Things That Matter

Puerto Rico Is Planning To Vote On U.S. Statehood Once Again And Here’s Why So Many Are Against The Idea

Puerto Rican’s are no stranger to referendums. Since 1967, they’ve had five chances to make their opinions known on U.S. statehood and each and every time, their voice hasn’t been listened to. Congress has failed to take up the issue after each referendum and local leaders are often guilty of using the referendum simply to drudge up support for their candidates.

But this upcoming referendum is different in that it comes at a crossroads for Puerto Rican politics. The island has been plagued by natural disasters, political scandals, and unprecedented hate crimes. Even Bad Bunny is letting his thoughts out on the referendum and many others have lots to say on the issue.

For the first time in the island’s history, the referendum will ask a single question: Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted as a U.S. state?

On Saturday, Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood Republican governor, Wanda Vázquez, announced yet another vote on the question (the sixth since 1967 and the third since 2012). It’s a move that comes amid growing frustration with the island’s territorial government and its relationship with the mainland.

However, it’s a question that also outraged the island’s independence supporters and members of the main opposition Popular Democratic Party – which supports the status quo.

But it’s a gamble that members of the governor’s pro-statehood party are confident will pay off given that Puerto Rico has struggled to obtain federal funds for hurricanes Irma and Maria, a string of recent strong earthquakes and the coronavirus pandemic amid growing complaints that the island does not receive fair and equal treatment.

“Our people will have the opportunity once and for all to define our future,” Vázquez said. “It’s never too late to be treated as equals.”

The upcoming referendum is just the recent in a long line of previously failed ones.

In the past, voters have been asked more than one question and presented with various options, including independence or continuing with the current territorial status – but none of them have ever been as direct as the upcoming one scheduled for the November 3 general election.

However, many on the island see the referendum as little more than a political move by the governor’s New Progressive Party to get voters out on Nov 3 – to boost her party’s candidates.

The New Progressive Party has been rattled with scandal after scandal and many are ready for change.

The past few years have not been good for the party – or the island for that matter. A string of devastating hurricanes, a severe debt crisis, ongoing corruption scandals that even forced a pro-statehood governor to resign, earthquakes, and now a global pandemic – have all led to challenging times in Puerto Rico. To some observers, the idea seems to be: Let’s dangle the illusion of a yes or no statehood referendum (nonbinding) that is already dead on arrival?

Many also feel that Gov. Vasquez is not truly authorized to make such a decision since she was never actually elected to the office. Instead, she became governor after Ricardo Rosselló was forced to resign following massive protests.

Meanwhile, the Republican government on the island doesn’t even have the support of the Republican-led federal government. The Trump administration’s blunt response was basically, “The first priority for all Puerto Rico leaders should be getting their financial house in order.”

This coming November, there will be plenty of incentive to vote “no” and punish the Vázquez administration. Even prominent figures such as Bad Bunny are jumping into the fray against her leadership.

What would statehood mean for Puerto Rico?

Statehood would award Puerto Rico two senators and five representatives, but it’s unlikely a Republican-controlled Congress would acknowledge the referendum because Puerto Rico tends to favor Democrats.

Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but cannot vote in U.S. presidential elections. And while the island is exempt from the U.S. federal income tax, it still pays Social Security and Medicare and local taxes and receives less federal funding than U.S. states. Many believe the island’s territorial status has contributed to its struggle to recover from the hurricanes and earthquakes, as well as worsened its economic crisis, largely caused by decades of heavy borrowing and the elimination of federal tax incentives.

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AOC Gets Under Ted Cruz’s Skin With Crack About His Mexican Getaway After He Accuses Her Of Pushing For ‘open borders’

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AOC Gets Under Ted Cruz’s Skin With Crack About His Mexican Getaway After He Accuses Her Of Pushing For ‘open borders’

Alex Wong / Getty

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ted Cruz are at it again on Twitter. This time it’s about immigration policy. After recently traveling to the US-Mexican border to underline the recent rise in immigration, Cruz accused AOC of pushing for a “full open borders” policy.

And of course, AOC got him with some solid zingers.

AOC in turn hit back at Cruz for recently fleeing his home state of Texas during its power grid collapse to vacation in Cancún.

In response to Cruz’s attack, AOC suggested Mexico avoid allowing Cruz in the next time he attempts to vacation there. She also called on him to resign from office for his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“Ted, this is pretty rich coming from someone who fled their own home (and responsibilities) during an environmental crisis to cross the border and seek refuge in Mexico,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “Also you funded cages, expanded cages, and yet you’re complaining about cages. You have no policy, just puff.”

Ocasio-Cortez accused Republicans of hypocritically attacking the current administration’s detention of migrant children at the border after they supported President Donald Trump’s policy of separating migrant parents from their children.

Currently, Democrats like AOC are calling on Biden to impliment more liberal immigration policies.

Republicans have strongly expressed their dislike for the recent rise in migrants which has come as a result of Biden’s reversal of Trump’s most rigid border policies.

AOC is currently a co-sponsor of the Roadmap to Freedom resolution. The resolution calls on the Federal Government to develop and implement a Roadmap to Freedom “in order to overhaul the outdated immigration system in the United States that has gone without significant reform for decades, and to relieve the great human impact an unjust system bears on communities around the country.”

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Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

Things That Matter

Today, Puerto Rico Celebrates Emancipation Day–the Day When the Island Officially Abolished Slavery

Photo via George W. Davis, Public Domain

Today, March 22nd marks Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud in Puerto Rico–the date that marks the emancipation of slaves in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, enslaved peoples were emancipated in 1873–a full decade after the U.S. officially abolished slavery. But unlike the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico celebrates today as an official holiday, where many businesses are closed.

The emancipation of Puerto Rican slaves was a very different process than the United States’. For one, the emancipation was gradual and over three years.

When the Spanish government abolished slavery in Puerto Rico 1873, enslaved men and women had to buy their freedom. The price was set by their “owners”. The way the emancipated slaves bought their freedom was through a process that was very similar to sharecropping in the post-war American south. Emancipated slaves farmed, sold goods, and worked in different trades to “buy” their freedom.

In the same Spanish edict that abolished slavery, slaves over the age of 60 were automatically freed. Enslaved children who were 5-years-old and under were also automatically freed.

Today, Black and mixed-race Puerto Ricans of Black descent make up a large part of Puerto Rico’s population.

The legacy of enslaved Black Puerto Ricans is a strong one. Unlike the United States, Puerto Rico doesn’t classify race in such black-and-white terms. Puerto Ricans are taught that everyone is a mixture of three groups of people: white Spanish colonizers, Black African slaves, and the indigenous Taíno population.

African influences on Puerto Rican culture is ubiquitous and is present in Puerto Rican music, cuisine, and even in the way that the island’s language evolved. And although experts estimate that up to 60% of Puerto Ricans have significant African ancestry, almost 76% of Puerto Ricans identified as white only in the latest census poll–a phenomenon that many sociologists have blamed on anti-blackness.

On Puerto Rico’s Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud, many people can’t help but notice that the island celebrates a day of freedom and independence when they are not really free themselves.

As the fight for Puerto Rican decolonization rages on, there is a bit of irony in the fact that Puerto Rico is one of the only American territories that officially celebrates the emancipation of slaves, when Puerto Rico is not emancipated from the United States. Yes, many Black Americans recognize Juneteenth (June 19th) as the official day to celebrate emancipation from slavery, but it is not an official government holiday.

Perhaps, Puerto Rico celebrates this historical day of freedom because they understand how important the freedom and independence is on a different level than mainland Americans do.

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