The easternmost island of the Greater Antilles chain, it lies approximately 50 miles 80 km east of the Dominican Republic , 40 miles 65 km west of the Virgin Islands , and 1, miles 1, km southeast of the U. It is situated in the northeastern Caribbean Sea , its northern shore facing the Atlantic Ocean. Two small islands off the east coast, Vieques and Culebra , are administratively parts of Puerto Rico, as is Mona Island to the west. Compared with its Greater Antillean neighbours, Puerto Rico is one-fifth as large as the Dominican Republic, one-third the size of Haiti , and slightly smaller than Jamaica.
It is roughly rectangular in shape, extending up to miles km from east to west and 39 miles 63 km from north to south. The capital is San Juan. Although that relationship has become politically controversial, the vast majority of Puerto Rican voters have continued to favour permanent union with the United States, with a slightly greater number favouring the current commonwealth relationship rather than statehood.
A small but persistent minority has advocated independence. Puerto Rico is largely composed of mountainous and hilly terrain, with nearly one-fourth of the island covered by steep slopes. The mountains are the easternmost extension of a tightly folded and faulted ridge that extends from the Central American mainland across the northern Caribbean to the Lesser Antilles.
Powerful tectonic forces that over millions of years have created these features still occasionally cause earthquakes in Puerto Rico. The northwestern foothills and lowlands are characterized by karst features, including sinkholes sumideros , caverns, and eroded mogotes , or haystack hills pepinos. There is a continuous but narrow lowland along the north coast, where most people live, and smaller bands along the south and west coasts that also include densely populated areas.
The islands of Mona, Vieques, and Culebra are generally hilly but ringed by narrow coastal plains; Vieques rises to feet metres at Mount Pirata. The river courses on the south coast are dry most of the year, carrying water only after rainfall.
Pockets of alluvial soils on the south coast are somewhat fertile, but all farmlands there are fertilized. Many formerly cultivated and eroded areas in the mountains have been set aside as forest preserves. Puerto Rico has a tropical climate with little seasonal variation, although local conditions vary according to elevation and exposure to rain-bearing winds. Northeast trade winds bring heavy rainfall to the north coast, while the south coast is in a rain shadow.
San Juan receives about 60 inches 1, mm of precipitation per year, whereas El Yunque Peak farther east receives inches 4, mm , and Ponce on the south coast receives only 36 inches mm. Rain falls each month of the year, but the heaviest precipitation occurs between May and December. Highland temperatures average a few degrees lower. Hurricanes develop in the region between June and November and occasionally traverse the island, including a storm in that killed about 3, Puerto Ricans; other devastating but less lethal hurricanes occurred in , , , , , and Plant life is abundant and varied.
Tropical rainforests cover parts of the north side of the island, and thorn and scrub vegetation predominates on the drier south side. Although some woodlands have been replanted since the midth century, introduced varieties of trees, shrubs, and grasses now predominate. The scarlet- and orange-flowered royal poinciana , or flamboyant Delonix regia , and the African tulip tree Spathodea campanulata are among the flowering trees that dot the mountains with patches of vivid colour against a lush green background.
The Caribbean National Forest in the Sierra de Luquillo southeast of San Juan preserves rare species of orchids and the small green Puerto Rican parrot, an endangered species.
Numerous varieties of fish abound in the surrounding waters, but edible and inedible species mingle together, limiting commercial fishing there. Puerto Rico. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Wagenheim Kal Wagenheim Thomas G.
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