A map of Puerto Rico Puerto Rico, the smallest of the Greater Antilles islands, has been a territory of the United States since 1898. For more than 300 years previously, it was a major trading post in the Spanish Empire (its name means “rich port city”). A chain of low, forested mountains runs along spine of the island, while a narrow, green plain hugs the coast, fringed by tropical beaches. The island’s climate is warm and humid all year round, but its position in the Atlantic hurricane belt means that, between August and September, it is at risk from hurricanes.
In the 19th century, the Spanish government promised land to European families who settled on the island and supported the Catholic Church. This encouraged hundreds of French, Spanish, Lebanese, Italian and Portuguese families to move there. Today, most Puerto Ricans are descended from a mixture of these peoples, and from Spanish settlers who arrived in the 16th century. A smaller number are descended from Africans brought to the island by the Spanish as slaves.
The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is home to the world’s largest radio telescope. Its huge, curved focusing dish measures 305 m (1000 ft) across. In 1974 it transmitted the "Arecibo message", an attempt to communicate with extraterrestrial life.
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