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Vieques, Puerto Rico

Vieques, Puerto Rico

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Vieques (ˈbjekes; viːˈeɪkɨs), in full Isla de Vieques, is an island–municipality
Municipalities of Puerto Rico
The Municipalities of Puerto Rico number 78 and they make up the smallest electoral division of the Commonwealth. Each municipality is divided into barrios, though the latter are not vested with political authority.-Administrative divisions:...

 of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

 in the northeastern Caribbean, part of an island grouping sometimes known as the Spanish Virgin Islands
Spanish Virgin Islands
The Spanish Virgin Islands, formerly called the Passage Islands and also known as the Puerto Rican Virgin Islands, are part of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, located east of the main island of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican tourist literature uses the name Spanish Virgin Islands, but most general...

. Like the rest of Puerto Rico, a United States Commonwealth
Commonwealth (United States insular area)
In the terminology of the United States insular areas, a Commonwealth is a type of organized but unincorporated dependent territory.The definition of "Commonwealth" according to current U.S. State Department policy reads: "The term 'Commonwealth' does not describe or provide for any specific...

, Vieques retains strong influences from 400 years of Spanish ownership.

Vieques lies about 8 miles (13 km) east of the Puerto Rican mainland, and measures about 21 miles (34 km) long by 4 miles (6 km) wide. Its two main towns are Isabel Segunda (sometimes written "Isabel II"), the administrative center on the northern side of the island, and Esperanza on the southern side. At peak, the population of Vieques is around 10,000.

The island's name is a Spanish spelling of a Native American word said to mean "small island". It also has the nickname "Isla Nena", usually translated from the Spanish as "Little Girl Island", alluding to its perception as Puerto Rico's little sister. During the colonial period, the British name was "Crab Island".

Vieques is best known internationally as the site of a series of protests
United States Navy in Vieques, Puerto Rico
The United States Navy used Vieques, Puerto Rico for naval training and testing from 1941 to May 1, 2003.Some current studies show drastic increases in health problems which may or may not be related to toxic materials left on Vieques from the Navy’s occupation. The people of Vieques demand the U.S...

 against the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

's use of the island as a bombing range
Bombing range
A bombing range is an area used for testing explosive ordnance and practicing to accurately direct them to the target. Bombing ranges are used for munitions that either explode or produce too much destruction to use at a shooting range, such as kinetic energy penetrators or very large caliber...

 and testing ground, which led to the Navy's departure in 2003. Today the former Navy land is a national wildlife refuge, with numerous beaches that still retain the names given by the Navy, including Red Beach, Blue Beach, Green Beach and others. The beaches are commonly listed among the top beaches in the Caribbean for their azure-colored waters and white sands.

Pre-Columbian history


Archaeological evidence suggests that Vieques was first inhabited by ancient Native American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 peoples who traveled from continental America perhaps between 3000 BC and 2000 BC. However, estimates of these prehistoric dates of inhabitation vary widely. These tribes had a Stone Age culture and were probably fishermen and hunter-gatherers.

Excavations at the Puerto Ferro site by Luis Chanlatte and Yvonne Narganes uncovered a fragmented human skeleton in a large hearth area. Radiocarbon dating of shells found in the hearth indicate a burial date of c.1900 BCE. This skeleton, popularly known as El Hombre de Puerto Ferro, was buried at the center of a group of large boulders near the south-central coast of Vieques, approximately one kilometer northwest of the Bioluminescent Bay. Linear arrays of smaller stones radiating from the central boulders are apparent at the site today, but their age and reason for placement are unknown.

Further waves of settlement by Native Americans
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 followed over many centuries. The Arawak
Arawakan languages
Macro-Arawakan is a proposed language family of South America and the Caribbean based on the Arawakan languages. Sometimes the proposal is called Arawakan, in which case the central family is called Maipurean....

-speaking Saladoid
Saladoid
Saladoid culture is a pre-columbian indigenous culture of Venezuela and the Caribbean that flourished from 500 BCE to 545 CE.-Name:They have been given the name of the sites where their unique pottery styles were first recognised. The suffix "oid" has been added in this cultural classification...

 (or Igneri
Igneri
The Igneri were an ethnic group that was once part of the Arawak tribe. They inhabited the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico during the Pre-Columbian era. They are said to have originated in the Orinoco region in Venezuela...

) people, thought to have originated in modern-day Venezuela, arrived in the region perhaps around 200 BC (again estimates vary). These tribes, noted for their pottery, stone carving, and other artifacts, eventually merged with groups from Hispaniola
Hispaniola
Hispaniola is a major island in the Caribbean, containing the two sovereign states of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The island is located between the islands of Cuba to the west and Puerto Rico to the east, within the hurricane belt...

 and Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

, to form what is now called the Taíno
Taíno people
The Taínos were pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and the northern Lesser Antilles. It is thought that the seafaring Taínos are relatives of the Arawak people of South America...

 culture. This culture flourished in the region from around 1000 AD, and survived on Vieques until the arrival of the European
European ethnic groups
The ethnic groups in Europe are the various ethnic groups that reside in the nations of Europe. European ethnology is the field of anthropology focusing on Europe....

s in the 15th century.

