180km long and 65km wide, with a total surface area of 8,859km2, the island of Puerto Rico is shaped almost like a rectangle. The smallest island in the Greater Antilles, it was originally called Borinquen by the native people. A tall mountain range transects the island, forming deep, lush valleys, from which some 30 rivers run to the ocean. The island's coast is lined with sandy beaches, bizarre rock formations and lagoons that typify the idyllic nature of the Caribbean.
The last native people to inhabit Borinquen, the Caribs and Taínos, welcomed the European explorers. During his second voyage to “the Indies” in 1493, Christopher Columbus landed on the island and named it "San Juan Bautista." In 1521, the island’s capital was christened San Juan and the island itself was renamed Puerto Rico. Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States in 1899 as part of the Treaty of Paris. Then, in 1900, Puerto Rico became an American territory. In 1917, the Jones Act granted U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans. In 1952, Puerto Rico became a self-governing commonwealth, a status it has since maintained.