UPDATE, August 15, 2013: Since I wrote this piece two years ago, my positions have evolved. My latest Boston Globe opinion piece reflects them. Here is the piece: “Free Puerto Rico from political limbo.”
UPDATE, November 8, 2012: I wrote this piece close to two years ago, and I will be planning to write another one to share other reasons why the latest November 6, 2012 plebiscite really doesn’t do anything to the current status debate.
As I begin to cover the island’s next status plebiscite—where Puerto Ricans will once again determine in a non-binding referendum their political future—I wanted to take a minute and provide my reasons for why my homeland will never be welcome as the 51st state of the Union. First, a little history:
- The next plebiscite, which the US House approved last year but the Senate did not, would be the fourth time the colony of the United States, a US territory since 1898, will vote on its political status. In 1967, 60.7% of Puerto Ricans chose Commonwealth or Associated Free State status (established in 1952), while 39% chose statehood, and 0.6% chose independence. The 1967 plebiscite had a voter turnout of 66%. In 1993, 48.6% voted for Commonwealth status, 46.3% for statehood, and 4.4% for independence. The turnout in 1993 was 74%. In 1998, 0.06% chose Commonwealth, 0.59% chose Free Association (think the Cook Island’s relationship with New Zealand), 46.49% chose statehood, 2.54% chose independence, and 50.3% chose NONE OF THE ABOVE. The 1998 turnout was 71%.
- The 1998 results were an anomaly because the pro-Commonwealth party, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) recommended to choose the NONE OF THE ABOVE option to its members as a form of protest since it felt that the criteria set forth by the then ruling pro-statehood party, the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico (PNP) was seen as unjust.
- In 1991, Puerto Ricans voted on constitutional amendment referendum that, if passed, would have added an amendment to the Puerto Rican Constitution that allowed the following points (source): “the inalienable right to freely and democratically determine Puerto Rico’s political status; the right to choose a dignified, non-colonial, non-territorial status not subordinate to plenary powers of Congress; the right to vote for three alternatives; the right that only results with a majority will be considered triumphant in a plebiscite; the right that any status would protect Puerto Rico’s culture, language and identity, and continued independent participation in international sports events; the right that any status guarantees the individual’s right to American citizenship.” The referendum failed, 53% against and 47% in favor.
So now that you have the history of this politically charged debate (it has basically been the respective rallying cry between the PPD and the PNP), I still say this: In today’s America, a place where anti-Latino sentiment towards illegal immigrants and legal citizens has never been stronger, why would Puerto Rico, a proud country with ties to both the United States and Latin America, want to become the 51st state? Even if it did (and the current governor Luis Fortuño is a strong advocate of statehood), the America we know today would never welcome it.
Want proof? Let the videos talk. The first video is a Republican response to the House bill that passed last year that approved the next plebiscite. This video was produced BEFORE the House voted on its passage.
Ok, so you know have the facts, right? No? Then let’s have FOX NEWS’ Glenn Beck explain it to you. These videos were aired on Beck’s radio and TV shows the days before the passage of the House bill.
From his radio show:
Beck takes that radio message (and don’t get me started on its ignorance and misinformation) to his TV show the very same day. Hope you like the blackboards. Here is clip 1:
In clip 2, Beck continues:
So, you got it, class? You have everything you need? Like I tell my pro-statehood family members and friends, Glenn Beck’s America does not care nor does it want Puerto Rico as a state. If it were to become one, Puerto Ricans might as well be illegal immigrants in Arizona.
Kind of makes you long for the days of Ronald Reagan, doesn’t it?
To my fellow Puerto Ricans, stop believing the hype. Yes, we are proud. We are proud to be Puerto Ricans. And we are proud to be American citizens. We have defended the United States in wars since 1917. Yet, now in Glenn Beck’s America, where Tea Parties and Minutemen lead to senseless killings (see Brisenia Flores) and blatant racism, we will not be welcome in the US. Let us choose our own destiny: either free association or independence. The politics of the last 60 years are over in Puerto Rico. It is time to forge a new future that will truly set us free.