Spanish colonial period


The European discovery of Vieques is sometimes credited to Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the...

, who landed in Puerto Rico in 1493. It does not seem to be certain whether Columbus personally visited Vieques, but in any case the island was soon claimed by the Spanish. During the early 16th century Vieques became a center of Taíno rebellion against the European invaders, prompting the Spanish to send armed forces to the island to quell the resistance. The native Taíno population was decimated, and its people either killed, imprisoned or enslaved by the Spanish.

The Spanish did not, however, permanently colonise Vieques at this time, and for the next three hundred years it remained a lawless outpost, frequented by pirates and outlaws. As European powers fought for control in the region, a series of attempts by the French, English and Danish to colonise the island in the 17th and 18th centuries were repulsed by the Spanish. The island also received considerable attention as a possible colony from Scotland, and after numerous attempts to buy the island proved unsuccessful, the Scottish fleet, en route to Darien in 1698, made landfall and took possession of the island in the name of the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and The Indies
Company of Scotland
The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies, also called the Scottish Darien Company, was an overseas trading company created by an act of the Parliament of Scotland in 1695...

. Scottish sovereignty of the island proved short-lived however, as a Danish ship arrived shortly afterwards and claimed the island.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Spanish took steps to permanently settle and secure the island. In 1811, Don Salvador Meléndez, then governor of Puerto Rico, sent military commander Juan Rosselló to begin what would become the annexation of Vieques by the Puerto Ricans. In 1832, under an agreement with the Spanish Puerto Rican administration, Frenchman Teófilo José Jaime María Le Guillou
Teófilo José Jaime María Le Guillou
Teófilo José Jaime María Le Guillou is the founder of the municipality of Vieques, Puerto Rico, where he arrived in 1823.In 1823, Teófilo José Jaime María Le Guillou immigrated from France to Puerto Rico and settled down in the island of Vieques. He is considered as the founder of the municipality...

 became Governor of Vieques, and undertook to impose order on the anarchic province. He was instrumental in the establishment of large plantations, marking a period of social and economic change for the island. Le Guillou is now remembered as the "founder" of Vieques (though this title is also sometimes conferred on Francisco Saínz, governor from 1843 to 1852, who founded Isabel Segunda, the "town of Vieques", named after Queen Isabel II
Isabella II of Spain
Isabella II was the only female monarch of Spain in modern times. She came to the throne as an infant, but her succession was disputed by the Carlists, who refused to recognise a female sovereign, leading to the Carlist Wars. After a troubled reign, she was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of...

 of Spain). Vieques was formally annexed to Puerto Rico in 1854.

In 1816, Vieques was briefly visited by Simón Bolívar
Simón Bolívar
Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Yeiter, commonly known as Simón Bolívar was a Venezuelan military and political leader...

 while fleeing defeat in Venezuela.

During the second part of the 19th century, thousands of black immigrants came to Vieques to work on the sugar cane plantation
Plantation
A plantation is a long artificially established forest, farm or estate, where crops are grown for sale, often in distant markets rather than for local on-site consumption...

s. They arrived from the nearby islands of St. Thomas
Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Saint Thomas is an island in the Caribbean Sea and with the islands of Saint John, Saint Croix, and Water Island a county and constituent district of the United States Virgin Islands , an unincorporated territory of the United States. Located on the island is the territorial capital and port of...

, Nevis
Nevis
Nevis is an island in the Caribbean Sea, located near the northern end of the Lesser Antilles archipelago, about 350 km east-southeast of Puerto Rico and 80 km west of Antigua. The 93 km² island is part of the inner arc of the Leeward Islands chain of the West Indies...

, St. Kitts, St. Croix, and many other Caribbean nations, some of them arrived as slaves and some as independent economic migrants. By the time of settlement of Vieques the Eastern Caribbean was post-Emancipation but some arrived as contract labor. Since this time black people have formed an important part of Vieques’ society.

United States colonial period


In 1898, after Spain's defeat in the Spanish–American War, Vieques, along with mainland Puerto Rico, was ceded to the United States.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the sugar industry, on which Vieques was totally dependent, went into decline due to falling sugar prices and industrial unrest. Many locals were forced to move to mainland Puerto Rico or Saint Croix
Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Saint Croix is an island in the Caribbean Sea, and a county and constituent district of the United States Virgin Islands , an unincorporated territory of the United States. Formerly the Danish West Indies, they were sold to the United States by Denmark in the Treaty of the Danish West Indies of...

 to look for work.

In 1941, while Europe was in the midst of World War II, the United States Navy purchased about two thirds of Vieques as an extension to the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station
Roosevelt Roads Naval Station
Roosevelt Roads Naval Station is a former United States military air base in the town of Ceiba, Puerto Rico. The site is run today as José Aponte de la Torre Airport, a public use airport.-History:...

 nearby on the Puerto Rican mainland. The original purpose of the base (never implemented) was to provide a safe haven for the British fleet should Britain fall to Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. Much of the land was bought from the owners of large farms and sugar cane plantations, and the purchase triggered the final demise of the sugar industry. Many agricultural workers, who had no title to the land they occupied, were evicted.

