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Puerto Rico: A Timeline [imagemap with 8 links] Puerto Rico: A Timeline

1000 AD The first inhabitants of Puerto Rico are the Taino, hunter-gatherers who live in small villages led by a cacique, or chief. Despite their limited knowledge of agriculture , they grow pineapples, cassava, and sweet potatoes and supplement their diet with seafood. They call the island Boriken.

1493 AD On his second voyage to the Indies, Christopher Columbus arrives on the island and claims it for Spain, renaming it San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist).

1508 AD Juan Ponce de León, who had accompanied Columbus and worked to colonize nearby Hispaniola, is granted permission by Queen Isabella to explore the island?. On a well-protected bay on the north coast, he founds Caparra, where the island's first mining and farming begins.

1509 AD The first repartimiento in Puerto Rico is established, allowing colonists fixed numbers of Tainos for wage-free and forced labor in the gold mines. When several priests protest, the crown requires Spaniards to pay native laborers and to teach them the Christian religion; the colonists continue to treat the natives as slaves.

1511 AD European diseases and mistreatment begin to devastate the Taino population. The natives rebel but the better-armed Spanish win out.

Ponce de León orders 6,000 shot; survivors flee to mountains or leave the island.

1513 AD African slaves are brought to the island by the Spanish as laborers in the gold mines.

1521 AD Caparra is moved to a harbor island and renamed Puerto Rico ("Rich Port"). Over time, the port becomes known as San Juan and the whole island as Puerto Rico.

1570 AD The gold mines are declared depleted.

1595 AD Sir Francis Drake and his fleet attack San Juan but failed to capture it. Three years later the British soldier George Clifford, 3rd earl of Cumberland, will capture the city but be forced to abandon it when his troops fall victim to disease.

1598 AD Ginger replaces sugar as Puerto Rico's main cash crop.

1736 AD Coffee arrives on the island. By 1776, it is an important export. Sugarcane production, previously small-scale, is increased through the establishment of large plantations using African slaves.

1786 AD The first history of Puerto Rico is published in Madrid by Brother Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra.

1800 AD The slave population reaches more 13,300, although their proportion of the island's total population falls due to the continuing influx of European colonists.

1808 AD When Napoleon I invades the Iberian peninsula and places his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne, many colonies in South and Central America assert their right to govern themselves. Puerto Rico, however, dependent on Spain's administrative and military assistance, does not.

1815 AD To reward past loyalty and ensure future support, the restored government of Spain grants ample economic liberties to Puerto Ricans. The reforms open the island's ports to foreign trade, permit Roman Catholic immigration, and grant free land to the new settlers.

1830 AD Puerto Rico develops a plantation economy based on sugarcane and coffee. Sugar and molasses, primarily exported to the United States, provide an important source of income for the Spanish government.

1868 AD El Grito de Lares (The Cry of Lares), an uprising against Spanish rule, is suppressed but becomes a symbol of the Puerto Rican fight for independence.

Queen Isabella II is forced to abdicate and Spain's first republican government comes to power. The Spanish republic soon abolishes slavery and allows Puerto Rico a period of constitutional government (1870-74).

1887 AD Román Baldorioty de Castro leads a movement for political autonomy under Spanish rule. It is denounced as disloyal and suppressed, but these actions only solidify popular support for the movement.

1897 AD For the second time, Spain grants Puerto Rico autonomy, including the vote for all literate males. Puerto Rico can now establish its own import duties and foreign trade relations.

1898 AD The brief Spanish-American War, in which the United States wins Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and other colonial possessions from Spain under the Treaty of Paris, prevents Puerto Ricans from implementing their new government.

1900 AD The Foraker Act establishes a civil government in which Puerto Ricans are only allowed to elect 30 delegates of the lower house, while the U.S. president appoints the island's governor, cabinet, and all judges.

Free trade is established between Puerto Rico and the U.S. The resulting influx of U.S. investment revolutionizes sugarcane production but causes many small farmers to lose their lands.

1909 AD The Olmsted Act gives the U.S. president a direct role in Puerto Rican affairs. However, a majority of Puerto Ricans demands greater local control.

1915 AD Santiago Iglesias founds the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, which leads strikes, helps found labor unions, and protests the invasion of U.S. goods and capital into Puerto Rico.

