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San Juan was walled and fortified to house military forces, but the other settlements were neglected until the eighteenth century; isolated by the scarcity of roads, they subsisted on contraband, with little official management. Census projections for 2000 place the population at 3,916,000, not including the estimated 2.7 million Puerto Ricans in the mainland United States.The impenetrable highlands became a refuge in which settlers, runaway slaves, Taínos, and deserters produced a racially mixed population. Almost 70 percent of the island is urban, in contrast to its rural character up to the 1940s.Puerto Rico retains its strategic importance, housing the U. Army Southern Command and other military facilities. Puerto Rico includes the surrounding small islands, including Culebra and Vieques to the east and Mona to the west.Mona is a nature reserve and wildlife refuge under government jurisdiction.
The Taínos, the indigenous people, called the island Boriquén Tierra del alto señor ("Land of the Noble Lord").Beside Mona, the government has established several other nature reserves.There are twenty forest reserves, such as El Yunque Rain Forest and the Caribbean National Forest, which are under federal jurisdiction.In 1508, the Spanish granted settlement rights to Juan Ponce de León, who established a settlement at Caparra and became the first governor.
In 1519 Caparra had to be relocated to a nearby coastal islet with a healthier environment; it was renamed Puerto Rico ("Rich Port") for its harbor, among the world's best natural bays.
The Spanish word huracán originated from the Taíno juracán, the sacred name for this phenomenon.