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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.
In 1508, the Spanish granted settlement rights to Juan Ponce de León, who established a settlement at Caparra and became the first governor.
The San Juan metropolitan area extends almost to Fajardo in the east and west to Arecibo.
Ponce in the south and Mayagüez in the west also have become sprawling metropolitan areas.
The contemporary revival of Taíno identity is partially based on the survival of Taíno highland communities.
Although the Spanish introduced slavery to replace a dwindling Taíno labor force, slavery never reached large proportions until the plantation system was fully implemented in the nineteenth century.