By Dave Hill ’17
On June 11, 2017, the citizens of the Island of Enchantment will go to the polls to vote on their future. Three options are on the table, and it can affect the course of American history. The people of Puerto Rico, whose political party alliances are held based on political status proposals, will decide their own fate.
Puerto Rico, a United States territory since 1898, is home to over three million Americans. An island approximately the size of Connecticut, Puerto Rico sits 1,150 miles from the Florida coast.
Support for statehood has steadily increased through past referendums, with 61% of people voting for statehood. Doubt was cast on this vote, leading to inaction by Congress and the newly-elected Governor of the island, a member of the party opposing statehood, the Popular Democratic Party. With the party supporting statehood, the New Progressive Party, in power following the 2017 election, the time is ripe for a strong push for statehood.
There are several important effects statehood will have on the island: economic, cultural, and political. In my opinion, statehood is necessary for the island.
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has recently filed for bankruptcy. After achieving statehood, the island should be able to find new funding and an economic boom from investors moving to the newly founded state.
Culturally, the island would remain largely unchanged, except those that have already moved to the contiguous 48 states would have a stronger connection to their people. Puerto Ricans would probably become more Americanized in some ways, but, as a United States territory, this has already happened in many ways.
Puerto Rico is widely expected by statehood opponents to be a democratic stronghold, but this is not true in many respects. The island is believed to be 60-40 democratic, and this could result in the island being a swing state in an American election. The people of Puerto Rico would also be able to vote for President in the event of statehood, as well as electing two senators and several representatives.
Those that oppose statehood voice several concerns. One concern is that the culture of Puerto Rico will die and become overly American. As a territory, Puerto Rico already has strong connections to the mainland, and this will not change either way. Another concern is that the proposed state would be too poor economically, hurting the United States. I would argue that its current economic situation is a result of their current political status, and this situation will change with statehood.
June 11 will be a deciding moment in Puerto Rican history, and there is only one smart choice to make. Vote statehood for Puerto Rico.