Puerto Rico: America Acquires Caribbean Territory

The American invasion of Puerto Rico began on July 25, 1898, a few days after the fall of Santiago. Little resistance was met and the island was easily occupied.

Puerto Rico was ceded by Spain to the United States in the treaty that concluded the war. The native inhabitants were generally pleased to see the Spanish go and hoped for improvements in the future.

The Foraker Act. In 1900, Congress passed the Foraker Act, which established the governing structure for Puerto Rico. An American-appointed governor was to be the executive officer of the island and he was to be advised by a two-house legislature. The lower house was to be popularly elected, but the upper chamber was to be selected in the United States.

The restrictions on Puerto Rican autonomy caused unhappiness in many quarters and an independence movement developed. Adding to this pressure was the growth of a sugar industry that was dominated by outsiders. As more land was put under cultivation for sugar, less land was available for general agriculture. Puerto Ricans were forced to import many food items and the standard of living declined.

The Jones Act. The Jones Act was passed by Congress in 1917, creating territorial status for Puerto Rico and making its people citizens of the United States.

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