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Puerto Rico Is One Step Closer To Statehood

U.S. senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico has introduced legislation that would ask for a new referendum on Puerto Rican statehood. This is almost identical to a bill put forward by Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in the house, resident commissioner Pedro Pierluisi. The referendum would be and up or down vote asking Puerto Ricans directly if they want to be a state or not. This follows a vote during the 2012 election in which a slim majority of the island’s residents indicated that they were open to changing their relationship with the United States. Heinrich explains that,

“In 2012, 54 percent of Puerto Ricans rejected their current relationship with the United States. We have a responsibility to act on that referendum, and this step is critical in that effort.”

This is a marked change in attitude on the island. Several times in the last hundred years Puerto Ricans have voted to keep their American protectorate status and rejected both statehood and independence. In 1898, when Puerto Rico gained its independence from Spain, it became part of the American commonwealth. They are basically in a limbo status somewhere between statehood and being their own country. Historically this is how Puerto Ricans have…well…maybe not liked it, but preferred it to the alternatives. Many people both on and off the island fear that if Puerto Rico were to become a state it would lose a lot of its unique identity as a Latin American country. After all it would be the only state where most people speak Spanish as their primary language, for example. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and whether or not the island finally pulls the trigger on statehood. I wonder how Republicans in the House will feel about the country gaining another primarily Democratic state?

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