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Puerto Rico's History

2000 - 2023


On June 25, the US Navy bombing resumes in Vieques, using nonexplosive dummy bombs.

On November 7, Sila M. Calderón is elected governor (Puerto Rico's first female governor).

President Clinton issues E.O. 13183l established the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status.


On March 1, the Pentagon suspended Navy bombing on Vieques.

On April 27, the US Navy resumed bombing exercises on Vieques Island.

On May 11, Denise Quiñones wins the Miss Universe Pageant, held in Bayamõn.

On June 14, President George W. Bush ordered a stop to the Navy bombing exercises on Puerto Rico's Vieques Island. Cleanup is estimated to cost hundreds of millions and take decades. Bombing practice is set to stop by May, 2003.


On April 12, Telemundo was purchased by NBC for $2.7 billion.


On November 2, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá is elected governor.


On June 6, the Tren Urbano (urban train) was inaugurated. The Tren Urbano is a 10.7 mile (17.2 km) metro system which links the municipalities of San Juan, Bayamón, and Guaynabo.


On May, schools and government offices across the island shut down after an estimated $740m deficit in public funds near the end of the 2005-2006 fiscal year. The financial crisis left only essential services such as police and hospitals in operation. The shut down lasted for two weeks (from May 1 through May 14), leaving nearly 100,000 public employees without pay and closing more than 1,600 public schools. The major cause of the crisis lies on the inability of the legislature and the governor to agree on a spending plan since 2004.

On July 23, Zuleyka Rivera Mendoza was crowned Miss Universe.

On October 25, Juan Mari Brás became the first person to receive a Puerto Rican citizen certificate from the Puerto Rico State Department.

On November 15, the Act No. 117 of July 4, 2006 (known as the "Taxpayer Justice Act"), amended the Puerto Rico Internal Revenue Code of 1994 in order to establish a sale tax system in Puerto Rico to address major budget deficits. Act 117 eliminates the infamous 5% (6.6% effective rate) general excise tax.
The sales tax will be divided up as follows:


On January 23, Americans are required to carry passports when traveling to Mexico, Bermuda, and most of the Caribbean islands. Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, it is exempt from the new regulation.

On May 5, Concerns are raised that the newly implemented Sales and Use Tax and the reduction in budgeted expenditures will not be enough to reduce the Puerto Rico Government's fiscal deficit for the 2006-2007 year.

On May 20, former Governor and current Senator Pedro Rosselló officially announced his intentions to seek the New Progressive Party's nomination for Governor in the 2008 general elections.

On October 12, communities and activists protest the apparent mass killing of pet animals by a government contractor by throwing them of a 50 ft high bridge in Barceloneta.


On January 5, over 100 cockfights in Puerto Rico are canceled due to the prohibition of various birds from the Dominican Republic, after discovery of various animals with the avian flu. The loss from such canceled activities is estimated in the millions.

On March 8, Luis Fortuño obtains 59% of the primary votes and wins the New Progressive Party gubernatorial candidacy over opponent and former Gov. Pedro Rossello.

On November 4, Luis Fortuño is elected governor.


On May 26, US President Barack Obama has chosen Sonia Sotomayor, a United States Court of Appeals judge, as his first nominee to the United States Supreme Court. Sotomayor is the Court's 111th justice, its first Hispanic justice, and its third female justice. Sotomayor was born in The Bronx, New York City and is of Puerto Rican descent.


On May 16, an earthquake occurred, the epicenter was in Moca.

On July 15, the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games are being held in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, from July 17 to August 1.

On September 10, Juan Mari Brás, Founder of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party and the first Puerto Rican to formally renounce U.S. citizenship, died of complications from lung cancer.

As of October 30, 2010 the United States Department of State does not accept Puerto Rican birth certificates issued prior to July 1, 2010 as primary proof of citizenship for a U.S. passport.


On June 14, President Obama traveled to San Juan for the first official visit by a sitting U.S. President to the island since President Kennedy visited in 1961. The visit follows a comprehensive report of the President’s Task Force on Pu erto Rico's Status, which provides a meaningful way forward on the question of status while making significant recommendations important to Puerto Rico's economic development.

On August 11, tropical storm Irene passes through Puerto Rico and its surrounding islands while becoming a hurricane just north of San Juan, the first of the 2011 Atlantic season.


On August, the number of Puerto Ricans on the U.S. mainland reached a record - 4.9 million.

On November 6, Alejandro García Padilla is elected governor.

On November 8, for the first time Puerto Rican voters support US statehood in a non-binding referendum with a 54%. Puerto Ricans voted on their political status in 1967, 1993, and 1998.


On March 27, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the island's total population fell from about 3.7 million in 2010 to 3.6 million in 2013.


