12 things to know about Puerto Rico

By CNN Staff

Published July 18, 2018


Puerto Ricans have been US citizens since 1917.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images


Puerto Rico wrote its own constitution, which was approved by Congress and signed by President Harry S. Truman before it was put in place in 1952.



Puerto Ricans can vote in US presidential primaries but not in presidential elections.



Puerto Ricans have voted five times on their political status, but statehood has been rejected in most referendums. Ultimately, Congress decides if Puerto Rico becomes a state.

AFP/Getty Images


Tourism is big business throughout the island, pulling in $4 billion a year.

Courtesy See Puerto Rico


A top attraction is the Castillo San Cristóbal in San Juan. It is one of the largest fortresses built in the Americas, constructed by Spain to protect the island from military attack.

National Parks Service


The Zika epidemic presented a threat to the health of Puerto Ricans and the island's tourism industry. More than 35,000 cases were reported in 2016 and a public health emergency was declared. The crisis was pronounced over in June 2017.

Carlos Giusti/AP/File


Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, actor Benicio del Toro and Jennifer Lopez are prominent Americans you may not have known are of Puerto Rican heritage.

George Bridges/Pool/Getty Images


Puerto Rican identity plays a prominent role in pop culture. Hip-hop and breakdancing grew out of a multicultural New York landscape that included African-Americans and Puerto Ricans.

Gjon Mili—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images


Over 40% of the population of Puerto Rico lives in poverty, according to 2016 Census estimates.

Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images South America/Getty Images


On September 20, 2017, a Category 4 hurricane was the strongest storm to strike the island in 85 years. The official death toll was 64 but that number was later questioned by news outlets and investigated by CNN.

Mario Tama/Getty Images South America/Getty Images


In May, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated up to 8,498 people died for reasons related to Hurricane Maria.


After CNN and the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico sued the Puerto Rican government, officials turned over a database on the thousands of people who died after the storm. Additionally, they planned to release 24,000 death certificates.

Jose Armijo/CNN