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The Arawak are a group of linguistically related but culturally diverse Indian peoples who inhabit the tropical forests of South America, especially north of the Amazon River, extending from the Andean foothills to the Antilles. The Antillean Arawak or Taino were agriculturists who lived in villages and practiced cultivation of cassava and corn. The people were arranged in social ranks and gave great deference to theocratic chiefs. Religious belief centered on a hierarchy of nature spirits and ancestors, paralleling somewhat the hierarchies of chiefs.


A flat court used by the indigenous Amerinidias for sports and ceremonies. Surrounded by carved stones, they are believed to date from the 9th century but may be even older.


A high ecclesiastical official in the Roman Catholic Church, ranking just below the Pope.

American Indian people who inhabited the Lesser Antilles and parts of the neighboring South American coast at the time of the Spanish conquest. Their name was given to the Caribbean Sea, and its Arawakan equivalent is the origin of the English word cannibal. Carib groups of the South American mainland lived in the Guianas, and south to the Amazon River. Some were warriors and they lived in small autonomous settlements, growing cassava and other crops and hunting with blow-gun or bow and arrow.

Caribbean Sea
is a sub-oceanic basin approximately 1,063,000 square miles (2,754,000 square kilometers) in extent, lying between 9' to 22' N and 89' to 60'W. The Caribbean Sea is divided into five submarine basins that are roughly elliptical in shape and separated from one another by submerged ridges and rises. These are the Yucatan, Cayman, Colombian, Venezuelan, and Grenade basins. Subsurface water enters the Caribbean Sea across two sills. These sills are located below the Anegada Passage, which runs between the Virgin Islands and the Lesser Antilles, and the Windward Passage, which runs between Cuba and Hispaniola. The sill depth of the Anegada Passage is between 6,400 and 7,700 feet (1,950 and 2,350 m); the sill depth of the Windward Passage is from 5,250 to 5,350 feet (1,600 to 1,630m).

Casals, Pablo (1876--1973)
Born in Spain. Casals was a Spanish cellist, conductor, composer, and admired public figure. He received his first music lessons from his father and studied violin before turning to the cello at the age of 12. By age 21 he had made important modifications in the technique of the cello and was hailed as a master. He toured widely in Europe and the Americas, adding greatly to the popularity of the cello as a solo instrument. Casals also created two continuing international music festivals--the Pablo Casals Festival in Prades, France, and the Festival Casals de Puerto Rico, which began in 1950 and in 1957, respectively.

Columbus, Christopher (Italian Cristoforo Colombo, Spanish Cristóbal Colón) (1451--1506)
Italian-Spanish navigator, who sailed west across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a route to Asia but landed on islands in the Caribbean Sea. Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451. In the mid-1470s he made his first trading voyage in the Aegean Sea. Believing that the earth was smaller than was previously thought and that it was composed mostly of land, Columbus eventually decided that Asia could be reached quickly by sailing west. His request to the king of Portugal to finance his expedition was rejected, and Columbus moved to Spain, where his plans won the support of several influential people. In April 1492 King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I agreed to sponsor the expedition. Columbus's expedition consisted of the Santa María, under his personal command, and the Pinta and the Niña, two smaller ships. The fleet sailed from Palos de la Frontera, Spain, on August 3, 1492. On his first voyage he landed on Guanahani, an island in the Bahamas, Cuba and Hispañola. On his second voyage he landed on Dominica, Maria Galante; Guadaloupe; Montserrat; St, Kitts & Nevis; St. Eustatius; U.S. Virgin Islands & Puerto Rico; Hispaniola; Cuba; Jamaica: Cuba; Jamaica; Hispaniola. On his third voyage he landed on Trinidad; sighted South America; Gulf of Paria; and Hispaniola. On this fourth voyage he landed on Martinique; Santo Domingo; Jamaica; Cuba; Honduras; Nicaragua; Costa Rica; Panama; Cuba; Santo Domingo.

Columbus Day
holiday (traditionally October 12) commemorating Christopher Columbus's discovery of America. Since 1971 it has been celebrated in most of the U.S. and Puerto Rico on the Monday nearest to October 12. Among Puerto Ricans this holiday is also known as "Dia de la Raza".

a political-economic phenomenon beginning about the year 1500 whereby various European nations discovered, conquered, settled, and exploited large areas of the world.

a politic body founded on law for the common wealth or good. The term was often used by 17th-century writers.

drum made of a hollow tree trunk with an animal skin stretched across one end.

Cordillera Central
limestone mountain range that forms the interior of the island. The Cordillera Central occupies the west-central part of the island, extending about 50 miles (80 km) from San Germán to Manatí. In the Cordillera, 11 miles (18 km) north of Ponce, is the island's highest peak, Cerro de Punta 4,390 feet (1,338 m). Winding roads run through lush mountain ranges with forest reserves and spectacular waterfalls. The journey through this picturesque region could last two to three days and takes you through areas such as the Carite Forest Reserve, the home of over 50 different species of bird.

derived from the Spanish guitar, it has 5 double strings.



a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organism and their environments.


abbreviation of Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional ("Armed Forces of National Liberation), militant nationalist organization formed about 1974 to agitate for Puerto Rican independence from the United States. The name of FALN first surfaced on October 26, 1974, when five big bombs exploded in Manhattan--in the Wall street area, in Rockefeller Center, and on Park Avenue--causing considerable property damage but no injuries.

