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[Detail] General view of harbor at San Juan, Porto Rico looking South.

Historical Comprehension: Using Historical Maps

Studying historical maps can provide insights into events in Puerto Rican history. For example, examining maps can help readers understand how Puerto Rico's strategic position in the Caribbean played a role in the history of the island. Look at the Cartographic Items gallery provided with the collection. The "Evening Post Map of Puerto Rico" dates from 1898. Examine the map; identify Puerto Rico and describe its location in as much detail as possible. Why would this location have strategic value for the United States in 1898? Do you think Puerto Rico's location is still important to the United States today? Why or why not?

Study the map below, which shows some important transportation routes in Puerto Rico, published in a 1900 book for young people.

  • Describe the location of the railroads in Puerto Rico in 1900. Why do you think the railroads were located where they were? You may want to compare the map with other maps provided in the Cartographic Items gallery.
  • Describe the location of the military roads in Puerto Rico. How might you explain the location of the military roads?
  • Why do you think military roads were shown on the map rather than other kinds of roads? How might you test your hypothesis?

Search George Glenn King's "Letters of a Volunteer in the Spanish-American War" for discussions of the island's climate and topography. Use maps in the Cartographic Items gallery to trace King's route during the Spanish American War. How did the island's climate and topography affect the movements of troops? The troops' experience as they traveled across the island?