A Little Journey To Puerto Rico By Marian M. George

for intermediate and upper grades


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A LITTLE JOURNEY TO PUERTO RICO For Intermediate And Upper Grades



Do you know what people mean when they speak of "Our New Possessions"? What are they? Where are they? Why are men, in the streets, in the shops, everywhere, talking about them? Why are the newspapers full of articles in regard to them? Why are our lawmakers at the capital devoting so much time and attention to them? Can you tell?

Some of these things you can easily ascertain for yourselves. Others we will speak of here.

The new territory which has lately come into the possession of the United States, consists of the islands of Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the Philippines. Cuba is not included in this list; it is soon to be an independent country.

Since Puerto Rico and these other islands have come to be parts of the United States, everyone is anxious to learn something more of them.

The best way to learn the geography of a country and the customs of the people is to visit the country and see with your own eyes.

That would be a difficult thing for most of us. The next best way is to make the journey in imagination, and that all of us can do.

The island nearest us is Puerto Rico, the most eastern island of the Greater Antilles. Let us visit that first and the other islands later on.

We must find out something of the climate, however, before we start on this journey. This may not be the right season of the year to go. We must know, too, what kind of clothing to take with us.

In order to plan our route wisely, we must know something of the geography of the island. We should also know the past history of Puerto Rico, in order to understand the customs of the people and the conditions that exist there.

* * * * *


If you will find a map of the West Indies in your atlas or geography, you will also find Puerto Rico. It is one of the four Greater Antilles Islands, and lies east of Haiti and farthest out in the Atlantic Ocean.

It is over four hundred miles from the east coast of Cuba, one thousand miles from Havana, and about one thousand four hundred and fifty miles from New York.

In size it is the smallest of the group. Its area is about three thousand five hundred and fifty square miles. Its average length is about ninety-five miles; its average breadth about thirty-five miles.

In shape it resembles the State of Connecticut, though it is only three-fourths the size of that State.


Puerto Rico, in English, means Rich Harbor. But Puerto Rico is not rich in harbors. There are not more than six good harbors, but it has less than three hundred and fifty miles of coast line.

The surface of Puerto Rico is mountainous. A range of hills traverses the island from east to west. The hills are low and their sides are covered with vegetation. The hills are not rocky and barren, but are cultivated to their very tops.

[Illustration: AN AFTERNOON SIESTA.]

The lower valleys are rich pasture lands or cultivated plantations. The knolls have orchards of cocoanuts and other trees. Coffee, protected by the shade of other trees, grows to the summits of the green hills. The ground is covered everywhere with a thick carpeting of grass.

The soil is remarkably fertile. This is due partly to the fine climate, partly to abundant moisture. The island has many fast flowing rivers. There are over twelve hundred of these. In the mountains are numerous springs and water falls, but these are hidden by the overhanging giant ferns and plants.

* * * * *


Puerto Rico was discovered by Christopher Columbus November 17, 1493. He made a landing at a bay, where he found springs of pure water, which was much needed on his ships. This place he named Aguadilla, which means "the watering place."

[Illustration: PONCE DE LEON.]

In 1508 Ponce de Leon, a Spanish navigator, visited the island, and was much pleased with its beautiful scenery and with the hospitality of the natives. A year or two later he returned, and founded the town of Caparra. In 1509 he founded the city of San Juan on the island that guards the entrance on the east.

When Ponce de Leon came to the island, he found it inhabited by a happy, harmless people who received him with delight. They brought gifts to him, and showed him and his soldiers gold, which was found in the river beds.

The kindness of the natives was rewarded by cruelty on the part of the Spaniards. They were ruthlessly murdered or reduced to slavery, and compelled to work in the mines. A revolution followed in which the greater number of the natives were killed.

The severe work required of those remaining so shortened their lives that very soon all had disappeared. Not a descendant of this race is now living, but many curious and interesting relics, left by them, may be found.

One of these is a stone collar, shaped like a horse collar, and skillfully carved. This was placed upon the breast of the native after his death, and was supposed to keep him from harm.

Ponce de Leon built for himself a castle on the point of land above the mouth of the harbor of San Juan, and here he lived until he sailed on the voyage which resulted in the discovery of Florida.

After his departure, Puerto Rico was left alone for a long time. After some years, Spain sent peasants to colonize the island, and slaves were introduced to cultivate the plantations.

In 1870 the island was made a province of Spain, instead of a colony. In 1873 slavery was abolished.

Puerto Rico came into the possession of the United States as the result of the recent war with Spain.

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