Being Latino on Google Plus

A win for independence in Puerto Rico

Photo by Chris Hondros / Getty Images

In March of 1775, the people of Virginia came together to decide whether or not they should separate themselves from the British Crown. Most of the colonials were cautious, to say the least, preferring to wait for King George’s response to the colonies’ most recent plea for reconciliation.

How, they asked, could the colony of Virginia survive without the economic benefits and strong military protection provided by the British Empire?

It was then that Patrick Henry spoke in front of his fellow Virginians: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains? … I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” The people of Virginia quickly prepared for war.

Compare that bit of history to the interesting, glorious and awkward news out of Puerto Rico:

“A slim majority of Puerto Ricans sought to change their ties with the United States and become the 51st U.S. state in a non-binding referendum that would require final approval from Congress.

The two-part referendum asked whether the island wanted to change its 114-year relationship with the United States. Nearly 54 percent, or 922,374 people, sought to change it, while 46 percent, or 786,749 people, favored the status quo. Ninety-six percent of 1,643 precincts were reporting as of early Wednesday.

The second question asked voters to choose from three options, with statehood by far the favorite, garnering 61 percent. Sovereign free association, which would have allowed for more autonomy, received 33 percent, while independence got 5 percent.”

As the title of the CBS News article underscores, the two-part referendum is “non-binding,” meaning Congress — which has supreme authority over the island — can completely ignore the call for statehood.

It seems unlikely that Puerto Rico will become the 51st state in at least the next few decades, anyway, so long as the island remains poor and its people remain Puerto Rican.

While Puerto Ricans can boast the strongest economy in Latin America, their economy pales in comparison to any state in the Union. Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate hovers north of 15 percent, and its per capita income of $15,203 is less than half of that of the poorest state in America, Mississippi. If Puerto Rico were a state, the American people would be embarrassed and appalled by the condition it’s in.

One estimate puts additional federal funds should Puerto Rico become a state at $20 billion a year, an amount few people in Washington are willing to tack onto the budget.

The state of Puerto Rico would also be granted seven members in the U.S. House of Representatives and two U.S. senators, which would also give the island nine electoral votes during president elections — that’s more than most current states wield. The two major parties on the island are both centrist, and their members tend to align themselves with either the Democrats or Republicans.

Yet, the general consensus is that, once Puerto Ricans are granted statehood, they’re likely to vote Democratic like their mainland brethren. And since the Republican Party just soundly lost in the 2012 Electoral College, you can expect them to block the addition of nine more blue votes.

So, in the end, Puerto Ricans did the right thing by voting against the status quo, but the referendum will amount to nothing because, after all, Puerto Rico is a colony. We real Americans own the island, and anything they vote on is merely suggestion.

Ironically enough, the island’s vote for statehood is a victory for the independence movement there. Once Puerto Ricans see that their opinions mean nothing to the imperial government across the water, they’ll shed their silly little dream of statehood and come to the same realization our founders did more than two centuries ago — that self-government is the right of every human being, and that when a government denies proper representation, it is the right of the people to separate themselves from that government.

The status quo is intolerable and the road to statehood is blocked. So there’s only one thing for the people of Puerto Rico to do. I, as an American, and maybe because I’m an American, will support their move toward independence.

About Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.

Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., is the associate editor at Being Latino and a native son of Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. He received a B.A. in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States. While at UIC, he worked first as a staff writer for the Chicago Flame and later became the newspaper's Opinions editor. He contributes to various Chicago-area publications, most notably, the RedEye and Gozamos. He's also a cultural critic for 'LLERO magazine. He has maintained a personal blog since 2007, YoungObservers.blogspot.com, where he discusses topics ranging from political history and philosophy to culture and music.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

Comments

  1. Maricely Burgos Diaz says:

    The article started out great & it became the most idiotic crap I’ve heard. Although I favor independence over the.status quo, I’m well aware, as most of the statehooders, that we r in for a fight & by no means I will that change my mind.

