Puerto Rico’s contributions to the U.S. begin with the thousands of Puerto Ricans who have fought for the United States in every conflict since World War I, and with the taxes Puerto Rico pays to the U.S. Federal Government. They continue with the natural resources of Puerto Rico and the strategic importance military facilities have had there over the century plus that Puerto Rico has belonged to the United States. And, with more people of Puerto Rican heritage on the mainland than on the Island, Puerto Rico has certainly contributed to the United States in precisely the same way that every state has.
But there are also many individual contributions by people from Puerto Rico. Here are just a few of the Puerto Rican heroes who have contributed to the U.S. in many different fields:
- Joseph Michael “Joe” Acaba, is the first astronaut from Puerto Rico.
- Deborah Aguiar-Veléz is an engineer, an award-winning businesswoman, and the author of Spanish-language computer science textbooks as part of her support of the Hispanic community.
- Marc Anthony is an actor and singer, a television producer, and currently the top-selling tropical salsa artist of all time.
- Olga Albizu was an abstract expressionist painter and a leading figure in the New York arts scene.
- Maria Teresa Babín was a writer and educator who edited one of the most important anthologies of Puerto Rican literature.
- Herman Badillo was the first congressman of Puerto Rican heritage.
- Frank Bonilla was a leading figure in academic studies of Puerto Rico, and served as the director of the City University of New York’s Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños.
- Roberto Clemente was a Hall of Fame baseball star and a humanitarian.
- Jesús Colón was the first Puerto Rican writer to achieve literary success on the mainland.
- Victor Hernández Cruz was named one of the best American poets by Life Magazine in 1981.
- Jennifer Lopez is a star as a dancer, singer, and actress.
- Ricky Martin is a singer, actor, and author known for bringing salsa music into the U.S. mainstream.
- Rita Moreno is one of few performers to have won all four of the major entertainment awards: the Oscar, the Tony, the the Emmy, and the Grammy.
- Antonia Novello served as Surgeon General of the United States, the first Hispanic woman to do so.
- Anthony Romero is the president of the American Civil Liberties Union.
- José Enrique Serrano is a U.S. Congressman representing the South Bronx.
- Yajaira Sierra Sastre is a nanotechnologist working with NASA, and plans to become an astronaut.
- Sonia Sotomayor is a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
This list could be much, much longer. The people of Puerto Rico are already making important contributions to the United States in every field you can imagine, and will continue to do so.