Puerto Rico Constitution Day takes place on July 25; it celebrates the Constitution of Puerto Rico. Parties, parades, speeches, and celebration mark the day.
So what are we celebrating?
In 1950, the U.S. Congress passed a law authorizing Puerto Rico to draft a constitution. This is often a step toward statehood. In this case, Congress didn’t mention statehood.
For two years, Puerto Rico worked on the constitution. Congress required some changes and the constitution was ratified by the voters of Puerto Rico. President Truman sent the document to the U.S. Congress for approval in April. More changes were required, made, and ratified. In July of 1952, Puerto Rico had a constitution of her own.
It was unquestionably a major landmark in Puerto Rico history.
From a territory to a commonwealth?
To this day, there are people who see this occasion as the time Puerto Rico changed from being a territory to being a commonwealth.
Here’s what Congress said:
“The bill under consideration would not change Puerto Rico’s fundamental political, social, and economic relationship to the United States.”
Puerto Rico is a territory belonging to the United States. Just as it was in 1951. “Commonwealth” is part of the official name of Puerto Rico, just as it is part of the name of Kentucky and Massachusetts. It has no legal meaning at all.
The constitution of Puerto Rico is something to be proud of, but it did not change the status of Puerto Rico in any way.
Do territories usually have constitutions?
Yes. That has usually been part of becoming a state. An Enabling Act is passed n Congress enabling the territory to draft a constitution and request statehood. Congress must approve the territory’s constitution before the territory can become a state. The constitution has to mesh with that of the United States.
Congress often requires changes to a territory’s constitution. Puerto Rico has already had its constitution approved by Congress, and has already officially requested statehood. Congress can agree by a simple majority vote to admit Puerto Rico at any time.
Let’s celebrate Puerto Rico Constitution Day this year by recognizing that honoring our constitution is a step toward statehood. Contact your legislators, and ask your friends and family to do the same.