  2. Approximately 26% of Puerto Ricans who voted submitted blank ballets as a form of protest. Statehood only got the majority vote after tabulators dropped all the blank ballets and recalculated the percentages.

    The blank ballet protests were over the fact that the definitions of statehood and commonwealth keep changing with whomever is governor and with each election.

  3. Oh boo hoo its a colony boo hoo. They have the best of both worlds.

  4. I guess so Jorge… If you consider NO REPRESENTATION in goverment the best of some world none of us know about.

  5. “Once Puerto Ricans see that their opinions mean nothing to the imperial government across the water” Obama has said he will honor the vote of the majority there, so not really sure what you mean by that.

  6. While your perspective resonates Mr. Alamo, I believe your piece is somewhat incomplete. You should repost the piece you wrote in June (maybe July), where you engage the issue a bit more comprehensively.

  7. This is a misrepresentation. The status quo is what won. The first question asked if you wanted a change, and roughly half said no: those are votes for the status quo.
    The second question only applied if you had said you wanted a change. Of those that did, about a third said they wanted the status quo but with improvements. A third of a half is a sixth.
    Therefore, the status quo won by a half plus a sixth, that is, TWO THIRDS!
    Two thirds of those who voted for a change said they wanted statehood. Two thirds of a half is a third. Hence, only ONE THIRD voted for statehood.
    A tiny number of people voted for other alternatives.

  8. Maricely Burgos Diaz says:

    Let him b a real American, he just wished he was a real Puertorriquen, so his word would have more validity every time he claims to b Independentista. He’s just another.fool who wants to have a political claim of a.country he has.no plans living in.

  9. 6 more electoral votes for the Democratic Party is all I see…

  10. I’m a little upset with “We real Americans… And I’m a real American…” I’m sorry but unless ur a Native American then sir u ARE NOT a REAL AMERICAN!!! And I as a PUERTO RICAN, born in Ponce & brought here as an infant by my BRONX, NY BORN MOTHER am disgusted with how this article was written!!! According to PR history we were annexed & converted into Americans whether by colonization or by Associado Libre… So before u go claiming yourself to be a REAL AMERICAN get ur head out ur ass & do some damn history lessons along with a Webster’s Dictionary!!! Cabrón!!!

  11. I agree Natasha, PR’s are born American. Unless he’s saying we’re “fake” Americans…lol… which means once again, not quite understanding what he means.

  12. Please. Puerto Ricans will never turn to independence. Ironically, although they voted for statehood, they also voted for a Popular governor (status quo). Islanders fear the great boogieman Castro, and are leery of statehood.

  13. Puerto Ricans do not have full citizenship. Real citizens can vote for the president; real citizens have representation in Congress; real citizens are governed by laws enacted under their consent as members of the general will.

    Plus, an islander’s citizenship can always be revoked by an act of Congress. Puerto Ricans have temporary and partial U.S. citizenship.

    Some of the readers are angry with me. I understand their anger. But they should be angry at the relationship, and at the government that allows it to continue.

  14. Debrose says:

    It’s shame that our country is view in such poor condition. We earn less, but we probably bref need less, cause our weather doesn’t call for seasons clothing change throughout si wé spend less in thos kinds if stuff. Those who don’t have job are probably not looking hard enough what can I say.

  15. Primo Camacho says:

    I was born in Chicago long time ago, my parents moved to Puerto Rico when I was 11 yrs old. I lived by your neighborhood (Humbolt Park off Kedzie Ave). I attended middle, high school and attended Catholic University in Ponce. I am very proud of my Puerto Rican (PR) heritage. I grew up in the PR culture ever since I was born. With that said, I truly believe your comments are way off. In order to fully understand PR and their people, you would have to live there many years and live the life of a Puerto Rican in Puerto Rico. I lived in Chicago, Miami, New York, Boston, San Diego, Hawaii and of course Puerto Rico. I would not change anything about it. If congress decides to give us a chance at statehood – well so be it, but it will not take 20 years to do so. If the people decide to become independent, well, I guess then, I will have to give up my US Passport for a Puerto Rican passport.

Speak Your Mind

*