We continue the Puerto Rican Plebiscite Seriers with part two of Gil C. Schmidt‘s “Puerto Rico: Never a State” essay. If you are interested in submitting your blog (500 words) for publication, add your comments here expressing your interest and we will run your blog unedited. (NOTE: This three-part column was originally intended for a piece I wrote when I was contributing to Being Latino magazine earlier in 2011, and Schimidt’s response was never published by BL, so we are following up on an invitation we extended to Gil to have it published here).
Puerto Rico: Never a State (Part Two)
By Gil C. Schmidt
Statehood for Puerto Rico is not going to happen for three unimpeachable reasons: 1) Ethnic and economic differences, masked or open, covered in Part One; 2) History has spoken and 3) Under domestic and international law, the ultimate decision is not “theirs”: it’s ours.
History has spoken: Oklahoma, 1907. New Mexico, 1912. Arizona, 1912. Alaska, 1959. Hawaii, 1959.
Puerto Rico has been the property of the U.S. since 1898. Three States were added since the Spanish-American War to form the contiguous 48. The addition of non-contiguous states happened once, for Alaska and Hawaii, 61 years after Puerto Rico became war booty.
To complete the nationalization and permanence of the territorial limits in geopolitical terms, essentially, to make everybody belong to the same government, it made perfect sense to add Oklahoma (in the central portion of the country) and Arizona and New Mexico in the southwest (on the border with Mexico.)
Adding Alaska, a landmass equal to roughly 25% of the entire “lower 48”, and Hawaii, a Pacific sinecure, also made sense, as both were long-held territories where American interests were ripe for development. In the case of Alaska, it turned into federal reserves; in Hawaii, tourism-related development.
So, if Puerto Rico were to ever become a State, it is clear that post-1898 decisions about statehood have shown what the basic criteria are for being invited:
1) Political expediency, i.e., the forging of a potentially stronger geopolitical unit, or…
2) Economic enhancement.
Do we satisfy either or both of them?
Are we being invited?
No and no and no.
By 1959, we were already being plucked by American interests and as they say in my neck of the woods: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? There’s no doubt the U.S. makes tons of money off of Puerto Rico, so statehood is really not an economic enhancement for them and in fact, it is widely portrayed and considered as either a mistake that leads to carrying welfare freeloaders or a bottomless pit of economic rehabilitation expenses. Usually both.
So what about political expediency? Well, check out point #1 above. We’re not Anglo-Saxons. Or Protestants. Or native English speakers. Or descendants of the same parts of Europe that they are. Toss out all that as a unifying factor. We are way south of the border, and unlike Alaska, we are tiny with no natural resources and unlike Hawaii, we don’t occupy a strategic location under U.S. interests. We did in 1940; we didn’t by 1945.
If Puerto Rico–in the eyes of its political owners–were deemed worthy of statehood, it would have been decided between 1912 and 1945, when our economy was nonexistent, the potential for American investment was very high, our strategic location could have been considered vital, our population small enough (and in their eyes, malleable enough) to absorb and the “lower 48” were a unitary done deal. That it didn’t happen then means it isn’t going to happen at all. Ever.
Bio: I lived almost 20 years in the U.S., spanning states from Nebraska to Texas to Mississippi. My appearance and name are those of a White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, the proverbial W.A.S.P. But I was born in Puerto Rico, a fourth-generation Puerto Rican and have lived on the island continuously since 1987. You can find more of my writings about Puerto Rico at Gil The Jenius: http://gilthejenius.blogspot.com