on the island of Puerto Rico. In fact, almost every town has its own coliseum built for rooster fights. In Puerto Rico, cockfighting is considered to be a 'gentleman's sport' and is legal, unlike other parts of the United States. In 2007, a new law was signed, which confirmed the sport's legality across the island.

World's Largest Telescope in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico houses the world's largest single-dish radio telescope in the world, measuring 1000 feet in diameter and spanning almost 20 acres. Named Arecibo radio telescope, this astronomical observatory was inaugurated in 1963. It is also the most sensitive radio telescope in the world and has the capability of accurately predicting, when and where an asteroid would hit the Earth! Moreover, this enormous telescope was shown in movies; Golden Eye and Contact.

Arecibo to soon lose its title to FAST
Since 1963, Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory has been enjoying the title of the 'World's Largest Radio Telescope'. However, the Chinese have been working diligently towards construction of a larger radio telescope, which is due for completion in 2016. China's FAST has a diameter of 1650 feet and will be able to survey the skies 10 times faster than Arecibo and see 3 times more into space. It will also be able to change the shape of its reflecting surface, thereby giving it the flexibility to survey the skies better. This behemoth radio telescope is expected to unravel information about various new galaxies, etc. which are as far as 7 billion years away!

Extensive Beachfront
The island comprises 270 miles of pristine beachfront, known for its quality and vastness. The variety of beaches is simply overwhelming. There are beaches for all here; right from calm and peaceful beaches to world-class surfing beaches. Playa de Ponce is the best beach for swimming, Playa Higüero is famous for surfing, while Playa Esperanza is great for snorkeling. Depending on how one intends to spend one's time, one can take a pick. Black, magnetic sand beaches, beaches with rusty military tank color and many more majestic beaches are housed by the island. These glorious beaches make Puerto Rico a favorite tourist destination. Moreover, Puerto Rico participates in the Blue Flag program, wherein, beaches have to maintain a high maintenance standard to be labeled as a blue flag beach.

Beaches of Puerto Rico house endangered turtles
Islands of Vieques and Culebra are nesting grounds for the endangered leatherback sea turtles. These leatherback sea turtles are not only the largest turtle type, but also the largest living reptile in the world. In the month of May, female turtles come onshore and lay their eggs. Baby turtles hatch out and move towards the sea. The government and local authorities have realized how important protecting these nesting grounds are, for the survival of this species. Thus, they ensure the beaches are protected in the best possible manner, so that the baby turtles live to produce the next generation. However, development on the coast of Puerto Rico's Northeast Ecological Corridor, can prove harmful to the very existence of these endangered species. This is why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may declare the Northeast Ecological Corridor as critical habitat.

Largest Rum Distillery is in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is the rum capital of the world. Producing over 100,000 tons of rum every year, the Bacardi rum factory in San Juan, is the largest rum distillery in the world. The archipelago is known for its fine rums and cocktails, however, it takes a lot of discipline and skill to make the best tasting rum in the world. Each step in the rum production process is governed and monitored by the law. The factory entertains tourists and takes them for a tour (with free drinks) around the factory, showing them rum making and aging process. The visitors are also get a taste of the world-famous rum! Isn't that cool!

Puerto Rico As a Popular Tourist Destination

  • San Juan skyline
  • San Juan skyline
  • Flamenco beach Culebra Island
  • Flamenco beach, Culebra Island
  • El Morro castle
  • El Morro castle, San Juan
  • Arecibo radiotelescope
  • Arecibo radiotelescope
  • Red beach Santorini
  • Red beach, Santorini
  • Gran Canaria
  • Gran Canaria
  • Guajataca forest reserve trail
  • Guajataca forest reserve trail
  • El Yunque national forest
  • El Yunque national forest
  • La mina falls
  • La mina falls
  • Old San Juan
  • Buildings in old San Juan

Puerto Rico welcomes over 'One Million Visitors' every year. Tourists have a lot of places to visit in Puerto Rico. Right from El Yunque (only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System), dry forest of Guanica, island of Vieques, to the El Morro Castle, Raices fountain, etc. in old San Juan, there is just so much to visit once you step into the archipelago. Puerto Rico is a hurricane prone island and should be avoided during the hurricane season, from June to November. Winter is the peak tourist season. However, to avoid the crowds, it is best to visit this island in spring or late fall. The vibrant, bilingual, modern, multicultural society of Puerto Rico continues to lure tourists from across the globe.

The land of Puerto Rico is a truly mesmerizing place! It's a land rich in culture and diversity! As one unravels various faucets, the islands just enchant you further. Hope these facts about Puerto Rico were interesting and educative!


Facts About the Dominican Republic

Sources: penpaland.com / buzzle.com

To be honest, everything about the Dominican Republic is no less than a fact. With an accidental discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1492, to an interesting yet sad history, this country is loaded with information that will make you marvel. This Buzzle article contains some of the many interesting facts about the Dominican Republic.

Did You Know?

The Dominican Republic music is known as Merengue, which is a Spanish word for whipped egg whites in sugar, like the English word, 'meringue'. Though it is unclear why this name was kept for their music, this lively, joyful, and uplifting music and dance forms an integral part of their culture and spirit.

The Dominican Republic, also known as Dominicana Republica, it is the second largest Caribbean nation after Cuba and is situated on the island of Hispaniola. It also shares the Caribbean island with Haiti, making the island of Hispaniola being the one island shared by two different countries! Christopher Columbus explored the Dominican Republic in 1492. The country was taken over by the French, and even the land of Haiti, but after the Dominican War of Independence in 1844, the country was victorious over the enemy.

