Friday, December 19, 2003
  and speaking of
Some trivial information I stumbled on while "visiting" Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico - Government

Commonwealth associated with the US. The island's inhabitants possess all the rights and obligations of United States citizens such as paying social security, receiving federal welfare and serving in the armed forces, except for the right to vote in presidential elections and the obligation to pay federal taxes.

Interesting Facts:
The term "United States" when used in a geographical sense on official documents, acts and/or laws; includes the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.

The U.S. has twelve unincorporated territories, also known as possessions, and two commonwealths. The major possessions are American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. All of these have a non-voting representative in the U.S. Congress. The major commonwealths are Puerto Rico and the Northern Marianas. Commonwealths have their own constitutions and greater autonomy than possessions, and Guam is currently in the process of moving from the status of unincorporated territory to commonwealth. The residents of all of these places are full U.S. citizens, with the exception of those on American Samoa who are U.S. nationals, but not citizens. (U.S. Commonwealths/Territories: American Samao, Baker Island, Howland Island, Guam, Jarvis Island, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Navassa Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Palmyra Atoll, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas), and Wake Island).

Puerto Rico has its own Olympic team and competes in the Miss Universe pageant as an independent nation.

Every few years it seems like the question of Puerto Rico statehood comes up. They usually have a choice between becoming State #51, and full independence from the U.S. On one hand, it seems like P.R. should get statehood (if they want it, of course) so they can have some influence on the U.S. leadership that affects them. On the other hand, their status now allows for a more independent identity and culture, and at least a measure of "self rule", which is great. Plus there would continue to be no language issue, not that this country will ever declare English the official language. A State of Puerto Rico makes about as much sense as the State of Hawaii, in my humble opinion, which is basically a toss-up.

The idea of full independence probably doesn't appeal to most people there, as that would end their U.S. citizenship "privileges." So they just stick with the status quo, which actually seems like a pretty good deal from this point of view. I wonder what the general opinion is over there (minus the issue of Vieques), as every Puerto Rican I've met really likes America and is thrilled to have the privileges associated with their status.

It's funny, though, to listen to the supporters of independence talk about oppression and colonialism. They didn't look terribly oppressed when I was there, and they don't have the burden of federal taxes. But I guess the perspective is different when you have a big country in control of so many aspects of your government. As an American, I'm personally happy to have Puerto Rico (and our other territories and commonwealth) as part of our extended family. I hope they feel the same.

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