General issues: Spanish colony 1873-1898, United States military administration 1899-1900
Country name on general issues: Cuba with additional overprint of signatures/initials, PTO Rico, Puerto Rico, Porto Rico
Special issues: Local issues Coamo 1898, Ponce 1898
Currency: 1 Peseta = 100 Centimos 1873-1881, 1 Peso = 100 Centavos = 1000 Milesimos 1881-1898, 1 Dollar = 100 Cents 1898-1900
Population: 986 000 in 1900
Political history Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is located in the Caribbean as one of the Greater Antilles. Prior to colonization, Puerto Rico was inhabited by the Taino, an Amerindian people found on many of the Caribbean islands. The first European to explore Cuba was Christopher Columbus in 1493. Puerto Rico was claimed for Spain and first settled by the Spanish in 1508. Initially administered from neighboring Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico was made a separate Captaincy General in 1580. When, in the early 19th century, large parts of the Spanish Empire in the Americas gained independence, Puerto Rico remained loyal to Spain. In the course of the 19th century, though, the call for independence is heard ever louder and a number of revolts against Spanish rule is staged. Eventually, the Spanish grant Puerto Rico a certain amount of self government in 1897. History, for Puerto Rico, takes a drastic turn as a result of the Spanish-American War of 1898. Initiated as a United States intervention in the Cuban War of Independence, the Spanish-American War escalated into a war that is fought both in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The war ends in victory for the United States. Spain is forced to cede its possessions in the Caribbean and the Pacific to the United States – among them Puerto Rico. The United States establishes a military administration in 1898 and a civil administration in 1900. In 1917, Puerto Rico becomes a United States territory and in 1952 a United States commonwealth, which it is until today. At present, the status of Puerto Rico is subject of discussion. Options discussed are continuation of the status quo, elevation to statehood and full independence.
Economically, in the colonial period, the Spanish developed a small scale, diversified agriculture. Large scale plantations were established only in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Sugar cane would become the most important crop. In the 20th century the economy diversified into manufacturing and services. Currently, Puerto Rico is qualified as a high income economy.
The indigenous population diminished in the early years of colonization and currently forms 0.5% of the population. Slaves were brought to Puerto Rico in relatively small numbers, which is reflected in that blacks constitute 12% of the population. The majority of 76% of the population is white.
Postal history Puerto Rico
The first stamps issued for use in Puerto Rico were the issues for the Spanish West Indies – stamps issued for use in both Cuba and Puerto Rico – in 1855. These were superseded by issues specifically for Puerto Rico in 1873. The first issues are provisionals: Cuban stamps – inscribed ‘Ultramar'‘Overseas’ – overprinted with the initials of authorities from Puerto Rico. The first definitives are issued in 1877. The stamps issued for Puerto Rico during the colonial period are of designs common for the Spanish colonies.
Foreign offices operated in Puerto Rico until 1877 – these handled foreign mail until Puerto Rico joined the UPU in 1877. France operated an office in San Juan from 1865 and in Mayagüez from 1876, using the general issues of France. The British operated six offices, the first of which was opened in 1844 in San Juan. The general issues of Great Britain were used in 1865-1866 and from 1873 until 1877.
Under United States military administration, the first stamps to be issued were local issues in Coamo and Ponce. Both rank in the high to very high catalog value range. Provisionals for general use were issued in 1899 and 1900. Both issues are overprints on United States stamps – the 1899 issue is overprinted ‘Porto Rico’ and the 1900 issue ‘Puerto Rico’. Porto Rico was the English name for Puerto Rico as used between 1898 until 1932. The issues of the United States military administration were superseded by the general issues of the United States in 1900.