Which may be about to happen. In late December of 2011, Puerto Rico’s governor Luis Fortuno signed legislation authorizing a referendum on statehood to be held on November 6, 2012— the same day as the U.S. presidential election—along with the regular Puerto Rican legislative and gubernatorial elections.
That referendum could lead to Puerto Rico’s becoming the 51st state.
A lot of people think that’s great, or at least they say that. The Democrats stand to get two more Senators, and several more congressional representatives and Electoral College votes, so why would they object?
But before making Puerto Rico the 51st state, shouldn’t we examine the issue and see how sensible it is? If Puerto Rico votes for statehood, are we duty-bound to grant it?
Shouldn’t Americans have a say in whether or not Puerto Rico becomes a state? And would it really be good for Puerto Rico itself, in the long run?
Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean, east of the island of Hispaniola. It has a land area of 3,515 square miles, which is bigger than Rhode Island but smaller than Connecticut. Its population is 3.7 million on the island, but there are about 4.6 million Puerto Ricans living in the mainland U.S.A. (Puerto Ricans are technically U.S. citizens and thus immigration laws don’t apply to them).
Puerto Rico is a distinct society. The island has been a U.S. territory since 1898 (!) but it hasn’t been assimilated. Attempts to make it an English-speaking society have failed—and that was before the current era of “multiculturalism” and despite the fact that Puerto Rico isn’t too far from the mainland.
Puerto Rico is an island, and that’s significant. By its very nature, island dwellers have an island mentality. They are geographically differentiated from those who don’t dwell on their island.
Moreover, Puerto Rico is a Spanish-speaking society. Puerto Rican Spanish is considered a form of Caribbean Spanish and is rather distinct from Standard Mexican Spanish. So Puerto Rico’s language differentiates it from the traditional English-language culture of the United States, and even from the Mexican culture of the majority of today’s Hispanics in the U.S.
Puerto Rico also uses the Spanish dual surname system, unlike our English surname system.
Christmas (Navidad) is quite a festive occasion, and the Puerto Ricans have a special way of celebrating it from November to January.
Puerto Rico has a number of endemic plant and animal species, including a bird called the Puerto Rican Amazon and the Coqui frogs.
The island sends a Miss Puerto Rico to such beauty competitions as Miss World and Miss Universe. A Miss Puerto Rico has won the Miss Universe pageant five times.
In international competitions such as the Olympics and the Pan American games, Puerto Rican athletes form their own team and compete under the Puerto Rican flag, not as part of the U.S. team.
And Puerto Ricans prefer it that way.
If it became a state, what would happen?
Puerto Rico is a self-governing entity. It has its own governor, legislature, and court system. This political activity is carried out in Spanish.
The island is organized in the Spanish territorial division known as the municipio rather than the English-style county as in the United States.
To put it in a nutshell, Puerto Ricans are a distinct people and consider themselves a distinct people. It’s in their land, it’s in the society, it’s in their hearts. They are Puerto Ricans, and they feel it.
Entering the U.S. union as a state is wrong for Puerto Rico—and it is wrong for the United States.
Don’t let the island’s small size fool you. If Puerto Rico becomes a state, it will be a Trojan Horse for the Hispanicization of the United States.
Some might say, what’s the big deal? There are many more Mexicans in the United States than Puerto Ricans.
That’s true, and mass Mexican immigration, and the way it is handled is indeed a cultural threat to the United States.
But this situation is different.
Puerto Rico is already a self-governing, officially Spanish-speaking entity. Is the Puerto Rican legislature immediately going to begin deliberations in English? No, why would they? Deliberating in Spanish works fine for them, and they’re just talking to each other.
How is the sudden existence of a Spanish-speaking state going to affect the relationship between the states?
The U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause (Article IV, Section 1) stipulates that “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State...”
Wouldn’t Puerto Rican statehood immediately create a de jure official bilingualism in the U.S.?
How about the Puerto Rican senators and representatives who are elected to the U.S. Congress? Will they all speak English? Will they require translators in the Capitol Building?
Puerto Rican statehood would introduce all sorts of precedents we don’t even understand now. They may be irreversible. In all this happy talk about “self-determination”, are our leaders thinking about this?
Will it even be possible, after Puerto Rican statehood, to enact any sort of Official English legislation?
Just wait until our activist courts start hearing the situations that are likely to arise.
How about more Hispandering by our political candidates?
And not only would Puerto Rican statehood be bad for the U.S., it would be bad for the future of Puerto Rico as a distinct society.