Each and every facet of this land is an intriguing story. The island of La Hispaniola, as it was named in the colonial times, has seen a lot of changes, brutality, conspiracies, and downfalls to become 'La República Dominicana' after gaining independence. Even after that, the country had to endure a lot of chaos in terms of political instability, subduing government, and a poor and unstable economy. However, now, this nation is a democratic nation, with tourism and agriculture being the main sources of economic revenue.

Basic Facts about the Dominican Republic

Details Fact Information
Capital Santo Domingo
Area 48,442 Square Kilometers
Government Democratic Republic
Independence February 27, 1844
Language Spanish
Sport Baseball
National Bird Cigua Palmera, the Palmchat, in English
National Flower Bayahibe Rose
National Tree West Indian Mahogany
Ethnic Groups White 16%, Black 11%, Mixed 73%
Population 10,349,741 (July 2014 est.)
Religion Roman Catholic (95%)
Motto "Dios, Patria, Libertad", which means "God, Fatherland, Liberty".
Currency Dominican Peso
Climate Mostly tropical climate; a little variation in seasonal temperature; there is noticeable seasonal variation in the rainfall as well.

Fun Facts about the Dominican Republic for Kids

While the aforementioned section has given you the basic information of this country, there are a lot of fun-tastic facts associated with the Dominican Republic. Below is a list of some of these amazingly interesting facts.

The national anthem of the Dominican Republic is Himno Nacional. Surprisingly, the term 'Dominican' doesn't appear even once in their anthem.
The name of this country is often abbreviated, and the shortened version, 'D.R.' is used instead.
The climate of the Dominican Republic is often known as the "endless summer". This is because of the constant sunny and tropical climate that it has.
Before Columbus discovered this island, the Taíno Indians resided there. They were extremely friendly people who welcomed Columbus and his crew members to the island, and bestowed their generous hospitality on them.
The word 'Taíno' meant 'good' or 'noble' in the local language of these natives, which they were; however, the Spaniards did not reciprocate their gesture.
Before Columbus discovered the island on December 5, 1492 and named it 'Hispaniola', the Taíno Indians called it Quisqueya, Haití, or Bohío. Quisqueya meant 'Mother of all Lands' in their native tongue. This word also appears in the national anthem of D.R. as another name of the country.
Remember the Pirates of the Caribbean? In the mid-17th century, the island of Tortuga, which is located in the west of Cap Haitien, became the main spot for the pirates of the Caribbean. Here, they recruited people for raiding Spanish treasure ships. It wouldn't be wrong to say that this place was their headquarter.
The "Dominican flag" is what the traditional dish of the Dominican Republic is known as. It contains rice, beans, plantains, and meat.
Their food consists of seafood, plantains, rice, stews, casseroles, and meat dishes. Their cuisine is a blend of traditional Taíno, African, and Latin American recipes.
This country has given the world some of the renowned artists, be it in music, writing, sports, or painting. Some of them include: Julia Alvarez, Juan Marichal, Albert Pujols, Juan Luis Guerra, and many more.
The Dominican Republic only comes after the United States, when it comes to the number of Major League Baseball (MLB) players.
The first MLB player from this country was Ozzie Virgil, Sr. However, in spite of so many players in MLB, as of now, Juan Marichal is the only Dominican player who is a part of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Some Serious Dominican Republic Facts

Yes, we have more interesting information on this Caribbean country. It just doesn't end here ...

The flag of the Dominican Republic is the only flag in the world to bear the image of the Holy Bible. The Bible symbolizes truth and light, and the Golden Cross above it represents redemption from the bondage of slavery.
The flag consists of three colors: blue, red, and white. Blue symbolizes God's protection, red represents the blood of the liberators shed for the country, and white represents the struggle of the liberators so that their descendants could live in a free nation.
Santo Domingo happens to be the oldest place where European settlement took place when it comes to the Western Hemisphere, in the year 1496.
There are four dates of independence in this country: (i) December 1, 1821, when it got independence from Spain; (ii) February 27, 1844, when it got independence from Haiti; (iii) August 16, 1863, when it again got independence from Spain, which was recognized on March 3, 1865; and (iv) On July 12, 1924 when it was freed from the political interference from the United States. Nonetheless, February 27, 1844 is their official Independence Day.
The Dominican Republic is also called La República Dominicana and is one of the only two countries that has a demonym-based adjectival name. The other country is the Central African Republic.
The main holidays in the Dominican Republic are February 27, Independence Day; January 26, Duarte's Day as Juan Pablo Duarte was one of the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic; January 21, in honor of its patroness "Our Lady of Altagracia"; August 16, Restoration Day; and November 6, Constitution Day.
In 2006, Bajos De Haina, which is a town in the Dominican Republic, was included in the list of the top 10 most polluted places in the world by the Blacksmith Institute, an environmental institution, due to lead poisoning.
The longest river in the Dominican Republic is the Yaque del Norte, which is also considered to be the most important river in the nation.
The Dominican Republic is known for its sugar processing, which is one of the main industries in the country. Apart from that, other main industries are tourism, tobacco, ferronickel and gold mining, cement, textiles, etc.

The Dominicans usually stay in joint families, and family values and traditions are very important to them. Even when you visit the place, the hospitality and friendliness of the people around would touch your hearts for sure. Which is why, this place is a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons. You would not only fall in love with the climate and scenic beauty of this place, but also enjoy everything else in this country. If you want peace and serenity or if you want some lively zing through some amazing nightlife culture or carnival parades, you will get everything here. No wonder the tourism sector of this country is booming unceasingly!