We want statehood for Puerto Rico. So why aren’t we planning marches and fielding candidates? Because there is just one way to become a state: Congress says you’re a state.
There are many, many paths to statehood, perhaps as many as there are states. Read about some of the interesting approaches in U.S. history:
- Kentucky had to convince Virginia to let them go. At one point, Virginia asked for payment to allow Kentucky to become a state. Then complicated national and international events got in the way. After 10 conventions, they finally got the attention of Congress and attained statehood.
- Missouri sent its elected representatives to Congress in 1820, after several years of working toward statehood, and they were turned away. It took another year of negotiation for Missouri to become a state.
- Tennessee was the first state to declare itself a state and elect representatives… and then demand statehood from Congress. This became known as the “Tennessee Plan,” and quite a few territories gained statehood in this way.
- Louisiana had differences in culture, language, religion, and laws from the other states of the Union. The admission of Louisiana as a state came only after many battles in Congress. But it came.
- Alabama never held a political status referendum for its voters. They went right to Congress and became the 22nd state.
- Vermont threatened to go back to England when it had trouble persuading New York to release it to become a state of its own. Recognizing that statehood would be the best form of autonomy for Vermont and for the United States, New York gave in.
All these stories, and all the other great statehood stories in U.S. history, ended in just one way: Congress accepted the territory’s application for admittance as a state. The Constitution of the United States doesn’t allow any other method of becoming a state.
Right now, Congress is paying attention to Puerto Rico. They’ve passed PROMESA, there is a task force in place which has the job of helping Puerto Rico get back on track economically, and funds have been set aside for one last referendum.
Congressional representatives pay attention to their constituents. That’s why we want you to contact your legislators and tell them that you care about equal rights for Puerto Rico. The story of Puerto Rico’s statehood will include social media and email — and it can include you, too.