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Puerto Rico is tired of being Puerto Rico

Pres. Barack Obama speaks during a welcome ceremony in a hangar at Muñiz Air National Guard Base in San Juan on June 14, 2011. Photo by Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned march on Washington?

“New Progressive Rep. José Aponte opined Sunday that the United States hasn’t felt pressure to grant statehood to Puerto Rico and that he will begin initiatives in Washington with that firm objective.

Aponte announced that he will lead a march on Congress on March 2, as well as on the White House, to ‘commemorate the American citizenship (of Puerto Ricans) and demand equality,’ following the message by voters in the plebiscite conducted on November 6.

According to Aponte, the history of the United States ‘is clear and the fact is [the United States] responds to situations of pressure,’ so it is important to intensify efforts so that Congress responds and directs actions to recognize the full annexation of Puerto Rico to the American nation.”

Notwithstanding my independentista leanings, I actually support Rep. Aponte’s planned march on Washington. I don’t support the main goal of the demonstration, of course, but I do support its secondary aim to pressure Congress into taking some action concerning the political status of its largest and oldest colony.

As a supporter of a free and independent Puerto Rico, I don’t view statehood as diametrically opposed to independence. On the contrary, statehood would be exponentially better than the current status of the island and its people, who are Americans in name only. (What other “Americans” do you know that can’t vote for the president and members of Congress?)

The colonial status might offer Puerto Rico certain benefits — Puerto Ricans aren’t required to pay federal income taxes, for one — but the costs of its relationship far outweigh the benefits.

Puerto Ricans pay a tribute to the United States (in the form of other federal taxes), which totaled $3.7 billion in 2009. And while Puerto Ricans are eligible for the Social Security program they pay into, the island doesn’t receive nearly as much in benefits that it would receive were it a state.

This only addresses the issue of economic disparity between mainlanders and islanders. The vast political disparity between the two — that is, Puerto Rico’s inability to vote for its own leaders in the federal government — means that Puerto Ricans enjoy only a drastically diluted version of American citizenship. In fact, calling Puerto Ricans “citizens” of the United States is a cruel farce and commits slander against the word.

Seeing Puerto Rico become the 51 state in the Union after over a century of marginalization and abuse by the same Union would sting, but at least Puerto Ricans would finally be guaranteed their natural rights as human beings and citizens of a republic.

Whether they pressure Congress for statehood or independence, Puerto Ricans must pressure the federal government to do something.

Because, in the end, Puerto Rico being half independent and half state only means it’s neither. And whether it becomes a state or gains independence, I’d much rather say “Puerto Rico was a colony” than say “it is a colony.”

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. Giselle Gonzalez says:

    As a part time resident of Puerto Rico it would be a fantastic benefit for its citizens to become the 51st state. This jewel is quickly becoming a nightmare to live in. The drugs battles are becoming harder and harder to combat, the amount of undocumented persons are becoming a nightmare. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for keeping Puerto Rico’s identity intact end but when you need help you need help there is no way around. It would be a detriment for Puerto Rico it would kill the island. I just hope that ego’s are left out of the equation these are not the 1960’s 70’s these are people’s lives we’re talking about.

  2. Angel says:

    @Veronica I agree with your position on this subject People should look closer at the issues.

  3. Justino says:

    I agree with the fact that the congressman should make a change of the Puerto-Rican status but not by Statehood. These Statehood supporters make me laugh because they try soo hard, and in the end they all fail soo hard. The Congressman will never add PR as a state. I believe its time to bury the Commonwealth Status and give Puerto-Rico Free Association with the United States of America. I dont believe we need to become part of another Republic in order to have equal rights, I believe you can make it all happen.

    Free Association now! Statehood will not happen.

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