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People, Principal Cities

chief port, Arecibo, Guaynabo, Bayamon, oldest cities

When Puerto Rico began to industrialize in the 1940s, many people migrated from the countryside to the cities. As a result, the urban population increased dramatically over the following decades. The proportion of the population living in rural areas declined from 70 percent in 1940 to 42 percent in 1970. In 2000, 75 percent of the population lived in urban areas. In 2000 the major cities included San Juan (421,958), Ponce (155,038), Caguas (88,680), Arecibo (49,318), and Mayaguez (78,647).

San Juan, the capital and chief port, is the most important city on the island. Government offices, industries, the University of Puerto Rico, and the majority of tourist hotels and entertainment facilities are concentrated in the San Juan area. San Juan is one of the oldest cities in the western hemisphere, founded in the early 16th century. The many colonial buildings and fortresses found in the old section of the city, known as Old San Juan, preserve the Spanish flavor of the city. The population of San Juan itself has not increased greatly over the past several decades, but tremendous growth has occurred in cities within the San Juan metropolitan area. Major cities in the San Juan metropolitan area include Bayamon (2000 population, 203,499), Carolina (168,164), and Guaynabo (78,806).

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