Regarding “Puerto Ricans want equality” (Metro, Dec. 2):
First and foremost, the article is correct in stating that the island of Puerto Rico was seized by the United States from Spain. As such Puerto Rico, by all legal terms, is a “territory” of the United States. Therein lies the crux of all of the issues regarding “equality.”
Secondly, and I believe to complicate matters more, the Congress of the United States unilaterally “imposed” U.S. citizenship on the people of the island in 1917. This action was done without any consideration for or any input from the people living on the island then. It is said, like the article correctly reported, that the imposition of U.S. citizenship was done so the U.S. government could then reach out and enlist young Puerto Rican men in a then-totally segregated military. Nonetheless, the United States needed more men to fight War World I, and so they reached out and made Puerto Ricans U.S. citizens.
Others see the law passed in 1917 as an obvious imperialist move by the United States to eventually fully assimilate the island and its inhabitants. Indeed, throughout most of the early 1900s the education system on the island was controlled by the United States, with a strong push to “Americanizing” the inhabitants of the island. The effort didn’t succeed, as a strong nationalist movement slowly developed on the island, which again, as the article described, led a group of Puerto Ricans to open fire on the members of the House of Representatives, along with the attempt on President Truman’s life.
I state all of the above as a backdrop, although in a very abbreviated form, to the issue of the “equality” that some Puerto Ricans want. Truly, those seeking “equality” are mostly those who have dreamed and advocated statehood for Puerto Rico.
I would argue they have “fixed” their personal “equality” issue by moving to the United States. A true benefit is the privilege Puerto Ricans have, as U.S. citizens, to move anywhere in the United States without having to apply for visas or residency status. Also, a bigger privilege gained is indeed the ability to vote for the president of the United States and be represented by a congressional delegation that is fully vested to represent the collective interests of the people of the state in which they reside.
As to the equality issue for the residents of Puerto Rico, I say:
Statehood will never come to the island as long as its residents are given choices other than statehood and/or dependence.
Statehood will never come as long as residents of the 50 U.S. states feel no urgency and no value to adding a 51st state to the union. The United States is not the “imperialist” nation it was in the late 1800s through the 1990s. No one is making the case for Puerto Rico at the grassroots level beyond Florida (Orlando and Miami), and New York City and Chicago. We talk among ourselves and with a few local politicians who throw us political bones to keep us in tow for political purposes.
Statehood will never come because the United States is becoming more of a debtor nation, with the additional, yet-to-be understood cost of the Affordable Care Act. I see no way this nation will anytime soon add a 51st state that will cost the U.S. treasury more dollars to support.
In fact, when you take into account members of the status quo party, the majority of the politicians on the island consider themselves Democrats. Therefore, as along as the Republicans control the House, or both chambers or the presidency, they will oppose any bill presented regarding statehood for Puerto Rico.
As to the “equality” issue, I found that it is all in the state of mind. I live and work in the United States. I pay taxes and participate in all of the privileges and protection afforded to me by the U.S. Constitution. I am satisfied. I visit my family on the island frequently and participate in their political discussions while eating a great lechon asado (roasted pig) or playing dominoes, and I tell them: They will have to move to the states to fulfill their dreams of being able to vote for the president of the United States because statehood will not happen in our lifetime and perhaps never.
Angel E. Cintron lives in Tampa. He is retired from the U.S. Army and holds a master of science degree in economics.