Puerto Rico (/ / or / /), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Spanish: Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, [esˈtaðo ˈlibɾe asoˈsjaðo ðe ˈpʷeɾto ˈriko]—literally, "Associated Free State of Puerto Rico"), is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rico (Spanish for "rich port") comprises an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands, the largest of which are Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. The main island of Puerto Rico is the smallest by land area of the Greater Antilles. However, it ranks third in population among that group of four islands, which also include Cuba, Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), and Jamaica. Due to its location, Puerto Rico enjoys a tropical climate and also experiences the Atlantic hurricane season.
Originally populated for centuries by indigenous aboriginal peoples known as Taínos, the island was claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain during his second voyage to the Americas on November 19, 1493. Under Spanish rule, the island was colonized and the indigenous population was forced into slavery and nearly wiped out due to, among other things, European infectious diseases. The remaining population was emancipated by King Charles I in 1520. Spain possessed Puerto Rico for over 400 years, despite attempts at capture of the island by the French, Dutch, and British. The Spanish Crown, in an attempt to keep Puerto Rico from gaining its independence, revived the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815. The decree was printed in three languages — Spanish, English and French — and it fostered the immigration of hundreds of non-Spanish European families.
The relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States dates back to the Spanish-American War, in which Spain, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1898, ceded the island to the United States. In 1917, Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens and, today, "the United States Congress legislates many fundamental aspects of Puerto Rican life". However, the islanders may not vote in U.S. presidential elections. Since 1947, Puerto Ricans have been able to elect their own governor. Its official languages are Spanish and English, with Spanish being the primary language. The island's current political status, including the possibility of statehood or independence, is widely debated in Puerto Rico. A referendum on statehood, independence, or continuance of the status quo will be held on November 6, 2012.