We certainly believe that it’s important to honor the Borinqueneers, and we are both proud and gratified that the Congressional Gold Medal has been awarded to these American heroes.
It’s equally important to recognize the military contributions of other Puerto Rican men and women who chose and are choosing to serve their country in the military.
The Borinqueneers were a segregated unit. Their service was all the more valiant because they, like the other segregated units of the U.S. armed forces, faced inequality and unfair treatment from their own country, as well as the usual hardships and danger of military service.
The United States no longer allows segregation. Does that mean that Puerto Ricans in the military now do not face inequality?
Unfortunately, no. Puerto Rican soldiers and sailors cannot vote for their Commander in Chief, who makes decisions that affect their lives.
Many Americans feel that this is an injustice that should be fixed in some way. We hear everyone from social media commenters to presidential candidates saying that Puerto Rico’s residents should have the vote. But the truth is, individual voters don’t elect the president of the United States. States do.
When Puerto Rico is a state, the people of Puerto Rico will have equal representation and equal participation in American democracy. They will have the same rights and responsibilities as the people of the States.
This is not complicated. Puerto Rico cannot have equality as long as the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico is that of a nation and a territory owned by that nation. Accepting the will of the people and conferring statehood on Puerto Rico will not instantly fix the financial problems the Island currently faces, but it will give Puerto Rico equal rights.