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Bidwell, in his Consular Report of
1880. Some of the statements in this old book are most peculiar and
interesting. Within the last forty years archŠologists have discovered
many stone axes, spear-heads and knives, stone and clay images, and
pieces of earthenware made by the aboriginal Porto Ricans, and these are
preserved in the Smithsonian Institute at Washington, in Berlin, and
elsewhere. It is curious that none of these remains had been found prior
to 1856. On the banks of the Rio Grande there still stands, also, a rude
stone monument, with strange designs carved upon its surface.

From the earliest times, the island, with its rich produce and commerce,
was the prey of robbers. The fierce cannibal Caribs from the south made
expeditions to it before the white men came; and for many decades after
the Spanish conquest it suffered attacks from pirates by sea and
brigands upon land, who found easy hiding within its deep forests.


ATTACKS AND INVASIONS BY FOREIGN FORCES.

In 1595, San Juan was sacked by the English under Drake, and again,
three years later, by the Duke of Cumberland. In 1615, Baldwin Heinrich,
a Dutchman, lost his life in an attack upon the governor's castle, and
several of his ships were destroyed by a hurricane. The English failed
to capture it, fifty-three years later; and Abercrombie tried it again
in 1797, but had to give up the undertaking after a three days' siege.
It was one hundred and one years after Abercrombie's siege before
another hostile fleet appeared before and bombarded San Juan. That was
done by Admiral Sampson, May 12, 1898, with the United States squadron
of modern ironclad battleships and cruisers. In this engagement Morro
Castle, which, though impregnable a hundred years before, was unable to
withstand modern guns, and was in a large part reduced to ruins.

General Nelson A. Miles landed his United States troops on the island in
July, 1898, and on the 12th of August, before he completed his conquest,
hostilities were closed by the protocol of peace, and amid the rejoicing
of the natives "Beautiful Porto Rico" became a province of the United
States. The one and only attempt the Porto Ricans ever made to throw off
the Spanish yoke was in 1820; but conditions for hiding from the
soldiers were not so good as the Cubans enjoyed in their large island,
and Spanish supremacy was completely re-established by 1823.


THE ISLAND AND ITS POPULATION.

Porto Rico is at once the most healthful and most densely populated
island of the West Indies. It is almost rectangular in form--100 miles
long and 36 broad. Its total area is about 3,600 square miles--a little
larger than the combined areas of Rhode Island and Delaware. Its
population, unlike that of Cuba, has greatly increased within the last
fifty years. In 1830, it numbered 319,000; in 1887, 813,937--about 220
people to the square mile, a density which few States of the Union can
equal. About half of its population are negroes or mulattoes, who were
introduced by the Spaniards as slaves in the 16th and 17th centuries.

[Illustration: THE CUSTOM HOUSE, PONCE, PORTO RICO, AFTER THE RAISING OF
THE AMERICAN FLAG BY GENERAL MILES.]

Among the people of European origin the most numerous are the Spaniards,
with many Germans, Swedes, Danes, Russians, Frenchmen, Chuetos
(descendants from the Moorish Jews), and natives of the Canary Islands.
There are also a number of Chinese, while the Gibaros, or small
land-holders and day-laborers of the country districts, are a curious
old Spanish cross with the aboriginal Indian blood. In this class the
aborigines are more fortunate than the original Cubans in having even a
trace of their blood preserved.

The island is said to be capable of easily supporting three times its
present population, the soil is so universally fertile and its resources
are so well diversified. Though droughts occur in certain parts of the
island, it is all extremely well watered, by more than one thousand
streams, enumerated on the maps, and the dry sections have a system of
irrigation which may be operated very effectually and with little
expense. Of the 1,300 streams, forty-seven are considerable rivers.


TIMBER IN ABUNDANCE AND VARIETY.

Forests still cover all the elevated parts of the hill country of the
interior, the inhabitants living mostly along the coast. The main need
to set the interior teeming with a thrifty and healthy population is a
system of good roads. The interior, with the exception of a few
extensive savannas, is one vast expanse of rounded hills, covered with
such rich soil that they may be cultivated to their summits. At present
these forests are accessible only by mule tracks. "The timber of the
island," says our official report, "comprises more than five hundred
varieties of trees, and in the more elevated regions the vegetation of
the temperate zones is not unknown. On the hills is found a luxuriant
and diversified vegetation, tree-ferns and mountain palms being
abundant. At a lower level grow many varieties of trees noted for their
useful woods, such as the mahogany, cedar, walnut, and laurel. The
mammee, guaiacum, and copal, besides other trees and shrubs valuable for
their gum, flourish in all parts of the island. The coffee tree and
sugar cane, both of which grow well at an altitude of a thousand feet or
more, were introduced into the island--the former from Martinique in
1722, the latter from the Canaries, through Santo Domingo. Tobacco grows
easily in the lowlands, while maize, pineapples, bananas, etc., are all
prolific. The banana and plantain bear fruit within ten months after
planting, and like the cocoa palm, live through an ordinary life-time."


