Skip Navigation

Puerto Rico's History

1950 - 1999


On April 1, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the island's total population increased 18.3%, from 1,869,255 in 1940 to 2,210,703.

On July 4, President Harry S. Truman signed what is known as Public Act 600, which allowed Puerto Ricans to draft their own constitution establishing the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Congress had conferred commonwealth status on Puerto Rico and upgraded Puerto Rico's political status from protectorate to commonwealth.

The first Health Center is founded in Adjuntas.

The first Social Security cards were issued.

On October, Nationalists attempt to assassinate the governor. Guards resisted the attack, killing four of the five Nationalists. (Raimundo Diaz Pacheco, Domingo Hiraldo, Roberto Acevedo and Manuel Torres. Gregorio Hernandez was badly wounded.)

On November 1, two Puerto Ricans nationalist from New York, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, attempt to kill President Harry S. Truman at Blair House in Washington in hopes of bringing their country closer to independence. One of the assailants and one White House policeman died.

Puerto Rica's Capitol


On July 4, the 600 Law is passed, giving Puerto Rico the right to establish a government with proper constitution.


On March 3, the flag of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is officially adopted - based on a flag designed by a group of patriots in the year 1895.

On July 25, the New Constitution is approved by voters in a referendum in March, and Puerto Rico is proclaimed as Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, although remained a territory of the United States. As a United States commonwealth, it is still treated by Congress as one of the last remaining colonies in the world. With the institution of Commonwealth status, US administrations were freed from the obligation of reporting on Puerto Rico's status to the UN Decolonization Committee.

On November 4, Luis Muñoz Marín is re-elected governor to his second 4-year term, with 64.9% of the vote.


The largest migration of Puerto Ricans to the United States mainland occurred, with 69,124 emigrating (mostly to New York, New Jersey and Florida).

On November 27, the United Nations stopped listing Puerto Rico as a colony or "Non-Self-Governing Territory".


First experimental transmissions of television occurred.

On March 1, Puerto Rican nationalists (Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irvin Flores and Andres Figueroa) opened fire in the U.S. House of Representatives, wounding five Congressmen. They are sentenced to 50 years imprisonment.


On June 21, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture is founded.

The first Pueblo supermarket is established (located in Puerto Nuevo, San Juan).


On August 12, Hurricane Saint Clare strikes the island.

On November 6, Luis Muñoz Marín is re-elected governor to his third 4-year term, with 62.5% of the vote.


El Comandante horse race track is inaugurated.

On April 22, the first Pablo Casals Music Festival took place in University of Puerto Rico Theater, Río Piedras.


In 1958, Laurance Rockefeller built the Dorado Beach Resort, the first Caribbean luxury eco-resort.


Bacardi y Compañía is moved to Cataño.

Ponce Art Museum is inaugurated.

The San Juan Star newspaper is founded.

Pablo Casals founded the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra.


On November 8, Luis Muñoz Marín is re-elected to his fourth 4-year term with 58.2% of the vote.


President John F. Kennedy visited the island.

Rita Moreno wins an Oscar for her acting performance in the motion picture West Side Story.

The newspaper San Juan Star wins the Pulitzer prize under the category of Journalism and Editorial Writing. William J. Dorvillier obtained the prize for his editorials on clerical interference in the 1960 gubernatorial election in Puerto Rico.


Roberto Sanchéz Vilella is elected governor.

Observatory of Arecibo is inaugurated (the world largest radio telescope of its type).


On November 3, Roberto Sanchez Vilella is elected governor, with 59.2% of the vote.


Pedro Albizu Campos leader of the Nationalist Party dies.


On July 23, first plebiscite on the political status of Puerto Rico is held. Voters overwhelmingly affirm continuation of Commonwealth status.

Commonwealth 60%
Statehood 39%
Independence 1%

On August 27, Partido Estadistas Unidos (United Statehooders Party) is founded by Luis A. Ferré, to campaign for statehood for Puerto Rico to become the fifty-first state in the Union in the 1967 plebiscite.


On November 5, Luis A. Ferré, leader of a pro-statehood party, is elected governor, with 43.6% of the vote, becoming the first time a pro-statehood governor has received a majority. Ferré is elected governor under the slogan "Esto tiene que cambiar" ("This must change".)

Formal research efforts to save the endangered Puerto Rican parrot began in the Forest with collaboration of U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the PR Department of Natural Resources and the World Wildlife Fund.

On September 12, the shopping mall Plaza Las Americas is inaugurated. It is the largest shopping center in Puerto Rico, the largest in Latin America and the 13th largest in the US with 2,173,000 square feet (201,900 m2). The project is inaugurated with a total of 79 establishments, a twin cinema and parking for 4,000 vehicles.


On March 16, José Feliciano wins a Grammy.