After the war, the US Navy continued to use the island for military exercises, and as a firing range and testing ground for bomb
Bomb
A bomb is any of a range of explosive weapons that only rely on the exothermic reaction of an explosive material to provide an extremely sudden and violent release of energy...

s, missile
Missile
Though a missile may be any thrown or launched object, it colloquially almost always refers to a self-propelled guided weapon system.-Etymology:The word missile comes from the Latin verb mittere, meaning "to send"...

s, and other weapons in a manner not unlike Kahoʻolawe
Kahoolawe
Kahoolawe is the smallest of the eight main volcanic islands in the Hawaiian Islands. Kahoolawe is located about seven miles southwest of Maui and also southeast of Lanai, and it is long by wide, with a total land area of . The highest point on Kahoolawe is the crater of Lua Makika at the...

 in the Hawaiian Islands
Hawaiian Islands
The Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and undersea seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,500 miles from the island of Hawaii in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll...

.

Protests and departure of the United States Navy


The continuing post-war presence in Vieques of the United States Navy drew protests from the local community, angry at the expropriation of their land and the environmental impact of weapons testing. The locals' discontent was exacerbated by the island's parlous economic condition.

Protests came to a head in 1999 when Vieques native David Sanes
David Sanes
David Sanes Rodríguez was a native of Vieques, Puerto Rico whose death became a rallying point for those opposed to the U.S. military presence on and use of his home island for live-fire bombing practice...

, a civilian employee of the United States Navy, was killed by a jet bomb that the Navy said misfired. Sanes had been working as a security guard. A popular campaign of civil disobedience
Civil disobedience
Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. Civil disobedience is commonly, though not always, defined as being nonviolent resistance. It is one form of civil resistance...

 resurged; not since the mid-1970s had viequenses come together en masse to protest the target practices. The locals took to the ocean in their small fishing boats and successfully stopped the US Navy's military exercises.

The Vieques issue became something of a cause celèbre, and local protesters were joined by sympathetic groups and prominent individuals from the mainland United States and abroad, including political leaders Rubén Berríos
Rubén Berríos
Rubén Ángel Berríos Martínez is a lawyer, a Puerto Rican politician, and the current president of the Puerto Rican Independence Party...

, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Robert Francis Kennedy, Jr. is an American radio host, activist, and attorney specializing in environmental law. He is the third of eleven children born to Ethel Skakel Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and is the nephew of John F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy...

, Al Sharpton
Al Sharpton
Alfred Charles "Al" Sharpton, Jr. is an American Baptist minister, civil rights activist, and television/radio talk show host. In 2004, he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidential election...

 and Jesse Jackson, singers Danny Rivera
Danny Rivera
Danny Rivera is a Puerto Rican singer and songwriter who was born in San Juan whose career spans nearly 50 years. He is well-known in Puerto Rico for his political activism.-Musical career:...

 and Ricky Martin
Ricky Martin
Enrique "Ricky" Martín Morales , better known as Ricky Martin, is a Puerto Rican and Spanish pop singer and actor who achieved prominence, first as a member of the Latin boy band Menudo, then as a solo artist since 1991.During his career he has sold more than 60 million album copies worldwide...

, actor Edward James Olmos
Edward James Olmos
Edward James Olmos is an American actor and director. Among his most memorable roles are William Adama in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, Lt...

, boxer Félix 'Tito' Trinidad
Félix Trinidad
Félix 'Tito' Trinidad, Jr. is a Puerto Rican professional boxer, considered one of the best in Puerto Rico's history. After winning five National Amateur Championships in Puerto Rico, he debuted as a professional when he was 17. He won his first world championship when he defeated Maurice Blocker...

, writers Ana Lydia Vega
Ana Lydia Vega
Ana Lydia Vega is a celebrated Puerto Rican female writer. She has received the Premio Juan Rulfo and the Premio Casa de las Américas . Vega was a professor of French literature and Caribbean studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras...

 and Giannina Braschi
Giannina Braschi
Giannina Braschi is a Puerto Rican writer. She is credited with writing the first Spanglish novel YO-YO BOING! and the poetry trilogy Empire of Dreams , which chronicles the Latin American immigrant's experiences in the United States...

, and Guatemala's Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú
Rigoberta Menchú
Rigoberta Menchú Tum is an indigenous Guatemalan, of the K'iche' ethnic group. Menchú has dedicated her life to publicizing the plight of Guatemala's indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan Civil War , and to promoting indigenous rights in the country...

. Kennedy, while serving jail time in Puerto Rico for his role in the protests, became the father a son whom he named Aidan Caohman "Vieques" Kennedy. The problems arising from the US Navy base have also featured in songs by various musicians, including Puerto Rican rock band Puya
Puya
Puya may refer to:* Puya , in the family Bromeliaceae* Puya River, a river in Russia* Puya , a rock band from Puerto Rico* Culoepuya, Venezuelan drums of Congolese origin* Puya, Romanian rapper from the hip hop group La Familia...

