PRE-1400s. Puerto Rico is inhabited by the Taino Indians.
1493. Christopher Columbus arrives; gold mining begins.
1508. Formal Spanish colonization begins.
1509. Repartimiento begins (a system of using the indigenous population as indentured labor).
1513. Spain brings first African slaves to the island.
1519. Spain establishes a capital at San Juan.
1530. Sugar becomes the most important agricultural product.
1570. Gold mines are depleted by the Spaniards.
1598. The British Navy conquers Spanish forces and holds the island for several months. Ginger emerges as the primary cash crop.
1810s-1820s. Liberal Party gains more political support; the island gains experience in self-government.
1897. Spain gives Puerto Rico powers of self-government.
1898. Spain cedes Puerto Rico to the United States after the Spanish-American War.
1917. United States grants Puerto Rico partial self-government powers.
1930s. Political parties organize around statehood/independence issue, a debate that continues into the 21st century.
1940. Overpopulation becomes a serious problem.
1946. The first native governor, Jesus T. Piñero, is appointed by the United States.
1952. Puerto Rico becomes a U.S. commonwealth under a constitution following the U.S. model.
1950s. Operation Bootstrap shifts economic priorities from agriculture to labor-intensive manufacturing industries.
1967. Commonwealth status is approved in a plebiscite, the first time Puerto Ricans vote for the status of their own island.
1987-97. Imports and exports double in value.
1992. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is signed by the countries of North America, encouraging more trade between Puerto Rico and Canada and Mexico.
1993. Commonwealth status is approved by a very narrow margin over statehood in a controversial plebiscite boycotted by many voters.
1994. The Foreign Trade Board is established to promote foreign business and investment.