On May 18, El Nuevo Día newspaper is founded.

Marisol Malaret wins the Miss Universe Pageant.

The resident commissioner gains the right to vote in committee via an amendment to the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970


United States army takes possession of almost all of Culebra Island.

President Richard Nixon declared Christopher Columbus day a federal public holiday on the 2nd Monday in October.


The Puerto Rican Socialist Party is founded.

On November 7, Rafael Hernández Colón is elected governor, with 50.7% of the vote, becoming the youngest elected governor, at age 36.

On September 30, Roberto Clemente became the first Hispanic to reach 3,000 hits and the first Puerto Rican to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

On December 31, Roberto Clemente a baseball player with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who is declared the league's Most Valuable Player, died at age 38 in a plane accident.


On March 5, Luis Aponte Martínez became the first Puerto Rican Cardinal [Glos.].

Roberto Clemente is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


For the sake of controlling the costs of the marine transport in the island, the administration of Rafael Hernandez Colón decided to buy by $176 million the operations of the marine company Is Land to form Navieras de Puerto Rico (npr).


On January 24, a bomb set off in historical Fraunces Tavern, New York City, killed four and injured more than 50 persons. Puerto Rican nationalist group (FALN) claimed responsibility and police tied 13 other bombings to it.

Igneri and pre-Taíno ruins found at Tibes, north of Ponce.


On November 2, Carlos Romero Barceló is elected governor, with 48.3% of the vote.

The 936 section of the United States Internal Revenue Tax Code is implemented. This new code allowed American companies to make profit in the island without paying taxes. Banks on the island experienced an unprecedented growth. About 100,000 Puerto Ricans were directly dependent on employment generated by Section 936 companies.

The Ateneo Puertorriqueño is founded.

After numerous investigations and amendments to that statute, the coat of arms final version is approved and signed into law.


On March 22, Karl Wallenda died while crossing a wire between two hotels in San Juan, he is knocked off balance by a gust of wind and fell to his death ten stories below.

On July 25, the Cerro Maravilla incident took place. Police officers were responsible for the death in execution manner of two pro-independence men.


Pan-American Games are held in San Juan.

On September 6, President Jimmy Carter as part of an agreement with Fidel Castro to secure the release of American CIA agents imprisoned in Cuba, he grants executive clemency to the four Puerto Rican nationalists who opened fire on the U.S. House of Representatives back in 1954. Lolita Lebrón, Andrés Figueroa Cordero, Rafael Cancel Miranda and Irving Flores were freed from prison. who were in prison since 1954.


On April 30, Luis Muñoz Marín founder of the Popular Democratic Party and first elected governor of Puerto Rico dies.

On November 4, Carlos Romero Barceló is re-elected governor, to his second 4-year term with 47.2% of the vote, securing his election by only 0.2% over Rafael Hernández Colón.

The U.S. Congress recommends the Navy leave Vieques.


On January 11, the "Macheteros" blow up 11 jet fighters of Puerto Rico's National Guard near San Juan.


The San Juan National Historic Site (El Morro) is declared a World Heritage Site [Glos.] by the United Nations.

The Partido Renovación Puertorriqueña is founded.


On October, The Pope, Juan Pablo II visited the island.

On November 6, Rafael Hernández Colón is elected governor, with 47.8% of the vote.


Deborah Carthy Deu wins the Miss Universe Pageant.

On February 18, the Puerto Rico International Airport was renamed Luis Muñoz Maríln International Airport.

Destileria Serrallés acquired the right to manufacture and distribute the Ronico and Captain Morgan brands in Puerto Rico.

On October, Ponce suffered a great tragedy, when at least 129 people lost their lives to an avalanche in an area known as Mameyes.


On December 31, a tragic fire took place at the Dupont Plaza Hotel, in San Juan, 97 persons died.


On October 1st, Ileana Colón Carlo became first woman controller in Puerto Rican politics.


On November 8, Rafael Hernández Colón is re-elected governor to his second 4-year term with 48.7% of the vote.


On September 18, Hurricane Hugo strikes the island as it cuts a path of destruction across the Caribbean.

President Bush appointed Antonia Novello, a native of Puerto Rico, to be Surgeon General of the United States.


The U.S. Postal Service issued an commemorative stamp portraying Luis Muñoz Marín.


In an island wide vote, Puerto Ricans reject an amendment that would have "reviewed" their commonwealth status.

Puerto Rico declares Spanish the only official language of the island.

Puerto Rico receives the Asturias Award from Spain for declaring Spanish the official language.

The LOTO is inaugurated.

In 1991, Isla Grande Airport was renamed in honor of United States Air Force Major Fernando Luis Ribas-Dominicci, an F-111 pilot who was killed in action during Operation El Dorado Canyon; the 1986 air strike of Libya (a country in North Africa).