, rapper Immortal Technique
Immortal Technique
Felipe Andres Coronel , better known by the stage name Immortal Technique, is an American rapper of Afro-Peruvian descent as well as an urban activist. He was born in Lima, Peru and raised in Harlem, New York. Most of his lyrics focus on controversial issues in global politics...

 and reggaeton artist Tego Calderón
Tego Calderón
Tegui Calderón Rosario is a Puerto Rican rapper and actor.-Early life:Calderón was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, the son of Pilar Rosario Parrilla, a schoolteacher, and Esteban Calderón Ilarraza, a government worker for Puerto Rico's Department of Health. Moving at a young age from his native...

.

As a result of this pressure, in May 2003 the Navy withdrew from Vieques, and much of the island was designated a National Wildlife Refuge
National Wildlife Refuge
National Wildlife Refuge is a designation for certain protected areas of the United States managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the world's premiere system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife and plants...

 under the control of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is a federal government agency within the United States Department of the Interior dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats...

. Closure of Roosevelt Roads Naval Station followed in 2004.

Government


Vieques is a municipio of Puerto Rico
Municipalities of Puerto Rico
The Municipalities of Puerto Rico number 78 and they make up the smallest electoral division of the Commonwealth. Each municipality is divided into barrios, though the latter are not vested with political authority.-Administrative divisions:...

, translated as "municipality
Municipality
A municipality is essentially an urban administrative division having corporate status and usually powers of self-government. It can also be used to mean the governing body of a municipality. A municipality is a general-purpose administrative subdivision, as opposed to a special-purpose district...

" and in this context roughly equivalent to "township". It is in the Puerto Rican electoral district of Carolina. Local government is under the leadership of a mayor (Spanish alcalde), presently Evelyn Delerme Camacho. Like the rest of Puerto Rico, the head of state is the President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

.

Administrative divisions



Administratively Vieques is divided into eight wards (barrios), including the town of Isabel Segunda:
Barrio area
m2 may mean:*Square metre, an SI measure of area*m2 , the ambient project of German electronic musician and DJ Mathis MootzM2 may mean:*M squared, a measure of laser beam quality*M2 , by Marcus Miller...

population
(census
2000)
density islands in barrio
Isabela II barrio-pueblo 696997 1459 2093.3
Florida 11553856 4126 357.1
Llave 15420815 8 0.5
Mosquito 6279364 0 0.0
Puerto Diablo 45323702 984 21.7 Roca Cucaracha, Isla Yallis, Roca Alcatraz, Cayo Conejo, Cayo Jalovita, Cayo Jalova
Puerto Ferro 21199791 856 40.4 Isla Chiva, Cayo Chiva
Puerto Real 19943599 1673 83.9 Cayo de Tierra, Cayo de Afuera (Cayo Real)
Punta Arenas 11227244 0 0.0
Vieques 131645368 9106 69.2  

Geography


Vieques measures about 21 miles (33.8 km) east-west, and three to four miles (5 km) north-south. It has a land area of 52 square miles (134.7 km²) and is located about ten miles (16 km) to the east of Puerto Rico. To the north of Vieques is the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south the Caribbean. The island of Culebra
Culebra, Puerto Rico
Isla Culebra is an island-municipality of Puerto Rico originally called Isla Pasaje and Isla de San Ildefonso. It is located approximately east of the Puerto Rican mainland, west of St. Thomas and north of Vieques. Culebra is spread over 5 wards and Culebra Pueblo...

 is about 10 miles (16.1 km) north of Vieques, and the US Virgin Islands lie to the east. Vieques and Culebra, together with various small islets, make up the so-called Spanish Virgin Islands
Spanish Virgin Islands
The Spanish Virgin Islands, formerly called the Passage Islands and also known as the Puerto Rican Virgin Islands, are part of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, located east of the main island of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican tourist literature uses the name Spanish Virgin Islands, but most general...

, sometimes known as the Passage Islands.

The former US Navy lands, now wildlife reserves, occupy the entire eastern and western ends of Vieques, with the former live weapons testing site (known as the "LIA", or "Live Impact Area") at the extreme eastern tip. These areas are unpopulated. The former civilian area occupies very roughly the central third of the island and contains the towns of Isabel Segunda
Isabel Segunda, Puerto Rico
-Historic sites:It is the location of several historic sites listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, including:*Fuerte de Vieques * Casa Alcaldia de Vieques* Casa Augusto Delerme* Casa Delerme-Anduze No. 2...

 on the north coast, and Esperanza
Esperanza, Puerto Rico
Esperanza is a town on the south side of the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.It is the location of Hacienda Casa del Frances, a historic site listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places....

 on the south.

Vieques has a terrain of rolling hills, with a central ridge running east-west. The highest point is Monte Pirata ("Pirate Mount") at 987 feet (300 m). Geologically the island is composed of a mixture of volcanic
Volcanic rock
Volcanic rock is a rock formed from magma erupted from a volcano. In other words, it is an igneous rock of volcanic origin...

 bedrock
Bedrock
In stratigraphy, bedrock is the native consolidated rock underlying the surface of a terrestrial planet, usually the Earth. Above the bedrock is usually an area of broken and weathered unconsolidated rock in the basal subsoil...

, sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause mineral and/or organic particles to settle and accumulate or minerals to precipitate from a solution....

s such as limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 and sandstone
Sandstone
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains.Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common colours are tan, brown, yellow,...

, and alluvial deposits
Alluvium
Alluvium is loose, unconsolidated soil or sediments, eroded, deposited, and reshaped by water in some form in a non-marine setting. Alluvium is typically made up of a variety of materials, including fine particles of silt and clay and larger particles of sand and gravel...

 of gravel, sand, silt, and clay. There are no permanent rivers or streams. Much former agricultural land has been reclaimed by nature due to prolonged disuse, and, apart from some small-scale farming in the central region, the island is largely covered by brush and subtropical dry forest
Puerto Rican dry forests
The Puerto Rican dry forests are a subtropical dry forest ecoregion located in southwestern and eastern Puerto Rico and on the offshore islands. They cover an area of . These forests grow in areas receiving less than of rain annually...

. Around the coast lie palm-fringed sandy beach
Beach
A beach is a geological landform along the shoreline of an ocean, sea, lake or river. It usually consists of loose particles which are often composed of rock, such as sand, gravel, shingle, pebbles or cobblestones...

es interspersed with lagoons, mangrove swamps
Mangrove
Mangroves are various kinds of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics – mainly between latitudes N and S...

, salt flats and coral reef
Coral reef
Coral reefs are underwater structures made from calcium carbonate secreted by corals. Coral reefs are colonies of tiny living animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. The polyps...

s.

A series of nearshore islets and rocks are part of the municipality of Vieques, clockwise starting at the northernmost:
  • Roca Cucaracha (a rock with less than five meters in diameter)
  • Isla Yallis
  • Roca Alcatraz
  • Cayo Conejo
  • Cayo Jalovita
  • Cayo Jalova
  • Isla Chiva
  • Cayo Chiva
  • Cayo de Tierra
  • Cayo de Afuera (Cayo Real)

Climate


Vieques has a warm, relatively dry, tropical to sub-tropical climate. Temperatures vary little throughout the year, with average daily maxima ranging from 82 °F (28 °C) in January to 87 °F (31 °C) in July. Average daily minima are about 10 °F (6 °C) lower. Rainfall averages around 45 to 55 inches (1150 to 1400 mm) per year, with the months of May and September–November being the wettest. The west of the island receives significantly more rainfall than the east. Prevailing winds are easterly.

Vieques is prone to tropical storms and at risk from hurricanes from June to November. In 1989 Hurricane Hugo
Hurricane Hugo
Hurricane Hugo was a classical, destructive and rare Cape Verde-type hurricane which struck the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe, Montserrat, St. Croix, Puerto Rico and the USA mainland in South Carolina as a Category 4 hurricane during September of the 1989 Atlantic hurricane season...

 caused considerable damage to the island.

Economy


The sugar industry, once the mainstay of the island's economy, declined during the early decades of the twentieth century, and finally collapsed in the 1940s when the US Navy took over much of the land on which the sugar cane plantations stood. After an initial naval construction phase, opportunities for making a living on the island were largely limited to fishing or subsistence farming on reduced area. Crops grown on the island include avocado
Avocado
The avocado is a tree native to Central Mexico, classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae along with cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel...

s, banana
Banana
Banana is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa and for the fruit they produce. Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red....

s, coconut
Coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

s, grains, papaya
Papaya
The papaya , papaw, or pawpaw is the fruit of the plant Carica papaya, the sole species in the genus Carica of the plant family Caricaceae...

s and sweet potato
Sweet potato
The sweet potato is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the family Convolvulaceae. Its large, starchy, sweet-tasting, tuberous roots are an important root vegetable. The young leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens. Of the approximately 50 genera and more than 1,000 species of...

es. A small number of permanent local jobs were provided by the US Navy. Since the 1970s General Electric
General Electric
General Electric Company , or GE, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation incorporated in Schenectady, New York and headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, United States...

 has employed a few hundred workers at a manufacturing plant. Unemployment was widespread, with consequent social problems. The 2000 US census reported a median household income in 1999 dollars of $9,331 (compared to $41,994 for the USA as a whole), and 35.8% of the population of 16 years and over in the labor force (compared to 63.9% for the USA as a whole).

Like the rest of Puerto Rico, the island's currency is the US dollar.

Following the 2003 departure of the US Navy, efforts have been made to redevelop the island's agricultural economy, to clean up contaminated areas of the former bombing ranges, and to develop Vieques as a tourist destination. The Navy clean up is currently the largest employer on the island, and has contributed over 20 million dollars directly into the local economy over the last 5 years thru salaries, housing, vehicles, taxes, and services. The Navy has provided specialized training to several local islanders ; which they will be able to build a career on after the clean up is over.

