When did Puerto Rico Become Part of United States?

puerto rico
(Last Updated On: )
This appointment does not exist.


In this World, nearly everybody knows about the United States of America and its existence currently as a World Superpower. The United States of America is a Global Super Power as of the present political situation of the World. The United States currently has 50 states each with its right to rule. All of the US states are eligible to vote in the Federal Elections.

Since its independence, the United States has been continuously fighting to defend and protect its democracy and sovereignty. The United States of America also aims to do the same for the other dependent territories of the World on their behalf. The partition of Puerto Rico from the Spanish Empire was also a major turn in the history of Spain, North America, and Central America, especially of Puerto Rico.

From the 15th Century to the 19th Century, the Spanish Empire remained a political power dominating art, architecture, culture, language, and nearly all of the World Trade Routes. All of this happened due to the strong grasp of Spain over all of its colonies. The Spanish Empire was one of the most powerful and influential empires of the Early Modern Period.

It reached its peak during the 18th Century and was known as “the empire on which the Sun never sets”. The Spanish Empire consisted of several provinces, small kingdoms, viceroyalties, and colonies among which Puerto Rico was one. In the past, it was also called “Hispanic Monarchy” or “Universal Catholic Monarchy”.

spanish american war
puerto rico united states

In this article, you would get to know about the brief colonization history of Puerto Rico, how and when did it become a US territory, its political status, and the Puerto Ricans’ rights in the US. So, stick around while we get started!

Puerto Rico 

The word “Puerto Rico” is a Spanish word that translates into “rich port”. Puerto Rico is a Caribbean Island and is known as the “Commonwealth of Puerto Rico”. Located in the northeast of the Caribbean Sea, it is about only 1600 km away from Miami, Florida. San Juan is the capital and the most populous city of Puerto Rico. Checkout our latest post here about what is the meaning of Parcero!

The total population of Puerto Rico is roughly about 3.2 million. It is nicknamed “the land of enchantment” by the Spanish people. Its climate is classified as Tropical Rainforest. The official language of Puerto Rico is both Spanish and English with the Spanish language being a primary language.

Though there is no State religion of Puerto Rico, about 56% of its population follows Roman Catholicism, 33% follow Christian Protestantism, 8% are irreligious or atheists and about 3% of its population are associated with other religions. Now that you have been introduced to Puerto Rico, let us move on to its colonization history.

Colonization History of Puerto Rico 

At the time of the discovery of the Americas by famous explorer and navigator Christopher Columbus, on November 19, 1493, the Island was inhabited by Taino.

Columbus had brought with him a decree, having the seal of King Ferdinand and authorization of the pope, that allowed Columbus and his fellows to do everything for the sake of expansion of the Spanish Empire and the Catholic Christianity. Columbus had already named one of the areas “San Juan” in an honor of Saint John the Baptist. He established the first Spanish settlement in Caparra, Puerto Rico on 8 August 1508.

Christopher Columbus appointed Juan Ponce de Leon, a lieutenant of the Spanish Army, the first governor of Puerto Rico. Time by time, many traders visited the area of San Juan for trading which later became the main trading post of the Island. They also eventually started calling the island “Puerto Rico”. The official colonization of Puerto Rico started in the 16th Century.

Despite the issuance of a decree titled “Law of Burgos” in 1512, which directed for the protection of the rights of the Natives, the Spanish settlers either drove off the native population off their homeland, initiated their genocide or enslavement until a very few of their kind were left. Those who were left were tortured and forced into Labor. All of this paved a very wide way for the Spanish Empire to grasp complete control over the territory.

When did Puerto Rico become a US territory? 

On 18 October 1898, the American Military took control of Puerto Rico and included it in the Commonwealth of the United States after getting victorious in the Spanish-American War. In the 20th Century, the territory was under the control and ruled by the American military with the governors being appointed by the President of the United States.

puerto rico us territory
colonization puerto rico

With the “Foraker Act of 1900”, the Puerto Ricans were given the right to vote to elect their government to a certain amount including a House of Representatives but the Upper house and the Governor could only be appointed by the United States.

How did Puerto Rico become a US territory? 

Puerto Ricans had already gained their independence from the Spanish Empire by 1897 but the initiation of the Spanish-American War and the defeat of the Spanish Empire in that war made the Spanish Empire sign the Treaty of Paris in 1898 which ended the Spanish-American War. With the Treaty of Paris, the Spanish Empire ceded the territory to the United States of America.

Spanish-American War

Started on April 21, the Spanish-American War was an armed conflict between the Spanish Empire and the United States of America. Tensions began to rise after the explosion of a USS Maine in Havana, Cuba which led to the intervention of the United States in the Cuban War of Independence. Most of the American Officials wanted to start the war but the US President of that time, William McKinley tried to avoid the war and sought a peaceful settlement.

On 18 February 1898, the United States navy, on its own, secretly exploded and sunk in Havana Harbor. All of this and the pressure from the Democratic Party forced President William McKinley to start a War that he did not wish to. This war ended on 13 August 1898 with the take in of Puerto Rico as a United States territory by the US military.

Political Status of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is considered an unincorporated territory of the United States. It is neither a sovereign nation nor a US state. The island is included in the commonwealth of the United States. Because of such a situation, Puerto Rican citizens lack several rights but they also enjoy few other rights that are not granted to even the US states.

Rights of Puerto Ricans in the United States

The citizens of the island of Puerto Rico are US citizens by birth alongside being already granted Puerto Rican citizenship. They do not have the right to vote in the federal elections of the United States. They are not subjected to pay taxes to the US government either. Anyhow, their American Citizenship can also be seized by the US Congress anytime. They cannot have any political representative in the US Congress either.


Puerto Rico has suffered many invasions from the French, British, and Portuguese pirates under the colonial rule of the Spanish Empire. Though it has been relieved of its economic crisis by not being under the oblige of paying federal taxes to the US government, its right of sovereignty or it take in as a US state is still not provided.

For the Puerto Ricans, the commonwealth status may not be enough as they are not provided citizenship rights fully. They have already struggled a lot under Spanish rule.

puerto rico facts

If we can help you with any questions, please feel free to contact us

Review Overview
When did Puerto Rico Become Part of United States?

Our privacy policy

Keep in touch


Contact Us 24/7

Translation office in Miami