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Puerto Ricans interested in U.S. statehood for first time in history


On Election Day, as Massachusetts voters deliberated on questions about wide ranging issues such as marijuana, euthanasia, and gay marriage, Puerto Ricans considered a different question. Should Puerto Rico become the 51st state? The results of the 2012 referendum are surprising.

Although Puerto Ricans had the opportunity to pursue statehood at four different times in the last 45 years, ballot measures supporting statehood have never received a majority of votes.

This year, almost 54 percent of Puerto Ricans have voted in favor of moving toward statehood or a different relationship with the United States.

Puerto Rico essentially became an American colony in 1989, when the island was removed from Spanish control during the Spanish American War in 1898. Residents were not considered American citizens until 1917.

Even after Puerto Ricans were given citizenship, the island was not granted statehood. With a rural, Spanish-speaking culture, the island is different from the rest of the U.S. and has been given little freedom by Washington.

Throughout the last century, Puerto Rican terrorist groups staged a number of high profile attacks on the U.S. government to express its desire for independence from America.

In a particularly brazen attack, a group of Puerto Rican nationalists attacked Congress in 1954, shooting five congressmen.

Although the violence has ended, the U.S. and Puerto Rico continue to have a strange relationship.

Puerto Ricans pay many federal taxes, with the exception of the federal personal income tax, but are ineligible to vote for the president, a situation that has turned the island into a political backwater in spite of high participation by island voters.

Until President Barack Obama’s visit in 2011, no sitting U.S. president since President John F. Kennedy, in 1961, had visited the island.

President Obama’s visit was motivated by the large number of Puerto Rican voters living on the mainland. Puerto Rico has been hit hard by the global economic meltdown, and the people feel their concerns are increasingly ignored.

Whether Puerto Rico will become a state depends on Congress, the only body that can approve new states. Politicians on both ends of the political spectrum have endorsed the idea of Puerto Rican statehood.

But if the issue comes before Congress, statehood could be blocked by conservatives in the Republican dominated House of Representatives.

With the loss of an election fresh in mind, Republicans may not support the idea of adding almost four million new voters to the mix, especially when those voters will likely support the Democratic Party.

The U.S. may have economic problems, but compared with other countries, its national economy is still thriving. By achieving statehood, the Puerto Rican economy will benefit, and the citizens will gain a say in the national government.

Puerto Rico may soon become a partisan issue, but in the end, if the people of Puerto Rico have spoken then Congress and the president will likely follow their lead. Get ready for a 51st state.

Eamon McCarthy Earls is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at

4 Responses to “Puerto Ricans interested in U.S. statehood for first time in history”
  1. Chuck Correll says:

    If Puerto Ricans vote to become a state instead of just a “pet” of the US, then LET them become a state. The Congress, for what’s it’s worth(nothing) should not even start an argument about it, since they have more important things to actually DO if they get off their duffs and did their job, things would be fine. Betsy Ross would just have to sew one more star on our flag, and in my opinion, better Puerto Rico than Israel ANY day of the week

  2. Mark says:

    If PR petitions Congress for statehood, the GOP would be wise to not stand in the way. While the representatives and senators from PR would likely be Democrats, the GOP needs to stop insulting, and sometimes outright hating Hispanics if they want to survive as a national party. Supporting PR statehood and immigration reform that doesn’t focus on deportation would be a smart way to show Hispanics that the GOP might just have room for them. Now, if the GOP takes the smart way is a different issue.

  3. billz says:

    No chance.

  4. J says:

    I think its important to note that over 30% of people who voted abstained from this question because they were for maintaining Commonwealth Status. If you take those 30% of Puerto Ricans into account, it becomes less than a majority supporting Statehood.

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