Status of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico has been a United States commonwealth since 1902, and with that title comes much controversy and confusion. While Puerto Rico is entitled to many perks that come with being associated with the United States, people that inhabit the small island are considered citizens, since 1917,without being an actual state.
The controversy lies with just that, Puerto Rican’s do not have to pay taxes that Americans do but get funding and social security benefits from the United States. However, many Puerto Rican’s argue that while they are exempt from taxes they are not allowed to vote in many elections, including the presidential elections yet, there are many Puerto Rico residents who are enlisted in the United States army. According to Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of South Florida, “Puerto Rico is part of the US. There are no travel restrictions to other US areas and no customs duties or quotas on shipments between Puerto Rico and the US Mainland. Products manufactured in Puerto Rico are “Made in the USA”. The people of Puerto Rico do not vote in national elections. They are represented in Congress by a Resident Commissioner, who has a voice in the House of Representatives but no vote. Most federal taxes are not levied in Puerto Rico. No federal income tax is collected from island residents on ordinary income, except in cases of Federal employees.”
Abc News reported this quote from GOP candidate Rick Santorum on the statehood of Puerto Rico, “In order to fully integrate into American society, English has to be a language that is spoken here also and spoken universally,” Santorum said.” He also made the mistake several times of calling Puerto Rico a country. This controversy shook up the Hispanic community not only in Puerto Rico but elsewhere. The constitution in fact does not say what language a territory needs to speak to be considered for statehood and according to fellow legislators including Puerto Rico’s governor, Luis Fortuno; it should not be a condition for statehood.
“Puerto Ricans consider themselves Americans, however, they don’t usually call themselves so. They are proud of their individuality and also like to assert their independence. They call themselves Puertorriqueños or Boricuas, as a cultural affirmation. When they say ‘my country’, they are actually referring to Puerto Rico and not the United States. The Puerto Ricans are a blend of Spanish, Taino Indian and African cultures. They don’t consider themselves of any race, but call themselves Puerto Ricans. However, the numbers calling themselves black or American Indians have risen considerably in the last decade.”
Puerto Rico has various pros and cons to becoming an actual state in the Untied States. These include:
In an interview with Puerto Rican native, Irma Rivera, who is a nurse with the Oneida County Office for the Aging in New York State, Rivera said, “I think it’s a good idea for Puerto Rico to become a state, but people don’t want to pay the taxes and with poverty the way it is, people their can’t afford it.” Rivera, who has been living in the United States since 1967 remembered the poor healthcare, high crime, and the need for jobs and education. In the chart shown below one can see the amount of employed people in Puerto Rico is only about one-third of the population and with that the jobs are minimal and don’t require much if any education.
Another view on the statehood of Puerto Rico comes from 23 years old, Melissa Colon, a student who works full-time in Utica, New York. Colon whose parent’s were born in Puerto Rico and moved here for work and better opportunities thinks differently about Puerto Rico’s status. Colon said, “Puerto Rico is a place of it’s own. I think people that live there will lose a sense of who they are if they become “American’s,” she went on to say, “If anyone thinks that Puerto Rican’s especially the amount that live in the United States, are going to change the main language from Spanish to English, they are wrong.” Colon is very passionate about her Puerto Rican culture. On the topic of education Colon agreed that many people in Puerto Rico are under-educated, but she determined it to be a partly because of poverty and partly because “her people” can live off the land and be self-sustained for the most part.
All in all, Puerto Rico is part of the United States and as long as the people that live in the territory do not want to become a state, it most likely will not become one.