Discover a Magnificent and Unique Island
The island of Puerto Rico is a very popular tourist destination because of its location, rich history and warm atmostphere. The island is located in the Caribbean, between the Caribbean Sea [Glos.] and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic. (about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Miami, Florida).
Puerto Rico is the smallest of the Greater Antilles and consists of the main island of Puerto Rico and several smalller islands and keys, including Vieques, Mona, and Culebra.
Puerto Rican culture is somewhat complex, – others will call it colorful. Culture is a series of visual manifestations and interactions with the environment that make a region and/or a group of people different from the rest of the world. Puerto Rico, without a doubt has several unique characteristics that distinguish their culture from any other.
Lets consider that the people of Puerto Rico represent a cultural and racial mix. During the early 18-century, the Spaniard in order to populate the country took Taino Indian women as brides. Later on as labor was needed to maintain crops and build roads, African slaves were imported, followed by the importation of Chinese immigrants, then continued with the arrival of Italians, French, German, and even Lebanese people. American expatriates came to the island after 1898.
Long after Spain had lost control of Puerto Rico, Spanish immigrants continued to arrive on the island. The most significant new immigrant population arrived in the 1960s, when thousands of Cubans fled from Fidel Castro’s Communist state. The latest arrivals to Puerto Rico have come from the economically depressed Dominican Republic. This historic intermingling has resulted in a contemporary Puerto Rico practically without racial problems (very close to but not completely).
The island of Puerto Rico is almost rectangular in shape, and is the smallest and the most eastern island of the Greater Antilles . Its coasts measures approximately 580 km, and if the adjacent islands Vieques and Culebra are included the coast measures approximately 700 km. To the north and south seas capes measure 8.525 m for the Grave of Puerto Rico and 5.000 m for the Grave of Tanner.
In addition to the principal island, the Commonwealth includes: Vieques, Culebra, Culebrita, Palomino (known by some by the Spanish Virgin Islands), Mona, Monito and various others isolated islands. Deep oceans waters fringe Puerto Rico. The Mona Passage, which separates the island from Hispaniola to the west, is about 75 miles (120 km) wide and more that 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) deep. Off the northern coast is the 28,000 feet (8,500 meters) deep Puerto Rico Trench, and to the south the sea bottom descends to the 16,400 feet (5,000 meters) deep Venezuelan Basin of the Caribbean.
The territory is very mountainous (cover 60%), except in the regional coasts, but Puerto Rico offers astonishing variety: rain forest, deserts, beaches, caves, oceans and rivers. Puerto Rico has three main physiographic regions: the mountainous interior, the coastal lowlands, and the karst area.
The mountainous interior is formed by a central mountain chain commonly known as the Cordillera Central , extending across the interior of the island, from Mayagüez to Aibonito, which transects the island from east to west. These mountain ranges are La Cordillera Central, La Sierra de Cayey, La Sierra de Luquillo, and La Sierra Bermeja.
The largest mountains are Cerro La Punta (1,338 m) in Jayuya; Rosas (1,267 m) found between Jayuya and Ciales, Guilarte (1,205 m) in Adjuntas, Tres Picachos (1,204 m) in Jayuya, and Maravilla (1,182m) in Ponce. Toward to the northeast is Sierra de Luquillo, whose highest peaks are: Toro Hill (1,074 m) found between Río Grande, Naguabo and Las Piedras, and El Yunque Peak (1,065 m) found in Río Grande. Another mountain chain is the Sierra de Luquillo in the northeast.
The second main physiographic feature is the coastal lowlands, which extend 13 to 19 km (8 to 12 mi) inward in the north and 3 to 13 km (2 to 8 mi) in the south. A series of smaller valleys lie perpendicular near the west and east coast. This area was originally formed by the erosion of the interior mountains.
The third important physiographic feature is the karst region in the north. This area consists of formations of rugged volcanic rock dissolved by water throughout the geological ages. This limestone region is an extremely attractive zone of extensive mogotes or haystack hills, sinkholes, caves, limestone cliffs, and other karst features. The karst belt extends from Aguadilla, in the west, to a minor haystack hills formation in Loíza, just east of San Juan.
