Located in the north-east of the Caribbean Sea, Puerto Rico is a self-governing commonwealth country that belongs to the United States. Originally inhabited by native Taino people and claimed by Christopher Columbus, Puerto Rico was for centuries under Spanish rule until the United States invaded during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Seeing Puerto Rico as a strategic asset, the United States controlled the territory as a colonial protectorate, and watched the country develop and grow. In 1947 Puerto Ricans were given the right to democratically vote for a governor.
Nationalism gave way to uprisings and attacks against the US control due to the popular conception that the United States was eroding the indigenous culture and the authority of Puerto Rican people. These tensions gave way to a violent insurgency campaign by pro-independence groups in the 1970s and 1980s. In August 2012, Puerto Ricans will finally get to vote on issues relating to their statehood, including whether to become independent or develop a sovereign free association with the United States. Whatever they choose, the United States will still have to approve their decision. This relationship with the United States has established a large Puerto Ricans community within the United States, but Puerto Rico is also home to many people who have emigrated from other neighbouring countries such as the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti and Barbados. Even though Spanish is the official language, English is also widely spoken.
Given the history of the territory, the culture is a mix of African, Taino, Spanish and North American influences. Generally, the arts in Puerto Rico are important outlets for cultural nationalism. For example, there is a prolific graphic arts scene and performing arts are usually found in the form of music, which is at the centre of this cultural fusion. Puerto Rican literature often harks back to traditions of oral history and the publication of Gibaro, a collection of pieces that expresses the native Puerto Rican culture. Working in all genres and styles, there is a wide variety of internationally recognized Puerto Rican writers. Some of the most well-known Puerto Rican authors are Miguel Algarin, Esmeralda Santiago and Antonia Pantoja. There are also American authors who write about Puerto Rico, for example Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote The Rum Diary, a semi-autobiographical account of an American journalist’s time in Puerto Rico.