Memo From Middle America | Doesn’t Puerto Rico’s Passionate Support For Its Olympic Team Tell Us Something?

The 2012 London Olympics have ended. I’m hoping that Steve Sailer is writing a big, comprehensive analysis. But meanwhile, look at this:

“It was the first time in Olympic history that Puerto Rico had a real chance at an Olympic medal in track and field….I was sweating. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I was hyperventilating. As Javier crossed the finish line in third place, I started to cry. I was trembling and, while I would have liked for him to place first in order to hear our beautiful [Puerto Rican] national anthem resonate in a packed arena, I was still proud. So proud I couldn’t stop crying. …And seeing my flag being raised during the award ceremony? Priceless….. If this is not Puerto Rico patriotism, I don’t know what it is.”

Thus wrote Maria Laborde, self-described “world citizen, Puerto Rican at heart, on her Latin Abroad website. [Puerto Rico patriotism: The U.S. territory’s dilemma, August 13, 2012] She was watching Puerto Rican Olympic runner Javier Culson win the Bronze Medal in the mens’ 400 meter hurdles.

Slight complication: Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. Puerto Ricans are legally U.S. citizens. And many people (including some Republicans, such as GOP presidential nominee-presumptive Mitt Romney) are pushing to make Puerto Rico our 51st state.

But Puerto Rico has fielded its own Olympic Team since 1948.  It’s not the only non-independent entity that competes: so do three other U.S. dependencies, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands; British dependencies Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands; Aruba, politically part of the Netherlands; the Cook Islands, a New Zealand dependency; and Hong Kong, an autonomous region of China.

All ten teams were grandfathered in when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) changed the rules back in 1995 and decreed that henceforth a country must be an independent, UN-recognized national state to field an Olympic team.

Puerto Rico has had representation in every single Summer Olympics game since 1948—including, significantly, the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, which the U.S. boycotted in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. At that time, the head of the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee was Germán (pronounced Hermán) Rieckehoff, a Puerto Rican nationalist whose brother was a leader in the Puerto Rico Nationalist Party.  Rieckehoff insisted on sending a Puerto Rican team.  

Also significantly, Puerto Ricans are proud of something that didn’t earn a medal: in the 2004 Athens Olympics, the Puerto Rican basketball team  beat the U.S. team 92 to 73—the biggest U.S. basketball defeat in Olympic history.

For the 2012 London Olympics, Puerto Rico had high hopes and fielded 25 athletes. The website of Puerto Rico’s premiere newspaper el Nuevo Día provided extensive coverage. Here is a link to el Nuevo Día’s Olympic section. Here’s a photo of the ceremonial raising of the Puerto Rican flag in the Olympic Village. Here are photos of Puerto Ricans at the airport, welcoming the arrival of prominent Puerto Rican athletes after the Olympics, and here is the report of their triumphal procession with thousands turning out on the streets of San Juan.

Of course, el Nuevo Día concentrated on the Puerto Ricans competing in London. Don’t all countries do this?

Well, that’s the point.

In the end, Puerto Rico won two medals. Besides Javier Culson, Jaime Espinal, born in the Dominican Republic, won a silver in wrestling (men’s freestyle 84 kilograms). In the 2012 medal count, Puerto Rico tied for 63rd place with Estonia, Bulgaria (population 7 million plus), Malaysia (population 30 million), Indonesia (238 million) and Taiwan (23 million).

Overall since 1948, the Puerto Rican Olympic team has won a total of eight medals. Considering Puerto Rico’s size, that’s not bad at all. (See the all-time medal count table here. For Olympic results that take into account population and GDP, click here and here.)

In the interests of good sportsmanship, I salute the Puerto Rican Olympic Team.

But National Question-wise, it says something that Puerto Rico has such a popular Olympic Team, competing under the Puerto Rican flag. If, in the 2016 Olympics, a Puerto Rican athlete wins a gold medal, the national anthem played will be La Borinqueña—not “The Star Spangled Banner”.

 My position: Puerto Rico is a distinct society and should be independent. See my previous articles: ¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre! Free Puerto Rico (And The U.S.) Now! and Dialoguing Puerto Rico’s Destiny with Puerto Ricans .

And the sheer intensity of Puerto Ricans’ support for their team is further evidence that it is utterly foolish to rush into making Puerto Rico our 51st state.

Indeed, if that happens, the International Olympic Committee could seize the opportunity to revoke Puerto Rico’s anomalous teamhood, as it did when the Netherland Antilles was dissolved.

Have the statehood advocates explained this unfortunate possibility to Puerto Ricans?

American citizen Allan Wall (email him) moved back to the U.S.A in 2008, after many years residing in Mexico. Allan's wife is Mexican, and their two sons are bilingual. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here; his News With Views columns are archived here; and his website is here.