I’ve been in Puerto Rico for the last week as a guest of the Puerto Rico tourism corporation. I’ve been cave exploring, visited the island of Culebra, rode the world’s highest zip line and explored the Old City of San Juan. I thought it would be a good opportunity for another installment of “8 Things….”
1) The Flag of Puerto Rico is not based on the American Flag. Puerto Rico was taken by the Americans from the Spanish in 1898. The flag was designed in 1895 in solidarity with the Free Cuba Movement. It is the same layout and design as the Cuban flag, but with the colors reversed. The one acknowledgement to the US was in 1952 when the blue field was changed from a light blue to a darker blue, like the American flag.
2) Puerto Rico has elements of an independent country. While Puerto Rico is technically a territory of the US, there are many things about it which are more like an independent country. Puerto Rico competes under its own name and flag at the Olympics, and has won 8 medals in olympic history. They have their own entry in the Miss Universe competition and have had two winners in the last decade. Puerto Rico also has a top level domain name like other countries (.pr).
3) The original inhabitants of Puerto Rico were the Taino Indians. They gave us the words for hurricane (Huracán) and barbecue (Barbacoa). They invented the hammock. Puerto Ricans often call the island Borinquen, from Taino word Borikén, which means “Land of the Valiant Lord”. It was thought that the Taino Indians were exterminated in Puerto Rico, but later DNA studies found that they hid in mountains and later melted into the population.
4) There are many famous Puerto Ricans. Oscar winners: Benicio Del Toro, José Ferrer, Rita Moreno, José Rivera. Baseball Hall of Famers: Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Alomar. Actors: John Leguizamo, Erik Estrada, Rosie Perez, Chita Rivera, Jimmy Smits. Musicians: Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin, José Feliciano, Tito Puente. Athletes: Felix Trinidad, Juan “Chi-Chi” Rodríguez, Héctor “Macho” Camacho. Many more I haven’t listed.
5) The world’s largest telescope is in Puerto Rico. The Arecibo Radio Telescope is located in Puerto Rico. It is 305m (1,001 ft) in diameter making it by far the largest single astronomical observing object in the world. It is located inside a sinkhole, which supports its massive size. It has appeared in many movies and TV shows including “Contact” with Jodi Foster.
6) Puerto Rico is home to more bioluminescent bays then anywhere in the world. The waters in Fajardo Bay, Mosquito Bay, and La Parguera Bay all contain tens to hundreds of thousands of microorganisms (dinoflagellates) per gallon of water. When the dinoflagellates are disturbed they glow, resulting in glowing water around anything which moves through the water.
7) Puerto Rico is more than just one island. Between the main island of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands lies Culebra and Vieques, which are sometimes known as the Spanish Virgin Islands. Between the main island and the Dominican Republic is the island of Mona. There are many other small, uninhabited islands as well.
8) San Juan is the second oldest European city in the Western Hemisphere. The official name is: Municipio de la Ciudad Capital San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist). Founded in 1508, only Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic is older. The old city of San Juan was a walled city with two major forts: Fort San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Cristóbal. Fort San Cristóbal was the largest citadel built by the Spanish in the New World. The old city is now part a National Historic Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.