By Rolando Cruz

To those interested in learning about Puerto Rico:

Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean surrounded with beautiful beaches, the perfect tropical climate, and alluring and hospitable people. It is a paradise on earth for the thousands of American tourists who visit ‘their’ territory all year round without having to go through the trouble of getting a visa or any other documentation to enter the island. 

Although the isle is considered your (American) territory in the Caribbean, and Puerto Ricans are in fact American Citizens, we do not have the same advantages of a blue passport holder as the rest of you. We cannot vote for the President of the United States, nor do we have any representation in Congress. We are appointed a Resident Commissioner who is allowed to participate in debates, but lacks the power to vote. Ask yourself this: why do more than 3 million American Citizens on the island lack these fundamental, democratic rights while holding the same documentation?

For the sake of context, let’s dive into the history of Puerto Rico and its relationship with the United States of America. Puerto Rico was acquired from Spain as war booty after the Spanish-American War. The interest was purely militaristic. In 1898, the intention of the United States was to control the Caribbean and monitor the Panama Channel, in order to dominate the Caribbean trade. Ships needed to stock up on coal, making it an economic and military enclave; leading to the east and west doors of the Panama Channel to be watched and secured. 

In 1917, Congress enacted the Jones Act, providing American Citizenship to all Puerto Ricans on the island. Shortly after, Puerto Rico was indoctrinated as unincorporated territory of the United States. This meant that the island was not considered a potential state of the United States, but continued to be a colonial property under the Territorial Clause of the Constitution, and Congress could discriminate against citizens living on the island. 

In the first 40 years of colonial domination, Puerto Rico became a sugar cane plantation, and a tax haven for a corporate USA. American governors were appointed by the President of the United States, and Puerto Rican politicians were placed as puppets, but lacked any real political power. 

By 1952, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was approved by Congress, permitting Puerto Ricans to be self-governed, but evidently, they faced the same colonial problems that were seen decades before. After the 1950s, the Puerto Rican economy transformed from a monoculture economy, to a goods and service exportation economy, clearly responding to the necessities and convenience of the United States. 

As a colony under the Territorial Clause of the Constitution, Congress was able to enact different laws. In this period, Puerto Rico experienced a progressive economic revolution which was surely short lived and failed. This caused discrimination against Puerto Rican citizens, while they were being exploited for cheap labour and experimentation. Unlike other states, Puerto Rico was exempted from paying federal taxes, thus, the island was used as a fiscal paradise. The American industrial-pharmaceutical complex used the island to develop a lot of industries, where they manufactured armed forces, developed  vaccines, and other baggage, without ever paying federal taxes and using very cheap labor.

Economic growth was false hope as it came with a condition of time. The geopolitical context and globalization changed very quickly causing Puerto Rico to lack purpose in the American context. All the progress made on the island vanished. This caused further mismanagement of local leaders, leaving no one to turn to. 

For the last 14 years, Puerto Rico has been facing a major economic crisis. There has been severe mismanagement of the local leaders, systematic corruption especially in  local institutions, and an indifferent United States. Little to no action has taken place to resolve these problems in our territory. When it is beneficial to the U.S., they use our land to vacation or profit from, and then conveniently ask us to clean up their mess.

What does the U.S. election in November mean for us Puerto Ricans?  In reality, it has no significance; despite being titled ‘U.S. territory’. We have no say in who is elected, and are left to figure it out on our own. As a Puerto Rican, I insist you have a close look into your vacation spot, and see how you can make a difference, before marking the land as your own. 


A fellow Puerto Rican, ‘American Citizen’. 

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