Brief Puerto Rican Autonomy
In the late 1800s, the desire for independence from the Spanish crown boiled over in Puerto Rico. While the Spanish soldiers quickly suppressed the rebellion in San Juan, outbursts and uprisings erupted throughout the Island, which led the Spanish crown to grant autonomy to the government on the Island. This change opened trade channels with other European colonies and the United States.
Becoming a US Territory
The autonomous government granted by Spain didn’t last long. After the Spanish-American war ended in 1898, Puerto Rico and Guam were ceded to the United States as part of the terms of the Treaty of Paris, and Puerto Rico maintains its provincial status to this day.
With Puerto Rico’s colonial state came several changes – mainly in currency, government, and education – with civil rights and political status being decided by U.S Congress, a power it still holds more than a century later.
During the first three decades of its rule over Puerto Rico, the U.S. Congress approved a new Puerto Rican Constitution that made the Island an autonomous U.S. commonwealth while the islanders retained full American citizenship.
Even after becoming a U.S. territory, Puerto Ricans take pride in preserving much of the Island’s indigenous traditions. Many of them can be appreciated in visits to the National Historic Site in San Juan, where you’ll learn more about the history of the discovery of the Island; the Cruceta del Vigía, a giant cross built-in 1983 to recall the checkpoint that sat at the top of a hill in the town of Ponce and was used as a watch post by the Spaniards in 1801; and the Cabo Rojo lighthouse, a beautiful 1882 structure on the southwest of Puerto Rico that overlooks the whole nature reserve.
These are just a few of the many historical sites you’ll discover while traveling around the Island.