Tourism



For sixty years the majority of Vieques was closed off by the US Navy, and the island remained almost entirely undeveloped for tourism. This lack of development is now marketed as a key attraction. Vieques is promoted under an ecotourism
Ecotourism
Ecotourism is a form of tourism visiting fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas, intended as a low impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial tourism...

 banner as a sleepy, unspoiled island of rural "old world" charm and pristine deserted beaches, and is rapidly becoming a popular destination.

Since the Navy's departure, tensions on the island have been low, although land speculation by foreign developers and fears of overdevelopment have caused some resentment among local residents, and there are occasional reports of lingering anti-American sentiment.

The lands previously owned by the Navy have been turned over to the U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Service and the authorities of Puerto Rico and Vieques for management. The immediate bombing range area on the eastern tip of the island suffers from severe contamination, but the remaining areas are mostly open to the public, including many beautiful beaches that were inaccessible to civilian
Civilian
A civilian under international humanitarian law is a person who is not a member of his or her country's armed forces or other militia. Civilians are distinct from combatants. They are afforded a degree of legal protection from the effects of war and military occupation...

s while the military was conducting training maneuvers.

Snorkeling is excellent, especially at Blue Beach (Bahía de la Chiva). Aside from archeological sites, such as La Hueca, and deserted beaches, a unique feature of Vieques is the presence of two pristine bioluminescent
Bioluminescence
Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. Its name is a hybrid word, originating from the Greek bios for "living" and the Latin lumen "light". Bioluminescence is a naturally occurring form of chemiluminescence where energy is released by a chemical reaction in...

 bays, including Mosquito Bay. Vieques is also famous for its feral horse
Feral horse
A feral horse is a free-roaming horse of domesticated ancestry. As such, a feral horse is not a wild animal in the sense of an animal without domesticated ancestors. However, some populations of feral horses are managed as wildlife, and these horses often are popularly called "wild" horses...

s, which roam free over parts of the island. These are descended from stock originally brought by European colonisers.

In 2011, TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor.com is a travel website that assists customers in gathering travel information, posting reviews and opinions of travel-related content and engaging in interactive travel forums. It is part of the TripAdvisor Media Group, operated by Expedia, Inc. TripAdvisor is a pioneer of...

 listed Vieques among the Top 25 Beaches in the World, writing "If you prefer your beaches without the accompanying commercial developments, Isla de Vieques is your tanning turf, with more than 40 beaches and not one traffic light."

Landmarks and places of interest


  • Fortín Conde de Mirasol
    Fuerte de Vieques
    Fuerte de Vieques, also known as El Fortin Conde de Mirasol, is a fort built in 1845 located in the town of Isabel Segunda in Vieques, an island municipality of Puerto Rico. In 1991, the fort was restored by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture...

     (Count Mirasol Fort), a fort built by the Spanish in the mid 19th century, now a museum
  • Playa Esperanza (Esperanza Beach)
  • The tomb of Le Guillou, the town founder, in Isabel Segunda
  • La Casa Alcaldía (City Hall)
  • Faro Punta Mulas
    Punta Mulas Light
    Punta Mulas Light, also known as Faro de Vieques, is a historic lighthouse located in the west shore of Vieques, an island-municipality of Puerto Rico. It was first lit in 1896 and automated in 1949. Punta Mulas Light was the second lighthouse built on Vieques after the Puerto Ferro Light. The...

    , built in 1896
  • Faro de Puerto Ferro
    Puerto Ferro Light
    Puerto Ferro Light, also known as Faro de Puerto Ferro, is a historic lighthouse located in the Vieques, Puerto Rico. The light was first lit in 1896. It is one of the last minor or local lights to be built by the Spanish government. The light was of crucial importance to cross the Vieques Passage...

  • Sun Bay Beach
  • The Bioluminescent Bay
  • The 300-year-old ceiba
    Ceiba
    Ceiba is the name of a genus of many species of large trees found in tropical areas, including Mexico, Central America, South America, The Bahamas, Belize and the Caribbean, West Africa, and Southeast Asia...

     tree
  • Rompeolas (Mosquito Pier), renamed Puerto de la Liberdad David Sanes Rodríguez
    David Sanes
    David Sanes Rodríguez was a native of Vieques, Puerto Rico whose death became a rallying point for those opposed to the U.S. military presence on and use of his home island for live-fire bombing practice...

     in 2003
  • Puerto Ferro Archaeological Site
  • Black Sand Beach
  • Hacienda Playa Grande (Old Sugarcane Plantation Building)
  • Underground U.S. Navy Bunkers
  • Wreckage of the World War II Navy Destroyer USS Killen (DD593)

Bioluminescent Bay


The Bioluminescent Bay (also known as Puerto Mosquito, Mosquito Bay, or "The Bio Bay"), is perhaps the world's largest and brightest. The luminescence is caused by micro-organisms (dinoflagellates) which glow whenever the water is disturbed, leaving a trail of neon blue. A combination of factors create the necessary conditions for bioluminescence: red mangrove
Rhizophora mangle
Rhizophora mangle, known as the red mangrove, is distributed in estuarine ecosystems throughout the tropics. Its viviparous "seeds," in actuality called propagules, become fully mature plants before dropping off the parent tree...