Fiestas Patronales
festivities held in each town's plaza to honor the areas patron saint. These fiestas usually last for ten days and include religious processions, games, food and dance. For further details, please take a look at the Calendar of Fiestas Patronales.


Greater Antilles
the four largest islands of the Antilles -- Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Puerto Rico.

Good Friday and Easter Sunday
a religious holidays marked by much activity on the predominantly Catholic island. Colorful religious processions and ceremonies take place in every town.

local transportation, usually a small bus (14 cap.).

hollowed gourd with ridges cut into the sid and played with a wire fork adds a unique percussion sound to many popular music genres.


of or relating to the characteristic features (as flow or depth) of bodies of water.

severe atmospheric disturbance in the tropical oceans between latitudes of approximately 5 and 30 in both hemispheres. These storms are characterized by very low atmospheric pressures in the calm, clear center of a circular structure of rain, cloud, and very high winds. In the western Atlantic and the Caribbean they are called hurricanes; in the western Pacific, typhoons; and in western Australia, willy-willies.





land area
Land area is a country's total area, excluding area under inland water bodies, national claims to continental shelf, and exclusive economic zones.
Las Casas, Bartolome de (1474--1566)
Known as the Apostle of the Indies, Bartolome de Las Casas, was one of the first Spanish missionaries in Latin America. His Historia de las Indias (History of the Indies) is a major source for the early period of colonization. Las Casas first went to Hispaniola in 1502, and about 1512 he became a priest, probably the first to be ordained in the New World. (He later joined the Dominican order.) In 1514, Las Casas began a lifelong effort to improve conditions for the harshly treated Indians.


McKinley, William (1843--1901)
25th president of the United States (1897-1901); a staunch Republican he came to be identified with the global imperialism associated with U.S. territorial acquisitions following the Spanish-American War (1898). Though McKinley had not entered the war for territorial aggrandizement, he was now faced with the disposition of the former Spanish territories. He declared that Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and other strategically located islands must not be allowed to fall into unfriendly hands and must therefore be made U.S. dependencies. Despite opposition to this "imperialism" from certain Republicans, McKinley stood fast in his decision throughout the peace negotiations.

Miles, Nelson (1839--1925)
Soldier; born in Westminster, Mass. A clerk in a crockery store when the Civil War broke out, he obtained a commission in the 22nd Massachusetts and fought in nearly every major engagement of the Army of the Potomac, ending the war as a brigadier general (and with the Congressional Medal of Honor). He became commander-in-chief of the army in 1895, and after directing the training of troops for the Spanish-American War, he led the U.S. forces that occupied Puerto Rico in 1898. He was promoted to lieutenant general in 1901. He retired from the army in 1903. His books include Personal Recollections and Observations (1896) and Serving the Republic (1911).

Milwaukee Depth
deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean, lying at a depth of 27,493 feet (8,380 m) about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of the island of Puerto Rico. It lies within a submarine depression called the Puerto Rico Trench, located at the southern edge of the North American Basin, between the Puerto Rico Ridge (north) and the North Antillean Arc (south); it is about 7,000 feet (2,100 m) deeper than the adjoining basin floors. The Milwaukee Depth is named after the first ship that sounded it. Its bottom is covered with mud, sand, rock, and shells.

Mona Passage
a strait between Dominican Republic (Hispaniola) and Puerto Rico, about 80 miles (130 km) wide and 1,500 feet (460 meters) deep. It is named after Mona Island. The passage is one of the main shipping routes to the Panama Canal.

Mesones Gastronómicos
This official tourism company restaurant program includes more than 50 selected restaurants across the island. To be included, a restaurant must offer the best local specialties, unique to their particular area, at reasonable prices and served with Puerto Rican hospitality.




Panoramic Route
a scenic road over 120 miles. It passes through the Cordillera Central, with large areas of forest and offers stunning vistas along the way. The route, which is really a loose network of some 40 different roads, twists and turns along the central spine of Puerto Rico, its connects Yabucoa in the southeast with Mayaguez on the West coast. The roads are narrow and sometimes sings are difficult to see.

Ponce de León, Juan
(1460--1521), Spanish explorer, who founded the oldest settlement in Puerto Rico and discovered the present-day state of Florida. Born in Tierra de Campos Palencia, Ponce de León conquered the island of Boriquen (Puerto Rico) in 1508 and served as its governor (1509-12). In 1512, he obtained permission from the Spanish king to find, conquer, and colonize a legendary island called Bimini. He landed on what he believed to be Bimini in April 1513 and named the region Florida. After rounding Key West and sailing up the west coast, he returned to Puerto Rico. In 1513 he discovered Florida, and in 1521 Ponce de León set out to colonize Florida. With two vessels, 200 men, 50 horses and other domestic animals, and farm implements, he sailed for Florida. He landed on the West coast, where his party was attacked by Native Americans. Severely wounded by an arrow, Ponce de León withdrew to Cuba, where he soon died.

