Law and Politics

Start Free Trial

Should Puerto Rico become a state?

Please include sources.  I am hoping for a variety of arguments and sources on both sides.  Thanks!

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Herappleness, you can't hear it, but I am applauding you right now. You put into words the sort of argument that I could not; I agree with your position 100%.


There is something to be said for two major issue; first, that Puerto Rico has been a territory for such a long time, and second, the actual desires of the people.

For the first, at what point does the U.S. stop supporting nations before the nations become historically bound? In other words, with Puerto Rico being so historically and financially bound to the U.S., is there a point where... where we are owed a state? I'm not sure I'm defining this correctly. Puerto Rico has no real representation in the U.S., but is entitled to many benefits such as voting. Is this ethically proper? More enlightened minds than mine can take the argument from there.

I can't speak much for the second. I've never been there, and there is so much contradictory information that I can't come to a conclusion. However, I will say that if the people themselves want statehood, I would probably support it simply on the basis of individual liberties. A state of the U.S. should -- not necessarily would -- end up being more prosperous and more free than a non-U.S. nation.

I guess, aside from agreeing with herappleness, I can't really give a definite answer at the moment.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would love to see Puerto Rico become the 51st state. It has been a territory for more than a century and is a sizable and heavily populated island. As a former resident of St. Thomas in the U. S. Virgin Islands, I have always wondered if Puerto Ricans would ever take the initiative to become full-fledged members of our country. I would also like to see the U. S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John) become a state, though this is unlikely to happen in the near future.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This topic seems to be a hot-bed of contention, especially since 21st century imperialism is another. It seems to me the word "should" is the worst possible word to associate with such a hotly contested question. "Should" requires opinion expressed from the narrowest possible perspective and the scope of the question covers the broadest possible perspective: there is an innate incompatibly between the perspective and the reality when "should" is operational. 

The situation seems to me to be best represented by considerations like these:

If Puerto Ricans are concerned about the loss of their language and culture, then they should take steps to protect it, which is possible now since saving endangered languages and cultures is such a priority among linguists and anthropologists. 

If Puerto Ricans are suffering from an impoverished economy and equally impoverished culture, then they should take the best steps they can find to remedy the situation, even if those steps are a union of statehood with the United States.

If Puerto Rico has the chance for advancement in economic growth and development, like Hawaii had after their vote for statehood, and if they fear poverty more than danger to their language and culture, then they should take steps to advance their position for statehood.

While it may not be the same thing, the US stopped being afraid of importing cultural differences and poverty when immigration laws were fundamentally altered after Vietnam/Cambodia (whether this step was wise or not is a separate question), so why would the US now feel qualms about embracing the poverty of one of our closest neighbors with a culture we have long been familiar with? Considerations about allowing Puerto Rico statehood should take into consideration historical-political circumstances that have spanned time. Such a hotly contested and loaded issue as Puerto Rico's statehood should be considered from the broadest perspective in consideration of the most wide-ranging factors. Such an issue should not be considered from the ultimately narrowing perspective of "should."

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As a born and raised Puerto Rican it is very weird for me to be able to openly speak of a topic which, back in the island, is the source of useless violence, and unnecessary dissension. This being said I, too, do not believe that Puerto Rico should become a state.

First, annexation is an ancient practice whereas independence is not. Most countries prefer to stand for themselves, celebrate their identity and work together to forge a strong economy, whether the attempt is successful or not. It worked great for the US, the best example of independence in the history of the world. Even the state of Texas comes up with the idea of separation every once in a while precisely because Texans believe that their identity, economy and ways of life render them able to be on their own. I know that it is presumptuous to compare my 100 x 35 island to the original 13 colonies, or to the state of Texas, but the idea is the same.

Second, I think it's about time PRcans stop dreaming on what is never going to happen. I honestly would prefer that the US retires the feeding tube from my island so that the people would wake up and recognize the myriad of ways that they can make themselves a worthy and useful race.

With all due respect to my people, I have to say that what I see every time I go to that violent, poor, and disorganized (and yet so beautiful) island is the equivalent of an overfed illegitimate child who depends entirely on the benefits of a colonial status. I think we can do much better than that, and I wait eagerly for the day in which OUR natural resources, OUR produce, and OUR economy are used intelligently for OUR own benefit.

Instead, we (well, they do over there, not me) waste too much time, money, and energy fighting each other over what they consider to be a "birth right", that is, to be the 51st state. I do understand their argument, don't get me wrong: yes we do serve in the US military, and still we cannot vote for the US President; yes, we do have to learn to speak English, and still we cannot have a vote in US Congress. I get all that, and I imagine that, to some, this is a point of argument. However, I digress.

My main argument is that you should be who you are and strive your best to be on your own. PR should work itself to a point of independence, and shine with its very own star. Plus, I like the USA the way that it is NOW, without PR as a state. That is precisely why I left the island and never plan to return: because I wanted to belong to a country that stands for itself and is not ashamed to be proud of itself. When PR becomes its own country, I will gladly go and help out make it as strong as it can be. At this point, however, who knows what will go on?

One thing: the US is already in debt as badly as ever and PR is in no shape to provide any benefit to the US; the place is rife with violence, broke, and the language barrier is shocking. I was lucky enough to go to a fully-immersed Catholic school for which my parents paid more in all the years I attended  than what they paid for half of my college education. Hence, good English speaking is a RARE luxury that only a few of us were blessed enough to have.

Therefore, although I am a (very proud) Puerto Rican, one of those whose eyes well-up automatically every time I hear my anthem being played, I am also a realist. Unfortunately these are not times to be talking about investments and add-ons in the US. We need to fix the US economy first and then think about all the other "extras" that should not occupy first page news.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I will say that it should not become a state.  I also think it doesn’t matter what should because there is no way, politically speaking, that Congress will vote to accept it.

I have two reasons for saying it should not be a state.  First, it is too poor.  Puerto Rico’s average income is much lower than that of any state in the Union.  It would not be good to have a state that is so much poorer than all the rest.  It would be a drain on the economy and it would create very negative feelings about the people of that state.  Second, though I am no “English Only” supporter, I do not think we want a state where the vast majority of people don’t speak English and are of a different culture.  I think immigration is great because I think immigrants (like my father) generally want to assimilate.  But if we have a state that is essentially Spanish-speaking and that is so different from the rest of the US culturally, it will not be good for our unity as a nation.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial