Puerto Rico, an island situated between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, lies just east of the Dominican Republic. With an area of 9,104 square kilometers (3,515 square miles), Puerto Rico is almost 3 times the size of the state of Rhode Island. As an island commonwealth with a coastline of 501 kilometers (311 miles), Puerto Rico shares no borders with other nations. San Juan, the capital, is located on the northeastern shore of the main island; there are also 3 small islands included in the Commonwealth: Vieques and Culebra to the east and Mona to the west. San Juan's location makes it one of the Caribbean Sea's most valuable ports. The Mona Passage, off Puerto Rico's west shore, is also a crucial shipping route to the Panama Canal. Major cities include Guánica, Playa de Ponce, and Guayanilla, all 3 along the southern coast, in east-to-west order. Puerto Rico's most important cities are port cities, vital to the Puerto Rican economy.
Puerto Rico's colonial history with Spain resulted in a racially mixed population (Spanish, African, and indigenous Taino), 85 percent of which is Roman Catholic. The population was estimated at 3,915,798 in July 2000, a growth of 10 percent between 1990 and 1999, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. People between the ages of 15 and 64 constitute two-thirds of the population, and people 14 and under make up roughly one-fourth. With an annual population growth rate of 0.56 percent as of 2000, the population is estimated to reach 4,117,633 by 2010. The average life expectancy of the population is 75.55 years. Population growth is discouraged by the government, which supports family-planning programs and birth-control measures on the community and national levels. In the 20th century, large-scale migration to the U.S. mainland had slowed population growth and alleviated overcrowding, but since the 1990s there has been a growing movement of Puerto Ricans from the mainland...