El Yunque Peak is the Caribbean National Forest. These 28,000 acres are all that remain of the rain forest that once covered much of the island (indeed, much of the entire northern Caribbean). More than 100 billion gallons (yes, billion) of rain fall here each year, creating a lush forest with plants of incredible proportions and variety. A moist hike or horseback ride take you past 240 species of trees, some thousands of years old, 50 species of ferns, 20 varieties of wild orchids and riotous multitude of flowers. Living in the forest (all over the island in fact but quite far to spot) is the tiny coquí frog. The name is derived from his cricket like ko-kee chirp, this tiny creature (a quarter to one inch in size) is considered to be the national mascot. Other forest areas are: Guajataca in the Northwest; Río Abajo, between Arecibo and Utuado; Aguirre in the South; Piñones, east of San Juan; Guánica, west of Ponce; Maricao, Guilarte, Toro Negro and Carite (Guavate), all on the transinsular Panoramic Route . The largest number of bird species can be found at Guánica Forest, which is home to 700 plant species of which 48 are endangered and 16 exist nowhere else. Guánica’s dry forest vegetation is unique and the Forest has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Puerto Rico also has some of the most important caves in the west hemisphere. The Río Camuy runs underground for part of its course, forming the third largest subterranean river in the world. There are fine examples of stalactites, stalagmites and, of course, plenty of bats. Located near to Lares, on Route 129, Km 9.8, guided tours available, open Wed to Sun, US$10 for adults, U$S7 for children. Close by you can find the Cueva del Infierno, on which 2,000 caves have been discovered; in them live 13 species of bat, the coquí, crickets, an arachnid called the “guavá”, and other species. Guide tours available, for details contact (787) 898-2723.
Another unique environment can be found on Mona Island, 50 miles off the west coast of Puerto Rico. Like the Galapagos Islands, this untouched island has species which are not found elsewhere. Mona is a protected island, under the management of the United States National Park Service and the Puerto Rican Natural Resources Department. Accessible by a sometimes difficult, long boat ride, the island is available for sport diving to those who make special arrangements and are willing to rough it out.
Different classification schemes exist for the soils of Puerto Rico. One physiographic approach, based on a scientific classification by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, can be summarized into five general soil types: humid coastal plains, semiarid coastal plains, humid uplands, semiarid uplands, and humid upland valleys. Another classification by soil scientists at the University of Puerto Rico groups the island’s soils into coastal lowlands, alluvium, coastal plains, alluvium in terraces, upland dark, and upland reddish-purple. Traditionally, tropical soils have been looked upon as infertile and unproductive and of poor agricultural value. However, tropical countries provide such high biomass products as sugar cane, bananas, coffee, and tobacco.
Rivers and Lakes
Puerto Rico, due to its relatively short width and its east-west running mountain chain, does not have long rivers or large lakes. The longest river is the Grande de Arecibo, which flows to the northern coast. Other rivers include La Plata, Cibuco, Loíza, and, Bayamón all draining to the north, and the Grande de Añasco, draining to the west. There are other perennial rivers, mostly draining to the north and west. Many of the rivers draining south run dry most of the year; nonetheless, with heavy rainfall, they can cause flooding.
Puerto Rico does not have natural lakes, although it has 15 reservoirs, commonly called lakes, formed by damming the main rivers to produce hydroelectric power and water for irrigation. Hydroelectricity accounts for less than 1% of the electricity generated, as most electric power uses petroleum as the energy source. The island has such natural lagoons as the Condado and San Jose in San Juan, Piñones and Torrecillas in Carolina, Joyuda in Cabo Rojo, and Laguna Tortuguero in Manatí.
Flora and Fauna
Several thousand varieties of tropical plants grow in Puerto Rico, including the kapok tree (“Ceiba”) with its thick trunk, the poinciana View picture (a prickly tropical shrub with brilliant reddish blossoms View picture), the breadfruit, and the coconut palm. A tropical rain forest in the northeastern section of the island has tree ferns, orchids, and mahogany trees; part of this tropical area is included in the Caribbean National Forest. In the dry southwestern corner of Puerto Rico are cactus and bunch grass. Puerto Rico has no large wild mammals. The mongoose was brought in to control rats on sugar cane plantations. Iguanas View picture and many small lizards abound, and bats are present. The island has few animals native to the island, found almost nowhere else in the world, the coquí (mentioned above) and the Puerto Rican Parrot (Amazona vittata) (“cotorra puertorriqueña”) View picture View picture lives only in a few hidden areas of the Caribbean National Forest. The Puerto Rican Parrot is bright green, about a foot in length, with red forehead, blue primary wing feathers, and flesh-colored bill and feet. Barracuda, kingfish, mullet, Spanish mackerel, tuna, lobster, and oysters are among the many fish inhabiting coastal waters.
Highest Point: Cerro Punta, 1,338 m (4,389 ft)
Lowest Point: Sea level, Caribbean Sea 0 m