Birthplace of the world-renowned and well-loved Piña Colada, Puerto Rico is more than just a rum-producing country that’s bagged five Miss Universe titles and won eight Olympic medals. Home to over 15 man-made lakes and nearly 300 miles of beaches, adored for both their quality and variety, its untouched beauty is comparable to that of the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Puerto Rico stands as a mix of cultures, with combined influences from Latin America, the Caribbean, and its territorial father, the United States of America.
Geography & Demographics
Rectangular in shape, this fascinating country is approximately 100 miles long and 35 miles wide. Located between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, it is considered the smallest island in the Greater Antilles group of islands. Puerto Rico is east of the Dominican Republic and west of the Virgin Islands, beautifully placed in the Caribbean. As one of the top 100 largest archipelagos in the world, mainland Puerto Rico has an area of approximately 3,500 miles which is nearly three times the size of the U.S. state of Rhode Island.
The country is divided into three different regions based on its geography: the coastal plains, the mountainous regions, and the Karst region. The mountainous region, which actually amounts to 60% of the country’s land area, includes the Sierra de Luquillo Mountains, Sierra Bermeja, Sierra de Cayey, and the Cordillera Central.
Inhabited by over three million people, Puerto Rico is one of the most populous islands on Earth. Studies have shown that if not for the massive migration from Puerto Rico to the United States, as well as to other parts of the world, the country would have become so overpopulated that there would literally be no room for any other people on the island. The nation is also populated with a striking display of plants, reptiles, and amphibians, particularly iguanas, as well as some endemic species of birds.
Puerto Rico has a basic tropical climatic zone, so locals generally enjoy a warm, humid climate throughout the year. Temperatures are moderate off and on ranging from 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the mountains to 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the lower elevations. Rainy season is usually within the months of May to October, although August is considered the wettest month of the year. The northern coast gathers the most rain, amounting to over 1,500 mm annually. Furthermore, it should be noted that from August until November hurricanes regularly arrive on the island, at which point cargo boat travel is not advised. The best time to visit and even partake in an internship program is during the months of November to May, which is a relatively dry and pleasant season.
Food & Culture
Spanish and English are the official languages of Puerto Rico with the former being more dominantly used by the majority of the population. Since the United States has claimed Puerto Rico as an official territory the use and fluency of English throughout the country, more frequently in the capital, is on the rise. Puerto Rican Spanish is its own unique version of the Spanish language developed over the nation’s history, but anyone who speaks Spanish can communication fluidly in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rican cuisine traces its origins and cooking styles to the Amerindian Tainos, and from many more regions around the world, most specifically to Spain. It is considered the gastronomic center of the Caribbean, with the most delightfully diverse culinary offerings in the entire region. Genuine Puerto Rican food normally revolved around pork and plantains. Pork is the main meat eaten in the nation and comes in many forms, including lechón asado, pernil de cerdo, and chicharrones. Plantains, on the other hand, is in essence an appetizing banana; it has been the primary source of starch since way back in Puerto Rican history. Served in almost every meal, plantains are included in many local dishes, including tostones, sopa de plátanos, and mofongo.
Puerto Ricans, by nature, are warm and hospitable to visitors and foreigners. Locals are known to speak with animated hand as well as facial gestures. During introductions, it is deemed polite to shake the others hand. Meanwhile, it is customary for both females and males to kiss one another on the cheek as a greeting towards a female; this is not accepted if both individuals are male, however, unless they are relatives. Along the same lines topics regarding homosexuality and political issues are best not discussed publicly, these types of controversial or argument beckoning topics are left for close friends and family only. Homosecuality is considered taboo mostly due to the fact that the majority of the population are Roman Catholics. Also Puerto Rican culture traditionally stresses the concept of machismo, which does not directly support homosexual ways of life.
As a territory of the United States, the official currency of Puerto Rico is the U.S. dollar. Puerto Ricans often refer to the USD as a peso as well as a dollar. One dollar is equivalent to 100 cents, which is usually denoted as chavitos or centavos. Pricing in Puerto Rico is similar to the United States, but traveling to Puerto Rico on a budget is possible through practical planning. In the case of transportations, it is better to ride in a público, which is basically a shared taxi and costs around five dollars. Food is inexpensive in the more traditional locations, such as in kiosks which normally serve home-style cooking, while accommodations should receive the larger chunk of the budget are for the most part relatively expensive.
Things to Do
As a pastime locals fondly play board games, such as chess and dominoes, especially older generations. For the younger generations, hobbies are more prominently outdoor activities, including surfing, kayaking, and scuba diving since the country has a wide array of stunning beaches and bays to experience.
Interning in Puerto Rico
Internship placements in the country revolve around the fields of Spanish, Culture, and Sustainable Development. Tourism is also one of the bigger industries in Puerto Rico, with cruise ships gradually bringing more tourists to shore each year. Furthermore, most internships are offered in the vibrant and colorful capital city of San Juan, which is home to the busiest port for cruise ships across the globe! Although San Juan is the nation’s capital, and frequented by foreigners often, it still portrays the comfort of a small Puerto Rican town.