The 51st State

What comes to mind when you think of Puerto Rico? For most people, it’s something along the lines of Jennifer Lopez or perhaps even Washington Heights. Puerto Rico is a very interesting place because of its title as a territory of the United States.

Most questions people have about Puerto Rico include why it isn’t a state, how its government works, and if Puerto Ricans are US citizens. Ever since the Spanish-American war ended in 1898, the United States have had control over Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico was taken from the Spanish because its small size made it less protected. In 1917, Puerto Ricans were made citizens of the United States. Now, a hundred years after granting the Puerto Ricans citizenship, Puerto Rico still isn’t a state. Although Puerto Rico is an American territory that has to follow American laws, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in the presidential election.

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In the words of the Welcome to Puerto Rico website, “Puerto Rico is a self-governing commonwealth in association with the United States.” Puerto Rico is governed by a governor, similar to how the states are run. The US federal government controls almost everything except the internal affairs, with a few exceptions. Many Puerto Ricans are happy with the way they’re being governed, but some aren’t. Puerto Ricans have voted on reviewing their stance with the United States. These years include 1967, 1991, 1993, 1998, and 2012.

In 2012, citizens of Puerto Rico voted upon their statehood. There was no question in the vote that Puerto Ricans want to become a state. Unsurprisingly, the act did not go through. Does this mean Puerto Rico could become a state? It doesn’t seem like an event in our near future. A main reason for this is the Republican Party.

According to The Economist, “Adding two Democratic-leaning senators, five representatives and seven presidential electoral votes would be a political nightmare for the GOP.” There are a lots of reasons why Puerto Rico isn’t a state, but racism is the most obvious reason. When Puerto Rico became American territory in 1898 and when Puerto Ricans become citizens in 1917, it didn’t seem a possibility that they could make a state consisting of mainly non-white people. In today’s America, those beliefs still exist. In conclusion, racism is a big part in the situation with Puerto Rico’s statehood, Puerto Ricans are citizens, yet they cannot vote. Puerto Rico is run similar to the government of a state.

The revolution to make Puerto Rico a state is still going on, so we may have a 51st state in our future.