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Why does Puerto Rico seem like an island nation, even when it's not?

 (Hector Retamal / AFP/Getty Images)
(Hector Retamal / AFP/Getty Images)

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s catastrophic sweep across Puerto Rico, some on the U.S. mainland were trying to sort out just how American this territory really is.

This past weekend, President Trump insulted many Puerto Ricans by bashing “ingrates” who don’t fully appreciate U.S. rescue and recovery operations, saying on Twitter that they just “want everything to be done for them.”

The logistics, he said, were far more daunting than in Texas and Florida, where, his critics say, the federal response was faster after storms devastated those states in recent weeks.

Trump plans to visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday — nearly two weeks after Maria hammered the island — to survey the damage.

How did Puerto Rico become part of the United States?

The United States acquired Puerto Rico under the treaty that settled the Spanish-American War in 1898. Its main island, which is about 3,500 square miles, is situated between the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands. Two of Puerto Rico’s more than 140 much smaller islands, Vieques and Culebra, are also populated.

When did Puerto Ricans become citizens of the United States?

Under a 1917 federal law, Puerto Ricans are American citizens by birth. They are free to travel within the United States at will. More than 95,000 Puerto Ricans are veterans of the U.S. military, and more than 1,225 have died in combat for the United States, according to the Defense Department.

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