Puerto Rico has been sending a team to the Olympics since 1948, and has won nine Olympic medals in that time — but the ninth, won by Monica Puig in this year’s Olympic games — is the first gold medal.
Monica Puig, born in San Juan, beat the #2 player in the world in women’s singles tennis, Angelique Kerber. She is only the second Puerto Rico player to compete for a gold medal, the first to win a gold medal, and the first woman from Puerto Rico to win an Olympic medal while representing Puerto Rico. Gigi Fernandez, a Puerto Rican athlete, won Olympic gold medals in doubles tennis in 1992 and 1996 for the USA.
Puig has won seven other titles in international competitions, including a Women’s Tennis Association title.
The president of Puerto Rico’s Olympic Committee, Sara Rosario Velez, told NPR, “This is a great day for all the Puerto Ricans — that live in Puerto Rico and around the world!”
This is a moment all Puerto Ricans should enjoy. but we can’t let it blind us to the fact that Puerto Rico is not the equal in power or civil rights of the nations we compete against in the Olympic Games. In 1948, the first year Puerto Rico took part in the Olympics, the athletes carried the U.S. flag. The United States objected, and Puerto Rico’s athletes were not allowed to carry the stars and stripes. The next time Puerto Rico competed, there was a Puerto Rican flag to carry, and Puerto Rico’s athletes have carried it proudly ever since. But the United States could at any time object to Puerto Rico’s inclusion in the games, and Puerto Rico would no longer be able to compete in the Olympics.
As a territory, Puerto Rico has no rights. Puerto Rico is subject to the decisions of Congress. Puerto Rico already rejected territorial status in 2012. It’s time to insist on statehood.