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A Brief History of Puerto Rico

Of all the former Spanish colonies in the Americas, Puerto Rico, the smallest island of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean Sea was the only territory that never gained its political independence. The years between 1800 and 1930, however, paved the way for the formation and development of its political institutions and national identity. The keys to the internal dynamics and the dramatic socioeconomic transformation that the island experienced throughout this period were the political and economic struggles of a decaying Spanish Empire and the formal transfer of the island to the United States at the end of the 1898 Spanish-American War. It is in this context that Puerto Rico's traditions, political institutions and economic system evolved so that it may be considered a "modern" nation.

Statue of Christopher Columbus in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico Strategic Map of Our War with Spain

A presentation in Global Gateway, the Library's Web site of international materials, highlights some of the most important historical events, beginning in the 1800s, that contributed to the definition of Puerto Rico's historical and cultural identity.

The Spanish-American War was the first U.S. war in which the motion picture camera played a role. Films were made by the Edison Manufacturing Co. and the American Mutoscope & Biograph Co. You can view them in the presentation "The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures."

Many areas of the Library's vast Web site contain fascinating materials relating to the history of Spain and Latin America. Links to these materials can be found at the Hispanic Division Online Collections page. The Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress has amassed the world's finest collection on the history and culture of Latin America, Iberia and the Caribbean. You can contact the division at its Web page.


A. Statue of Christopher Columbus in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Reproduction information: Not available for reproduction.

B. War Map Publishing Co., "Strategic Map of Our War with Spain," 1898. Geography and Map Division. Reproduction information: G3701.S57 1898 .W3 TIL

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