 trees surround the water (the organisms feed off the dead leaves); a complete lack of modern development around the bay; the water is cool enough and deep enough; and a small channel to the ocean keeps the dinoflagellate
Dinoflagellate
The dinoflagellates are a large group of flagellate protists. Most are marine plankton, but they are common in fresh water habitats as well. Their populations are distributed depending on temperature, salinity, or depth...

s in the bay. This small channel is the result of Spanish ships' attempts to choke off the bay from the ocean's waters. The Spanish believed that the bioluminescence they first encountered was the work of the Devil
Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

 ('El Diablo') and tried to block the ocean's waters from entering the bay by dropping huge boulders in the channel. The Spanish only succeeded in preserving and increasing the luminescence. Kayaking is permitted in the bay and can be arranged through local vendors. Swimming is allowed on limited basis through guided tours.

Festivals and events


  • Festival de los Reyes Magos (Epiphany Festival) – January 6
  • Via Crucis (Passion Play
    Passion play
    A Passion play is a dramatic presentation depicting the Passion of Jesus Christ: his trial, suffering and death. It is a traditional part of Lent in several Christian denominations, particularly in Catholic tradition....

    ) – Holy Week
  • Festival Cultural Viequense (Vieques Cultural Festival) – March/April
  • Fiestas Patronales (Traditional Town Festivities) – July
  • Puerto Rico International Film Festival Vieques (Annual International Film Festival) – June
  • Trova Navideña (Christmas Troubador Night) – December
  • Festival Navideño (Christmas Festival) – December–January

Demographics


According to the 2000 US census, the total population of
Vieques was 9,106. 97.4% of the population are Hispanic or Latino (of any
race).
Natives of Vieques are known as Viequenses.
Race (self-defined)
Vieques Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

 - 2000 Census
Race Population % of Total
White
White people
White people is a term which usually refers to human beings characterized, at least in part, by the light pigmentation of their skin...

6,621 72.7%
Black/African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

1,256 13.8%
American Indian
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 
and Alaska Native
69 0.4%
Asian
Asian people
Asian people or Asiatic people is a term with multiple meanings that refers to people who descend from a portion of Asia's population.- Central Asia :...

52 0.6%
Native Hawaiian
Pacific Islander
Pacific Islander
Pacific Islander , is a geographic term to describe the indigenous inhabitants of any of the three major sub-regions of Oceania: Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, these three regions, together with their islands consist of:Polynesia:...

0 0%
Some other race 799 8.8%
Two or more races 309 3.4%

Language


Both Spanish and English are recognized as official languages. Spanish is the primary language of most inhabitants.

Transportation


Vieques is served by Antonio Rivera Rodríguez Airport
Antonio Rivera Rodríguez Airport
Antonio Rivera Rodríguez Airport is a small commercial air facility on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Because a large amount of Vieques' yearly revenue comes from the tourism industry, this small airport plays an important part in Vieques' economic outlook.The airport has been for decades the...

, which currently accommodates only small propeller driven aircraft. Services to the island run from San Juan
San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan , officially Municipio de la Ciudad Capital San Juan Bautista , is the capital and most populous municipality in Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 395,326 making it the 46th-largest city under the jurisdiction of...

's Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport
Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport
Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is a joint civil-military public airport located in Carolina, Puerto Rico, three miles southeast of San Juan. Over 4 million passengers board a plane at the airport per year according to FAA reports . It is owned and managed by the Puerto Rico Ports...

, Ceiba Airport or Isla Grande Airport
Fernando Luis Ribas Dominicci Airport
-Accidents and incidents:*On April 11, 1952 Pan Am Flight 526A crashed into the sea just after take off due to engine failure, killing 52 out of 69 passengers and crew....

 (20-30 minute flight). Flights are also available between Vieques and Saint Croix
Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Saint Croix is an island in the Caribbean Sea, and a county and constituent district of the United States Virgin Islands , an unincorporated territory of the United States. Formerly the Danish West Indies, they were sold to the United States by Denmark in the Treaty of the Danish West Indies of...

 and Saint Thomas
Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Saint Thomas is an island in the Caribbean Sea and with the islands of Saint John, Saint Croix, and Water Island a county and constituent district of the United States Virgin Islands , an unincorporated territory of the United States. Located on the island is the territorial capital and port of...

.

A ferry runs from Fajardo
Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Fajardo is a small city in Puerto Rico located in the east region of the island, bordering the Atlantic Ocean, north of Ceiba and east of Luquillo.Fajardo is spread over 7 wards and Downtown Fajardo , which serves as the administrative center of the city...

 several times a day.

Public health


There have been claims linking Vieques' higher cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

 rate to the long history of US weapons testing on the island, especially after the US Navy admitted using depleted uranium
Depleted uranium
Depleted uranium is uranium with a lower content of the fissile isotope U-235 than natural uranium . Uses of DU take advantage of its very high density of 19.1 g/cm3...

 at least on one occasion in 1999. Dr. Nayda Figueroa, an epidemiologist for Puerto Rico's Cancer Registry, claimed that research showed Vieques' cancer rate (latest available is for 1995 to 1999) was 31 percent higher than for the main island. Dr. Michael Thun, head of epidemiological research at the American Cancer Society, cautioned that the variations in the rates could be attributed to chance, given the small population on Vieques. A 2000 Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is an independent agency of the United States government that was established by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 from the United States Atomic Energy Commission, and was first opened January 19, 1975...

