Spanish Virgin Islands
|Spanish: Islas Vírgenes de Puerto Rico / Islas Vírgenes Españolas|
|Adjacent bodies of water||Caribbean Sea|
|Area||165.1 km2 (63.7 sq mi)|
|Municipality||Culebra and Vieques|
|Largest settlement||Isabel II barrio-pueblo (pop. 1,459)|
|Pop. density||67.35/km2 (174.44/sq mi)|
The Spanish Virgin Islands (Spanish: Islas Vírgenes Españolas), formerly called the Passage Islands (Spanish: Islas del Pasaje) and also known as the Puerto Rican Virgin Islands (Spanish: Islas Vírgenes de Puerto Rico, Islas Vírgenes Puertorriqueñas), primarily consisting of the islands of Culebra and Vieques, are part of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and are located east of the main island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.
Archaeological works in Vieques, indicate that the island of Vieques was inhabited by indigenous groups from South America around 1,500 years before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493. The inhabitants of Vieques, brothers of the Tainos of the Big Island of Puerto Rico, resisted the plans of colonization and slavery of the Spaniards.
It has been documented that Christopher Columbus discovered the Island of Culebra on his second trip to America in 1493. It is believed that the first inhabitants of the island were the Taino Indians and then the Caribs. Culebra Island served as a refuge for many defeated Taino Indians during the rebellion against the Spanish in 1511.
English from the neighboring British colonies of Vieques -Tortola, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis- were established in Vieques on several occasions throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1688 and later in 1717, these English tried to colonize Vieques, establishing hamlets, a military fort, an English government and extensive farming. In both cases the Spanish Governor in Puerto Rico sent strong military expeditions and successfully evicted the English "invaders" and thus assured the Spanish domination over Vieques.
In 1875, the Spanish Crown made an effort to populate the island of Culebra. But it wasn't until 1880 that the colonization of Culebra began with the founding of town of San Idelfonso de la Culebra.
Like Puerto Rico, the islands belonged to Spain until 1898. On September 19, 1898, the United States took possession of the islands after the signing of the armistice that ended military operations in the Spanish-American war. The islands, along with the islands of Puerto Rico, Mona, Monito, Desecheo, and other smaller islands adjacent to the island of Puerto Rico, were formally ceded by Spain to the United States with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898.
In 1903 the U.S. government reserved all public lands belonging to the Spanish Crown on the island of Culebra for the use of the U.S. Navy. At that time the U.S. military took complete control of the community of San Ildefonso de la Culebra, expelling its residents and huddled in a small area of Bahia Sardinas which they called Dewey in honor of an outstanding American general during the Spanish-American War.
On March 17, 1941, Public Law 13 was passed in Washington, allocating $35 million for the construction of the Vieques Base. On August 25 of the same year, Public Law 247 allowed the U.S. Navy to take immediate possession of the lands to be expropriated in Vieques. Thus began the process of military expropriation that left the Navy in control of 26,000 of the 33,000 acres of Vieques territory by the end of the forty.
With the outbreak of World War II, the Culebra island was became the main artillery and bombing practice area for the Navy of War the United States of America and continued to be used for this purpose until 1975.
Puerto Rican tourist literature uses the name Spanish Virgin Islands, but most general maps and atlases do not treat these islands as part of the Virgin Islands archipelago. They are mostly referred to as "Islas Municipio" with Vieques being called "Isla Nena". As part of Puerto Rico, the Spanish Virgin Islands have been controlled by the United States since the Spanish-American War in 1898, and up until then belonged to Spain. Spanish remains the predominant language, although English is also common.
The principal islands of the group are Culebra and Vieques, with multiple associated smaller islands and islets. Other islands that are close to the shore of Puerto Rico include: Icacos Island, Cayo Lobo, Cayo Diablo, Palomino Island, Palominito Island, Isla de Ramos, Isla Pineiro, Cayo Lobo. Near Culebra there is Cayo Luis Peña.
Culebra's smaller island, Cayo Norte, is part of Culebra National Wildlife Refuge. Much of Vieques is part of Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, formerly a U.S. Navy facility. Culebra is characterized by an irregular topography resulting in an intricate coastline. The island is approximately 11 by 8 kilometers. The coast is marked by cliffs, coral sand beaches and mangroves. The highest elevation on the island is Mount Resaca at about 190 meters (623 feet). Its hydrography is based on lagoons (Laguna Flamenco, Laguna Zoní, Laguna de Cornelio, Laguna de Molino, among others), bays (Ensenada Honda [within the same: Ensenada del Coronel, Ensenada Fulladoza, Ensenada del Cementerio, Ensenada Dákity, Bahía Mosquito and Ensenada Malena], Puerto Manglar, Bahía de Tamarindo, among others) and small creeks.
- Noticias aliadas (in Spanish). Noticias Aliadas. 2000.
- Américas (in Spanish). Organization of American States, General Secretariat. 2001.
- Howorth, Michael (January 1999). "For the Beauty of It". Yachting. p. 44. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
- "Grave la flota que sirve a las islas municipio". El Nuevo Dia (in Spanish). August 25, 2019.
- "Directorio de Municipios de Puerto Rico". PR GOV (in Spanish).
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. "Culebra National Wildlife Refuge" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 14, 2006. Retrieved March 7, 2007.
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. "Vieques National Wildlife Refuge" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 4, 2006. Retrieved March 7, 2007.
- Official website of the Government of Puerto Rico (in Spanish)