MINERALS AND MINING.

"The mineral resources of the island," says our consul in his report,
"have been very little developed, the only mineral industry of any
importance being the salt works situated at Guanica, Salinas, and Cabo
Rojo. Sulphides of copper and magnetic oxides of iron are found in large
quantities, and formerly gold to a considerable extent was found in many
of the streams. At present the natives still wash out nuggets by the
crude process in use in the time of Ponce de Leon. Marble, carbonates,
lignite, and amber are also present in varying quantities, and hot
springs and mineral waters occur, the best known ones being at Coamo,
near Santa Isabel."


COMMERCE.

The commerce of Porto Rico amounted, in 1896, to $36,624,120, exceeding
the records of all previous years; the increase, no doubt, being largely
due to the unsettled condition of Cuba. The value of the exports for the
same year was, for the first time for more than a decade, slightly in
excess of that of the imports; the former being valued at $18,341,430,
the latter at $18,282,690. The chief exports from the island are
agricultural products. The principal articles are sugar, coffee,
molasses, and tobacco; while rice, wheat, flour, and manufactured
articles are among the chief imports. The value of the sugar and
molasses exported to the United States during the ten years from 1888 to
1897 made up 95 per cent. of the total value of the exports to that
country. Fruits, nuts, and spices are also exported to a small extent.
Of the non-agricultural exports the most important are perfumery and
cosmetics; chemicals, drugs, and dyes; unmanufactured wood, and salt.

[Illustration: NATIVE BELLES, PORTO RICO.]

The leading article of import from the United States is wheat flour.
Corn and meal, bread, biscuit, meats, dairy products, wood and its
manufactures, iron, steel, etc., are also imported.


CITIES AND TOWNS.

San Juan, the capital, is situated on an island off the northern coast
of the mainland, with which it is now connected by the San Antonio
bridge. The city is a perfect specimen of a walled and fortified town,
with Morro Castle crowning the promontory at the western extremity of
the island. The population, including the inhabitants of Marina and
Puerta de Tierra, as well as those within the city walls, was estimated
in 1896 at 30,000, and consists largely of negroes and of mixed races.
Owing to the lack of a good water supply, and the general unsanitary
conditions which prevail, the city is unhealthy. The houses are all of
two stories, the poorer inhabitants occupying the ground floor, while
those better off live above them. There is no running water in the city,
the inhabitants being dependent for their supply upon the rainfall which
is caught on the flat roofs of the houses and stored in cisterns, and in
dry seasons the supply is entirely exhausted. The city is built upon
clay mixed with lime packed hard and impervious to water. Its
manufactures are of small importance.

[Illustration: THE MARKET PLACE, PONCE, PORTO RICO.]

The city of Ponce, with a population of 37,500, and in commercial
importance the second city of Porto Rico, is situated two miles from the
coast in the southern part of the island. With an ample water supply
conveyed to the city by an aqueduct it is, perhaps, the healthiest town
on the island. Playa, its port, having a population of 5,000, is
connected with it by a fine road.

The town of Arecibo, with a population of from 6,000 to 7,000, is
situated on the northern coast of Porto Rico, and is the port for a
district of some 30,000 inhabitants.


CLIMATE.

The climate of the island, though hot and humid, is healthful, except in
marshy districts and in cities where sanitary rules are neglected.
Yellow fever seldom occurs, and when it does it is confined to the
unsanitary towns and their surroundings, never appearing far from the
coasts. The thermometer does not fall below 50░ or rise above 90░. The
heat is not so great as at Santiago, though the latter is one and a half
degrees further north. As in Cuba, there are but two seasons, the rainy
and the dry, the former lasting from July to December, the latter from
January to the close of June. The delightful, dry and salubrious
atmosphere of midwinter and spring, with its general healthfulness,
promises to bring this island into prominence both as a resort for
invalids and for homes to those who would escape the rigors of northern
winters.

Porto Rico is an ideal lazy man's country, and the overworked American
will, undoubtedly, come to make it more and more his Mecca for rest and
recuperation.



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