Puerto Rico Trench
elongate depression in the floor of the Atlantic Ocean to the north of Puerto Rico and the Leeward Islands of the West Indies. It runs roughly east-west and then southwest and, like most deep-sea trenches, lies along the convex side of an island arc system. The bottom of the trench, averaging approximately 25,800 feet (7,860 meters) below sea level, is a narrow, flat plain, the result of the deposition of sediments. It is bounded by steep walls broken into a series of small steps that are indicative of splintering action along major fault lines. The trench does not appear to have been formed by faulting of the earth's crust. It is thought that compressional forces acting on the rock beneath the trench are sufficient to hold it in its sharp V configuration. In its Milwaukee Depth, about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Puerto Rico, the trench is about 28,374 feet (8,648 meters) below sea level, the deepest sounding yet found in the Atlantic.

Paradores are accommodations outside of metropolitan San Juan designed to let the traveler enjoy an ambiance enhanced by the rich Puerto Rican culture. Paradores range from centuries-old haciendas to small properties in local fishing villages. The designation is awarded by the Tourist Board and reviewed annually. Only properties meeting the exacting standards are allowed to use this designation



Río Piedras
suburb of San Juan, Puerto Rico, with which it was merged in 1951. It is an industrial and agricultural trading center. The Univ. of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences campus is there at San Juan.

Richter scale
widely used quantitative measure of the magnitude of an earthquake, introduced in 1935 by the seismologists Beno Gutenberg and Charles Francis Richter.

Less than 3.5 Generally not felt, but recorded.
3.5-5.4 Often felt, but rarely causes damage.
Under 6.0 At most slight damage to well-designed buildings. Can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions.
6.1-6.9 Can be destructive in areas up to about 100 kilometers across where people live.
7.0-7.9 Major earthquake. Can cause serious damage over larger areas.
8 or greater Great earthquake. Can cause serious damage in areas several hundred kilometers across.

Biggest Earthquakes Recorded on the Richter Scale
May, 22 1960 Chile 9.5
March 28, 1964 Prince William Sound, Alaska 9.2
March 9, 1957 Andreanof Islands, Aleutian Islands 9.1
November 4, 1952 Kamchatka, Russia 9.0
December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean 9.0
January 31, 1906 Ecuador 8.8
February 4, 1965 Rat Islands, Aleutian Islands 8.7
March 28, 2005 Northern Sumatra, Indonesia 8.7
August 15, 1950 Assam, India-Tibet 8.6
February 2, 1938 Banda Sea, Indonesia 8.5
February 3, 1923 Kamchatka, Russia 8.5
October 13, 1963 Kuril Islands 8.5

Ruta Panoramica
see Panoramic Route


an African religion that was brought to Puerto Rico by slaves. It remains present to this day. Slaves were not allowed to practice their religions, so they changed Santería to be similar to Catholicism. Catholic saints were given matching gods in Santería.

Section 936
Established in 1976, Section 936 provided U.S. firms operating in Puerto Rico with tax-free income. Section 936 succeeded previous tax breaks for U.S. firms in Puerto Rico dating back to 1921. Section 936 helped to stimulate industrialization and infrastructure development on the island.
On August 20, 1996 the U.S. Congress repealed Section 936 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, with a clause that retains its benefit for ten years of existing corporations. Section 30A was created to substitute Section 936. It essentially retains the wage credit component of Section 936.


Three Kings Day
a traditional gift-giving holiday on the island (celebrated each year on January 6), commemorates the day that the three Wise Men (Balthasar, Melchoir and Gaspar) brought gifts to the Christ child. On the evening of January 5, boys and girls place clumps of hay or grass and a bowl of water for the Kings' camels in boxes under their beds. Custom has it that the grateful Three Kings leave presents at children bedsides to thank them for their gifts of food and water. In La Fortaleza, Old San Juan, the governor honors the tradition by handing out gifts to island children.

also called seismic sea wave, or tidal wave, catastrophic ocean wave, usually caused by a submarine earthquake occurring less than 50 km (30 miles) beneath the seafloor, with a magnitude greater than 6.5 on the Richter scale.




World Heritage site
any of various areas or objects inscribed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List. The sites are designated as having "outstanding universal value" under the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (adopted by UNESCO in 1972). There are three types of sites: cultural, natural, and mixed.





Did You Know?

Medalla Light, Puerto Rico's top-selling light beer, won first prize in 2005 for light beer in Brussels awarded by Monde Selection. Produced by Cervecera de Puerto Rico, a family-owned business founded in 1937. Medalla Light has a thin, white head and a clear, fairly bubbly, straw appearance.