 (NRC) report concluded that "the public had not been exposed to depleted uranium contamination above normal background (naturally occurring) levels".

However, surveys of the wreckage of a target ship in a shallow bay at the bombing range revealed its identity to be that of the , a target ship in nuclear tests in the Pacific in 1958. By 2002, it was evident that thousands of tons of steel that had originally been irradiated in the 1958 nuclear tests was missing from the wreckage in the bay. That steel has been missing for over 35 years and is still unaccounted for by the US Navy, Environmental Protection Agency
United States Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged with protecting human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress...

 and US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is a federal public health agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The agency focuses on minimizing human health risks associated with exposure to hazardous substances...

 (ATSDR). Hundreds of steel drums of unknown origin were found among the wreckage. Their identity and contents have not been adequately verified.

In response to concerns about potential contamination from toxic metals and other chemicals, the ATSDR conducted a number of surveys in 1999–2002 to test Vieques' soil, water supply, air, fish and shellfish for harmful substances. The general conclusion of the ATSDR survey was that no public health hazard existed as a result of the Navy's activities. However, scientists have pointed out that fish samples were drawn from local markets, which often import fish from outside. Also sample sizes from each location were too small to provide compelling evidence for the lack of a public health danger (Wargo, Green Intelligence). The conclusions of the ATSDR report have more recently, as of 2009, been questioned and discredited. A review is underway.

Casa Pueblo, a Puerto Rican environmental group, reports a study of the flora and fauna of Vieques that "clearly demonstrates sequestration of high levels of toxic elements in plant and animal tissue samples", and that ", the ecological food web of the Vieques Island has been adversely impacted."

Nevertheless, the alleged risks should not pose a problem for tourists visiting the beaches currently open and deemed safe to the public, including Sun Bay, Red Beach, Blue Beach, Garcia beach, Silver Beach, Navia Beach and many more.

Notable natives and residents

  • Jaime Benitez Rexach, educator, politician and humanist
  • Juan Francisco Luis
    Juan Francisco Luis
    Juan Francisco Luis was a U.S. Virgin Island politician who served as the third elected Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the territory's 23rd Governor overall. Luis assumed the governorship on January 2, 1978, succeeding Governor Cyril King, who died in office...

    , Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands (1978–1987)
  • Esther Mari, television and film actress
  • Germán Rieckehoff Sampayo
    German Rieckehoff
    Germán Rieckehoff , was a President of the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee.-Early years:Rieckehoff, , born in Vieques, Puerto Rico. He was raised in a homestead owned by his parents...

    , a renowned president of the Puerto Rican Olympic committee.
  • Rafael Rivera Castaño, physician and Public Health pioneer
  • Carlos Vélez Rieckehoff
    Carlos Vélez Rieckehoff
    Carlos Vélez Rieckehoff , was the President of the New York chapter of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party in the 1930s. In the 1990s Rieckehoff was among the protesters who protested against the United States Navy's use of his birth place, the island of Vieques, as a bombing range. He stood in...

    , local nationalist leader and political activist.
  • Carla Tricoli Rodríguez, Miss Puerto Rico Universe 2005
  • Raymond Serrano, ballet dancer

See also


  • United States Navy in Vieques, Puerto Rico
    United States Navy in Vieques, Puerto Rico
    The United States Navy used Vieques, Puerto Rico for naval training and testing from 1941 to May 1, 2003.Some current studies show drastic increases in health problems which may or may not be related to toxic materials left on Vieques from the Navy’s occupation. The people of Vieques demand the U.S...

  • List of Vieques birds
  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Vieques
  • Spanish Virgin Islands
    Spanish Virgin Islands
    The Spanish Virgin Islands, formerly called the Passage Islands and also known as the Puerto Rican Virgin Islands, are part of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, located east of the main island of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican tourist literature uses the name Spanish Virgin Islands, but most general...

  • Kahoolawe
    Kahoolawe
    Kahoolawe is the smallest of the eight main volcanic islands in the Hawaiian Islands. Kahoolawe is located about seven miles southwest of Maui and also southeast of Lanai, and it is long by wide, with a total land area of . The highest point on Kahoolawe is the crater of Lua Makika at the...

  • Vieques National Wildlife Refuge
    Vieques National Wildlife Refuge
    The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is a National Wildlife Refuge on the island of Vieques in the Puerto Rico archipelago. It is part of the Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex....

  • Culebra, Puerto Rico
    Culebra, Puerto Rico
    Isla Culebra is an island-municipality of Puerto Rico originally called Isla Pasaje and Isla de San Ildefonso. It is located approximately east of the Puerto Rican mainland, west of St. Thomas and north of Vieques. Culebra is spread over 5 wards and Culebra Pueblo...


External links