Ironically, there is someone who agrees with me on this. I refer to Luis Gutierrez, a leading Open Borders congressman (F- from Numbers USA) and a Chicago-born Puerto Rican.
A couple of years ago, when the Puerto Rico issue came up in Congress, Katherine Skiba wrote about Luis Gutierrez’ statehood reservations:
Gutierrez, a proponent of independence for Puerto Rico, observed leading up to the House vote that Puerto Ricans rejected statehood in votes in 1967, 1993 and 1998.
In remarks from the House floor, he said he could support statehood if Puerto Rico still could field an Olympic team, keep Spanish as its main language and retain other aspects of its identity.
"Maybe these 4 million American citizens don`t want to become a state because they love their language; because they love their culture; because they love their idiosyncrasies; because they love applauding their Olympic team…because so many Miss Universes come from Puerto Rico," he noted.
Puerto Rican Statehood? No Thanks, Gutierrez Says, By Katherine Skiba, Chicago Tribune, May 2, 2010
Luis Gutierrez was born in Chicago, and his native language is English. Nevertheless, that Puerto Rican identity is so strong that he doesn’t want Puerto Rican statehood to take away the distinctive nature of Puerto Rican identity.
Of course, Gutierrez, like many Puerto Ricans, wants to have his cake and eat it too. But should Americans put up with that?
Some might argue against Puerto Rican independence because of Puerto Rico’s small size. But most countries aren’t anywhere near the size of the United States and they can still function as independent countries—especially if they have a common culture.
Puerto Rico is larger than either the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg or the Principality of Liechtenstein in Europe, the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, or the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. (That last country, by the way, is a former U.S. territory, granted independence in 1986.)
In the Caribbean, Puerto Rico’s actual neighborhood, it would automatically be the fifth-largest country, bigger than Dominica, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada, all independent countries.
What about the argument that possession of Puerto Rico is necessary for U.S. strategic interests in the Caribbean?
I’m sympathetic to this argument because I agree we need to keep the peace in the Caribbean. The U.S. Navy needs a presence in the Caribbean and needs to patrol it. We have to watch out for infiltration by unfriendly elements, including pirates, who have infested other areas of the world, including our own hemisphere.
If necessary, we could negotiate port privileges with an independent Puerto Rico, just as we do with other countries throughout the globe.
Besides, we still have Guantanamo, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and of course Florida and the Keys. Plus, the Caribbean is very close so I think we can still patrol the Caribbean without having Puerto Rico as a territory.
Puerto Rico could be given its independence, and there is no real reason why we shouldn’t do so. Congress should pass an independence resolution and start working out the details.
An orderly transition period would be necessary. We want to be fair about it. After all, Puerto Ricans have been under our authority longer than any of us has been alive, so we have many links and shared experiences.
In the U.S. military, Puerto Ricans have provided honorable and distinguished service, and we should honor that. During my tour in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard, we did a convoy with soldiers of the Puerto Rico National Guard. We were all in it together, and we arrived safely to our destination.
Obviously, there are going to be some tough calls to make. The transition period would deal with such issues as the disposition of federal property and applicable government programs. Puerto Rican veterans and those who paid into Social Security should receive their just due.
The biggest issue to deal with is citizenship, because many Puerto Ricans are likely going to want to retain U.S. citizenship. There ought to be ways to deal with this during the transitional period.
In fact, we can use this to deal with the entire issue of citizenship. We now have millions of dual citizens. Is this going to continue? Our current citizenship system is confusing and contradictory and needs to be regularized and made to support American sovereignty. A Puerto Rican independence transition period would be an opportunity for such reform.
Puerto Rican independence is in the best interests of both the United States and Puerto Rico. The island can finally take its place as a free and independent nation of Latin America.
Allow me to close with the words of Ruben Berrios, leader of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, who sees these issues very clearly. In his document entitled Un Mapa Para La Ruta , Berrios writes:
El problema de Puerto Rico no es un problema de negación del derecho al voto, o de derechos civiles, es un problema de derechos nacionales; del derecho inalienable de una nación a gobernarse a si misma.
“The problem of Puerto Rico is not a problem of the denial of the right to vote, or of civil rights. It is a problem of national rights, of the inalienable right of a nation to govern itself.”
I like that—“national rights”. It applies both to Puerto Rico—and to the United States of America.
¡VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!
American citizen Allan Wall (email him) moved back to the U.S.A. after many years residing in Mexico. 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.