The Name of Puerto Rico In 1493, Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colón in Spanish) “discovered” Puerto Rico —that is, arrived on the island during expedition—and claimed it for Spain. A little known fact is that Columbus called the whole island San Juan, in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Puerto Rico (puerto = “port” and rico = “rich”) was the name given to what is known today as the Old San Juan area. It was only later that the names were reversed and the whole island became known as Puerto Rico. Excerpted from www.puertoricodaytrips.com. Read more here.