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Why statehood? Why now? That is the Boricua question.

Associated Press, Ricardo Arduengo

There has been much talk regarding the transparency of the non-binding referendum held on Nov. 6 of this year in Puerto Rico. Most recently, the singer and actor Ricky Martin suggested the last referendum election doesn’t reflect public sentiment. This statement comes as no surprise considering 54 percent of the population voted against Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP) leader Luis Fortuño, a statehood supporter.

According to Puerto Rico Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock, the economic downturn in the island and a shrinking population is to be blamed for the residents support for statehood. Nevertheless, it seems as though the presence of drug cartels and overwhelming wave of violence are contributing to the support for statehood. This support comes at a time when Puerto Ricans are questioning the island’s border relationship with the United States.

As a commonwealth, Boricuas are to share a common defense, market, and currency with the United States. But when the island receives a disproportionately low share of federal agents and money, even as its murder rate has climbed to six times the national average, in favor of a heavy focus on the Mexican border and southern Florida, the island’s security (or lack thereof) is suspect. Today, it’s impossible to open a local newspaper or turn on the radio without news about the sheer volume of crime in the country. Puerto Ricans are rightfully outraged, and it’s become increasingly voiced among the community how statehood will represent a ceasefire.

Skeptics on the other side of the political spectrum highly doubt that becoming the 51st state will change anything in the island, mainly because drugs coming out from Colombia and Venezuela are entering Puerto Rico as a stop en route to states like Florida and New York. In a letter to the House Homeland Security subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management, Fortuño wrote, “When American lives are in danger, we have a moral obligation to protect them wherever they may be. I know you share my belief. And I need your commitment to act on this principle.”

Will statehood end the drug war in Puerto Rico? How can statehood benefit the Island on other matters? While these problems may appear to be local in nature, the truth is we are witnessing major economic and violence issues across the globe. Therefore, why would a change in status make things better? Should Puerto Ricans compromise their flag, their anthem, their individuality for some imagined sense of inclusivity? Is it even the right time? Follow me next week as I explore the process and implication of statehood for Puerto Rico.

By Leslie Pesante, contributor

About Being Latino Contributors

Being Latino contributors consists of individuals and partner organizations. They join us in our goal of providing our audience with a communication platform designed to educate, entertain and connect all peoples across the global Latino spectrum. Together we aim to break down barriers and foster unity and empowerment through informative, thought-provoking dialogue and exchanging of ideas. Giving a unified voice to the multitude of communities that identify with the multidimensional culture that is Latino.

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.


  1. Eugenio Gonzalez says:

    Answer this question. Tell the Puerto Rican people about alphabet city lower east side when it used to be the cocaine capital of the world. What happened? We are a state right? So how in the frikin world are you telling Puerto Ricans that by becoming a state would stop drugs? Hmmmmm. There are drugs everywhere in every city of the USA. Why? Simply this, federal agents looking the other way. We are a state so hiw in the frikin world does drugs land here all the time and the violence? HELLOOOOOOOOOO!

  2. Mr. R.G. Morales-Rodriguez says:

    As a first generation Boricua living in the mainland US I have mixed feelings on the current status of “Mi isla del encanto”.. Sounds so poignant doesn’t it? I think that the current situations in Puerto Rico are definitely in need of US support.

    As a Commonwealth P.R. shares many things with the US while still remaining somewhat independently autonomous. It has it’s own constitution, etc. But sadly the issue lies in the fact that the US federal government needs to do more to help fight the drug wars that are ravaging the island, yet nothing is done despite the fact that the crime and death rates have risen exponentially over the last few decades.

    If Puerto Rico were to become a state they would lose the ability to stay as they have, they can lose their anthem, flag, and can, and probably will, ultimately lose their cultural identity. Everyone will have to pay property taxes and, since hardly anyone will be able to do so for long, you will see a mass exodus of people leaving the island with a false sense of hope that things will be better here on the mainland.

    If Puerto Rico were to become an independent nation it will also be a hard hit on the economy and people of the island. The island has no monetary system of its own since it has been dependent on the US Dollar. There are currently no significant resources left on the island for business as most of the agriculture has been severely drained with little to no help on maintaining or replenishing the farmlands. Also there is no real military force in P.R. to maintain order and protect the people from outside forces. Becoming an independent country would make the Island as vulnerable as a pig stuck in barbed wire at the mouth of a vampire bats’ cave. Every corrupt politician will sell himself to the first drug cartel that offers ”protection” to spare their life and anyone caught in between any power struggles of allegiance to any government, cartel, or political figure will be on deaths door.

    Sounds too farfetched? Look at the history of all the other Latin-American countries that have had civil revolution. Many are still suffering the repercussions decades later. (I won’t go too much into that aspect of latino history to stay on topic)

    Since the Jones Act of 1917 Puerto Ricans have been given US citizenship which to this day has given many freedoms to native Puerto Ricans, such as easy travel to and from the Island and the mainland US, travel to US friendly countries with out much of a hassle, etc. Yet even in 1917 the people of PR feared the US only allowed that in order to draft Puerto Rican men to military service, build a military base on the Island, and even today fund and keep control over one of the largest satellite dishes in the world that is in Arecibo, PR. Through out the last century there have been many events that have led up to all of this.

    I’ll be the devil’s advocate and say it how it is. If it’s convenient for the US to be there for their interests, they should be there for the benefit of the entire island. If it’s important protecting the borders of mainland US safe from drug cartels south of the border in Mexico, then what about the ones coming through Puerto Rico, ravaging the land and its people, as it makes it way to the US though the island? What is good for the goose is good for the gander as well.

    However, I feel that any decision that is made in regards to the status of Puerto Rico, is up to the Puerto Ricans themselves. It seems asinine to me that any person who no longer has anything to do with Puerto Rico(and I include my self and my family as well) to have a say in the matter. The Puerto Rican diaspora is well over double the population currently existing on island itself. Most are 3rd, 4th, 5th, even 6th generation American-Puerto Ricans that have no stake in the Islands future, most do not even speak Spanish( y para que sepan yo si hablo español cada dia), and a majority have never even been to the island. It’s a great thing to see that there is still a cultural identity that is passed down in families, the foods, the music, the traditions, the massive parades of Pride in something they have never embraced aside from a flag to say they are something other than just ”latino” as well. But unless any of the diaspora are willing to actually drop their lives, leave everything behind here in the US, and are planning to go back to the island to make things better, they should keep their opinions to themselves and not influence any of the decisions that will take place in the future. A hard notion, I know.

    Please understand that the majority of my family lives in Puerto Rico. It’s only my mother, brother, sister, and me living in the states. We have family on all sides of the political parties back home. But even as first generation’ers in the US we know that we need to stay out of it.(And yes I tell my political family members in office down there this as well.)

    Ultimately it will be up to the people living on the Island of Puerto Rico that will need to decide what their fate will be. As much as it pains me to see the hurt down there, just as I am sure many reading this feel the same way.. Unless we abandon our lives here to ”go back home,” there should be no reason for anyone of us to throw blame around or expect someone to save the day. Nothing is handed to anyone in life on a silver platter. If they want any change THEY will have to be the ones that do it.

  3. yvette hernandez says:

    Quisera que escuchen esto para que dejen de decir que somos unos mantenidos .Gracias por su atencion.

  4. yvette hernandez says:

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