1917 AD Under the Jones Act, Puerto Rico is declared a U.S. territory and citizenship is conferred on Puerto Ricans. Key government officials, including the governor, remain presidential appointees. Early U.S. governors are preoccupied with "Americanizing" Puerto Rican institutions, language, and political habits, but they have no clear policy on the island's political status.

1935 AD As part of the New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt creates the Puerto Rican Reconstruction Administration (PRRA), which provides for agricultural development, public works, and electrification of the island.

1938 AD The Democratic Popular Party is founded under the leadership of Luis Muñoz Marín. It helps improve living and working conditions for the lower classes under the slogan "Bread, land, and liberty."

1943 AD U.S. Senator Tydings introduces a bill to Congress calling for Puerto Rican independence. Coming before the Committee on Territories and Insular Affairs, Governor Muñoz Marín declares himself and the legislature opposed to independence, although a majority of its members have twice sent cables endorsing the bill. In the end, Puerto Rico's strategic value to the U.S. Navy wins out and the bill dies in committee.

1945 AD A great, post-war wave of Puerto Rican immigration to the United States begins. Most come searching for employment opportunities in the booming economy. (Today, more than one million Puerto Ricans live in New York City alone -- more than in San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital.)

1946 AD President Harry S. Truman appoints the island's first Puerto Rican governor, Jesús T. Piñero.

1948 AD The U.S. Congress allows Puerto Rico to elect its governors by popular vote; Muñoz Marín is elected to the first of four terms. His economic development program, Operation Bootstrap, industrializes and urbanizes the island through low wages and tax concessions to U.S. investors. While the program also promotes migration to the mainland to provide labor for U.S. industry, those who remain enjoy a higher standard of living than ever before.

1950 AD President Truman signs the Puerto Rico Commonwealth Bill, which enables Puerto Ricans to establish their own constitution. Puerto Rican Nationalists oppose the new law. They attempt to assassinate Governor Muñoz Marín in San Juan, start deadly uprisings in several island towns, and try to kill President Truman in Washington, DC.

1952 AD Puerto Rico becomes a Commonwealth. The island's constitution is proclaimed on July 25, the 54th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of the island.

1953 AD The largest migration of Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland occurs. Seventy thousand people move primarily to New York, New Jersey, and Florida.

1954 AD Nationalist violence breaks out again on March 1st in Washington, when four Nationalists fire weapons from the viewing galleries of the House of Representatives. Five Congressmen are wounded.

At the same time, sentiment in favor of statehood grows following the admission of Alaska and Hawaii to the United States, particularly because Puerto Ricans increasingly depend on federal aid for the unemployed, elderly, and war veterans.

1959 AD Following Fidel Castro's communist revolution in Cuba, Puerto Ricans become concerned with regional security and ideology. The island absorbs an influx of Cuban exiles.

1964 AD Muñoz Marín steps down as governor and is succeeded by his administrative assistant, Roberto Sánchez Vilella, who will become the island's second elected governor.

1967 AD The same year voters reaffirm the island's Commonwealth status, they also elect Luis Ferré, leader of a pro-statehood party, as governor.

1974 AD A group of Puerto Rican New Yorkers, sometimes called Nuyoricans, found the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York's Lower East Side. In 1993, the Society of New York declares the café one of the "living treasures of New York."

1991 AD Puerto Rico declares Spanish the only official language of the island.

1993 AD Voters reaffirm Commonwealth status by a slim margin. English and Spanish are designated as the island's official languages.

1996 AD In a non-binding referendum, voters reject statehood once again, marking the third time in three decades that statehood has been rebuffed by Puerto Rican voters.

1998 AD Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announces that June 7-14 is Puerto Rican Week in New York City.

1999 AD Two US Marine training jets dropping bombs over the island of Vieques miss their targets, killing David Sanes Rodriguez and injuring four other civilians. Protesters subsequently prevent the Navy from carrying out its maneuvers, and Puerto Rican officials lobby for an end to military exercises there. The Navy, which owns two-thirds of Vieques, began military maneuvers there in the mid-1900s.

2000 AD In November the mayor of San Juan, Sila M. Calderón, is elected Puerto Rico's first woman governor.

2001 AD The U.S. government announces plans for a gradual cessation of maneuvers in Vieques.

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