Christopher Columbus arrived in Puerto Rico in 1493, forcing the prior Native American residents into slavery. And in the early 1800s, the governor of Puerto Rico sent militia to overtake the people of Vieques. The island was visited by Simon Bolivar in 1816. The recognized founder of Vieques, Teofilo Le Guillou, arrived in 1823. A French landowner, he attracted many other planters from Guadeloupe and Martinique who were allowed to settle in the colonies—with their slaves. By the mid-19th century, thousands of Black immigrants, both enslaved and free, were working on the sugar cane plantations. During the 1940s, the United States military took over more than half of the land on Vieques, forcing thousands of residents to flee to the main island of Puerto Rico, and to Saint Croix.   The military used the land to test new weapons, and after many years of hardship for the local residents, began to evacuate in 2003.   Today, tourism is steadily increasing and the Navy land has been turned over to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the local governments.