Natural Advanced Geography
Cover and Preface
PORTO RICO AND VIRGIN ISLANDS
Porto Rico is the smallest of the four large islands of the Greater Antilles. The most eastern of the group, this island is 1350 miles in direct line from New York. Its area is 3485 square miles. Its average length is 95 miles; its breadth, 35 miles. The small islands of Vieques and Culebra to the east, and Mona to the west, belong to Porto Rico.
The mountain range traversing the island east and west is little more than a range of hills, the highest peak of which is about 3600 feet high. From these hills, covered with vegetation, more than 1200 streams flow north and south into the sea. Many of them, especially in the north, are rivers of considerable size.
The Climate is tropical, but more healthful than that of Cuba.
The average temperature during the summer months is 83°; during
the winter months, 76°. The average rainfall is about 59 inches a
year. The driest month is February; the rainiest is November.
Tropical hurricanes are not uncommon between July and October.
Vegetation and Agriculture
The forests have been extensively cleared, but there still remain
in favorable localities many trees that are valuable for lumber.
Among these are mahogany, cedar, walnut, and laurel. Beautiful flowering trees abound, and everywhere grow cocoanut palms, tamarinds, prickly pears, guavas, mangoes, and many trees and shrubs valuable for medicinal qualities. The hills may be cultivated to their very tops. Bananas are a most common and profitable product. Oranges, limes, cocoanuts, and pineapples also grow in great abundance.
Coffee is a leading product, the trees thriving best on the hillsides at an elevation of a thousand feet or more. About 40,000,000 pounds of coffee are produced annually. Sugar cane is extensively grown, and yields about 300,000,000 pounds of sugar annually. Tobacco is produced to the extent of about 12,000,000 pounds a year. Rice is cultivated on the hillsides, and is the main food of the laboring classes. Indian corn is native to the island.
Large herds of cattle are pastured on the lowlands, and many are exported.
Horses of a small breed are also raised. Fowls are abundant, and bee keeping
produces much honey for export.
Animal Life in Porte Rico embraces no wild animal more formidable than the armadillo, and no reptiles that are poisonous. Insects thrive, and include centipedes, scorpions, ticks, and mosquitoes.
The Mineral Resources of the island are not extensive. Copper, iron, and lead exist, but not in paying quantities. Coal has been found, and salt is obtained from saline lakes near the seashore.
A railroad around the island has been planned, and about 200 miles are in
operation. Five hundred miles of telegraph lines are in use.
Wagon roads are much better than in Cuba, and a fine macadamized highway congects San Juan and Ponce. The principal harbors are those of San Juan and Arecibo, on the north; Ponce, Arroyo, and Guayanilla, on the south. The chief exports are sugar, coffee, tobacco, fruits, and cotton. The annual value of all exports is about $23,000,000.
Porto Rico, called Borinquen by the natives, was discovered by Columbus on
his second voyage, November, 1493. In 1508 Ponce de Leon visited the island,
was charmed with its beauty and its gentle, hospitable people, and soon after
founded the city of San Juan Bautista, where he built his palace. The people,
who numbered over 500,000, were reduced to slavery, and when they rebelled
the Spaniards swept them out of existence.
The island was afterwards 'slowly colonized by Spanish immigrants, who were compelled, from time to time, to defend themselves against the English and the Dutch. In 1870 Porto Rico was organized as a province with seven departments. Slavery had existed from the first settlenient, but was abolished in 1873. After the Spanish-American war of 1898, the island was ceded by Spain to the United States.
The latest census showed a population of about 953,000, of whom more than
364,000 are negroes. The blacks are descended from former slaves, live in
miserable bamboo huts, and have little disposition to work. The whites are
mostly of Spanish descent and include the small landowners of the country
districts, and the still higher class of large planters and traders.
Education is making more advancement now, but still only a small proportion of the children attend the thousand or more schools provided for them.
There are a few secondary schools and colleges, under the control of the Roman Catholic Church.
San Juan, the capital, surrounded by a massive wall, and conspicuous by its stately public buildings, presents an imposing appearance, situated as it is on one of the finest harbors in the West Indies. The private dwellings are mostly of one story and are flat-roofed. The city is provided with electric light, gas, and ice works, and there are small factories for making brooms, matches, and soap. The population is about 32,000. Ponce, the second city, is on the southern coast. It has an ice factory and gas works, and a population of about 28,000. Arecibo, on the north coast, is the center and shipping port of the sugar industry. Mayaguez, on the west coast, and Aguadilla, in the northwest, are important commercial towns. Fajardo, on the east coast, and Arroyo, in the southeast, are important sugar-making towns.
Besides owning Viaques and Culebra, in this group, which lie near Porto Rico, the United States has been negotiating with Denmark for the purchase of St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John. These three islands have an area of 138 square miles, and a population of about 33,000, composed mostly of negroes engaged in the cultivation of sugar cane. Christiansted, on St. Croix, and Charlotte Amalie, on St. Thomas, are the chief towns.