On August 3, Puerto Rico defaults on its monthly debt for the first time in its history, paying only $628,000 toward a $58 million debt.


On January 4, Puerto Rico defaults on its debt for the second time.

On April 13, 2016, the 65th Infantry, the first body of native troops in Puerto Rico was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

On June 30, President Barack Obama signs the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), a bill that establishes a seven-member board to oversee the commonwealth's finances. The following day Puerto Rico defaults on its debt payment.

On July 1, Puerto Rico general sales and use rate increased from 7% to 10.5% with an effective total tax rate of 11.5 percent on many transactions when combined with the municipal sales and use tax of 1 percent (as of July 1, 2015). Puerto Rico now has the highest sales tax in America.

On November 8, Ricky Rossello is elected governor.


On May 3, Puerto Rico files for bankruptcy. It is the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history.

On June 11, a non-biding referendum on the political status of Puerto Rico was held, which offered Puerto Rican voters with three choices: (1) becoming a state of the United States, (2) independence/free association, or (3) maintaining the current territorial status. Although 97% of the ballots cast were in favor of statehood, turnout for the Puerto Rico referendum was really low, only 23%, where voter participation often averages around 80%.

No Congressionally-mandated plebiscite has ever been held in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans have voted on their political status in 1967, 1993, and 1998 and 2012. Since these votes were nonbinding, no action had to be taken, and none was. Ultimately, however, Congress must pass a law admitting them to the union.

On September 7, Hurricane Irma's eye passes just north of Puerto Rico at 16 mph as a Category 5 storm with 185 mph winds. About a million people were without power and nearly 50,000 also were without water.

On September 20, Hurricane Maria makes landfall near Yabucoa in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane. It is the strongest storm to hit the island in 85 years. The energy grid is heavily damaged, with an island-wide power outage.

On September 22, The National Weather Service recommends the evacuation of about 70,000 people living near the Guajataca River in northwest Puerto Rico because a dam is in danger of failing.


On May 29, a study published by The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that roughly 4,600 of deaths were caused by last year's devastating Hurricane Maria, many of them from delayed medical care.

On July, population estimates reveals a sharp population decline, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. With a -3.9%, the decline marks a 40-year low after hurricanes Maria and Irma hit the island (largest year-to-year drop since 1950).

By August 13, due to the damage caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017, a shrinking population, deteriorating infrastructure, and the Puerto Rican government-debt crisis, 283 schools have been closed.

On December 20, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Act) was signed. The Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act was passed as part of the bill and amends the Animal Welfare Act to extend the existing federal ban on dogfighting and cockfighting to U.S. territories.

Cockfighting is a centuries-old tradition, dating back to the Spanish colonial period. Today, the Government of Puerto Rico regulates about 80 cockfighting clubs, and it has been regulating the industry of cockfighting since 1933. Opponents of the measure stated that the act will have a devastating effect on the islands' economy, noting that in Puerto Rico's cockfighting industry represents more than $18 million a year and employs some 27,000 direct and indirect jobs (2018).


On July 13, demonstration protests against Governor Ricardo Rossello, starts and continues for several days in Old San Juan. Following a leak of hundreds of pages of misogynistic and homophobic texts between the governor and his main advisers. In addition, several of his officials have been under investigation on corruption charges.

On July 25, Governor Ricardo Rossello resigns after 12 days of protests, announcing he would step down on August 2. Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez will take Rossello place until the elections in 2020. Although the secretary of state is traditionally next in line to succeed a governor, the position is currently vacant after Luis Rivera Marin resigned over his participation in Rossello's vulgar group chats.

The protests have made history: Not only were they the largest ever seen on the island, but it's also the first time a governor has been pushed out of office without an election.

On August 7, Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez is sworn in as Puerto Rico's governor, hours after the island's Supreme Court overturned the swearing in of Pedro Pierluisi as governor. The unanimous ruling said Pierluisi must step aside immediately.


On January 6, a 5.8-magnitude quake hits the island, causing power outages and severaly cracking several homes and structures.

On January 7, a 6.4-magnitude quake hits the island, the strongest in a series of earthquakes over the past week (December 28) and the most powerful to strike the island in 102 years.

Puerto Rico's governor, Wanda Vazquez, declared a state of emergency and activated the national guard.

The quake killed one person and caused an island-wide power outage as well as structural damage to homes, schools, roads and bridges, especially in the southwestern part of the island.

The island is still recovering from the devastation of 2017's Hurricane Maria, which killed about 3,000 people and destroyed a significant amount of infrastructure.

On November 3, in a non-binding referendum of the status of Puerto Rico, which asked Puerto Rican voters the following: "Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted into the Union as a state?" Voters had the option to answer "Yes" or "No." The option "Yes" obtained the majority of votes, 52.52%.

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