Every year when Hispanic Heritage Month rolls around we have a look at the resources and standards for learning about Puerto Rico on the mainland. Research shows that people who know more about Puerto Rico are more likely to favor statehood for the Island, so we believe that it matters.
Every year we see again that most schools in the states ignore Puerto Rico and the other U.S. territories. It is dismaying to find that members of Congress are not always clear on basic facts about Puerto Rico, and it is also dismaying to see that the future Congressional representatives now in school will also be ignorant because this information is still not being taught in schools.
This year, however, we found a New York State Social Studies Resource Toolkit online called “5th Grade Puerto Rico Inquiry: Should Puerto Rico Be a State?”
This lesson was written in 2015 and it focuses on the 2012 referendum. The Wayback Machine tells us that it has been online since 2017.
It is exciting to see that this resource exists. It would be more exciting if it were to be updated, but there are very few such resources available, so we’re pleased to see it. It presents arguments for an against Puerto Rico statehood and asks students
For Puerto Rico statehood
The arguments for Puerto Rico statehood come from the United States Council for Puerto Rico Statehood. They were excerpted from a website which is no longer online. We agree with their arguments. Here they are:
Why Should the U.S. Want Puerto Rico as a State?
- We would benefit from it. Puerto Ricans have brought much to our society; politically, economically, culturally.
- The Puerto Rican people have earned it through their steadfast support of our country, our flag, and by sending their sons and daughters to fight in US wars…
- We cannot continue to operate a colony, forcing U.S. citizens to accept a second-class citizenship, one without full political rights and equal representation, and not guaranteed by the constitution. The United States is a republic, not an empire
- U.S. taxpayers are paying billions per year to prop up an economy that in its present form doesn’t work well. It doesn’t provide proportionate economic benefit for Puerto Ricans….
- Commonwealth status was never meant to be permanent, it was meant as a transitional step.
Why Should Puerto Ricans Want to be a State?
- They should not have to wait any longer to gain constitutionally-guaranteed citizenship with full political rights and responsibilities.
- Puerto Ricans would then share as everyone else in full benefits from our government, while paying taxes like everyone else.
- In the words of Don Luis Ferre, Ex-Governor of Puerto Rico, and winner of the U.S. Medal of Freedom, “It is an honor to be a citizen of the greatest country in the history of the World.”
Against Puerto Rico statehood:
The arguments against Puerto Rico statehood came from the Heritage Foundation. The document was written in 1997 and is no longer online. We would like to respond to them, and have done so below.
“Statehood for Puerto Rico would cost American taxpayers greatly and would trigger divisive debate over language and culture….” In fact, statehood would bring prosperity to Puerto Rico as it has to every territory which has become a state in the past. Puerto Rico would not be the state with the largest number of Spanish speakers; indeed, more people from Puerto Rico currently live in the states than on the Island, and their presence has not triggers divisive debate yet.
“Puerto Rican statehood would have adverse long-term budgetary and political consequences for the United States as a whole….” Again, a state of Puerto Rico would be more prosperous and better able to contribute to the economy of the United States as a whole. Political consequences? We don’t know what the Heritage Foundation had in mind.
“Statehood carries major budgetary implications for the U.S. government. As a state, Puerto Rico would be eligible to participate in all federal social programs at a projected annual cost of more than $3 billion….” This is the same argument again and we still dispute it, but we would add that the United States is responsible for the three million plus U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico right now. Being able to provide equally for them should be an argument for, not against statehood.
“Congress should realize that creating another state…could significantly alter the future political and economic course of America.” Admitting Puerto Rico as a state would certainly be a historic event. As the first state admitted in the 21st century, the first in nearly 70 years, Puerto Rico could be a catalyst for change. That need not be an argument against statehood, either. Again, we don’t know exactly what the Heritage Foundation had in mind, but this seems like a weak argument.
The arguments against statehood were weak in 2015, and they seem even weaker now. But we are glad to see that the state of New York made an effort to educate their 5th graders about this important national issue.