The government sold 80% of the stock in "Telefónica Larga Distancia de Puerto Rico" to "Telefónica Internacional de España" for more than $140 million dollars.

Pedro Roselló is elected governor.

Tall ships from all over the world come to celebrate the Christopher Columbus Grand Regatta in old San Juan as part of the festivities of the Fifth Centenary of the Discovery of the New World.

Kumagai Gumi Company, a Japanese firm, backed by the Mitsubishi Bank, joined in a 50% share of the $225 million development of the El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo.


Law Number 1 of 1993 declares English and Spanish as the official languages of Puerto Rico.

On April 6, Act Number 5, known as Executive Reorganization Act of 1993 is approved. The act established reorganization plans for the following sectors: Security, Correctional procedures, Natural resources, Agricultural activities, Industrial activities, Human resources, Public finance and Family and community services.

The government began an experimental project to provide basic health care services to the poor. The plan, known as "La Tarjeta de Salud".

Dayanara Torres wins the Miss Universe Pageant.

XVII Centro American and Caribbean Games are held in the island.

Major League Baseball player Orlando Cepeda is inducted into the Puerto Rico Sports Hall of Fame.

In the Referendum, Commonwealth status is reaffirmed by voters.

The U.S. Postal Service issued an stamp to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus's landing on Puerto Rico.


On March 5, Navieras de Puerto Rico is sold, due to considerable amount of company generated losses (around $375 million). The public corporation is acquired by the organization Bankers Trust Investment Partners by $29,5 million in cash and $102,9 million that assumed in current liabilities.

Hurricane Marilyn strikes the island.


On July 8, Hurricane Bertha strikes the island.

On August 20, 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 is created to substitute Section 936. It essentially retains the wage credit component of Section 936.

On July 25, the U.S. government recognized Puerto Rican citizenship. In, 1994, Juan Mari Bras renounced his U.S. citizenship before a consular agent in the US Embassy of Venezuela for Puerto Rican citizenship. Puerto Rican citizenship was granted to Puerto Ricans by the US Congress in the 1900 Foraker Act, but later revoked by the Jones Act in 1917, Puerto Ricans are granted U.S. citizenship at birth.
Puerto Rican citizenship exists only as an equivalent to residency: Puerto Rican citizens are those US citizens who reside in Puerto Rico. Any US citizen can gain Puerto Rican citizenship after a year of residence on the island (Santini 1).
Juan Mari Bras the world's only Puerto Rican citizen.

On November 4, Pedro Roselló is re-elected to his second 4-year term with 51.8% of the vote, the largest margin of any pro-statehood governor in Puerto Rico history.


On September 9, Hurricane Hortense strikes the island, killing five people and knocking out electricity to 85 percent of the island.


U.S. Congress introduced Project Young, to provide a process leading to full self-government for Puerto Rico. (introduced Feb. 27 by Rep. Don Young, H.R.856)


The Puerto Rico Telephone Company (PRTC) is sold to GTE and a group of local investors for $2,250 million.

Caribe Hilton, located in San Juan, has been sold by the government to Hilton International.

Fort Buchanan became home to U.S. Army South.

On September 21, Hurricane George with 120 mph winds strikes the island, killing seven people and leaving more than 24,000 in shelters. Virtually the entire island was left without electricity (99.5%), most without water service (77%) and without phone services (25%). President Clinton on Monday declared Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands disaster areas, authorizing immediate release of federal recovery aid. Damage estimated at $2 billion.

On September 29, in a show of commitment to help the victims of hurricane Georges, U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton travels on Tuesday to typhoon-ravaged Puerto Rico.

On December 13, in a non-binding referendum, which offered Puerto Rican voters will have five choices, which included: (1) remaining a U.S. commonwealth, (2) entering into a "free association" with the United States that would be somewhere between commonwealth and independence, (3) becoming a state, (4) declaring independence, and (5) or none of the above. The option 5 "none of the above" obtained the majority of votes.


On April 19, two US Marine jets in training dropped bombs over the island of Vieques and missed their targets. David Sanes Rodriguez, a civilian was killed and 4 people were injured. Days after, protesters began occupying the US Navy range at Vieques.

On June 27, the first heart transplant is accomplished.

On August 8, President Bill Clinton offers clemency to 16 Puerto Rican independence activists.

On September 11, eleven Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) members responsible for a wave of bombings across the United States (New York and Chicago) in the 1970s and 1980s have been released from Federal prisons after accepting a controversial clemency offer from President Bill Clinton.

On November 17, Hurricane Lenny strikes the island.

Other Resources

Did You Know?

Jones Act is a federal law requiring that goods shipped between U.S. ports are transported on ships built, owned, and operated by U.S. citizens or permanent residents.