In general, Puerto Rico has three viable status options under the U.S. Constitution:
- current territory status
Statehood has been the preferred choice in the past three referenda, and there is a statehood bill in Congress right now. There is no question that the most efficient way forward is to support HR 1522 and see Puerto Rico admitted into the Union as a state.
However, there is also a bill in Congress calling for a status convention to explore the viable options except for the current territory status, plus any other creative options delegates come up with.
This mostly means that the ghost of the enhanced commonwealth may rise again and rattle its chains, extending the territory status far into the future with the complicated status convention plan.
But there is another option that is expected to try to get a seat at the convention: reunification with Spain.
Spain’s history with Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico was a colony of Spain for four centuries before Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States after the Spanish-American War. The colonial relationship included trade restrictions, slavery, and local government provided by Spain.
Toward the end of the 19th century, Puerto Rico attempted to gain independence from Spain.
The Grito de Lares of 1868 was an armed insurrection against Spain. In 1871, Spain established martial rule, but in 1897 Spain gave a local Charter of Autonomy to Puerto Rico, offering home rule. A local government took its place in July of 1898. In December, Spain gave Puerto Rico to the United States, making it clear that Spain still owned Puerto Rico.
Who wants reunification with Spain?
Jose Nieves, the founder of the Puerto Rico Reunification with Spain organization, is one of the small group that wants to become a Spanish community.
Spain has 17 autonomous communities and a couple of autonomous cities in Africa. Nieves wants Puerto Rico to become the 18th autonomous community. These autonomies are roughly comparable to the states of the United States. Some were kingdoms in the past, and the Canary Islands, which became an autonomy in the late 20th century, was a colony of Spain.
In 1922, small groups of Puerto Ricans called for reunification with Spain. A 2013 petition on the subject got 314 signatures. Today, there are a couple of reunification Facebook pages with fairly large numbers of Likes and followers:
The Guardian describes the movement as “based on a mix of nostalgia and alternative history,” pointing out that there has been no response from Spain to the proposal.
However, Nieves claims that Partido Libertario de España supports the idea. This party, a libertarian group, does not have a presence in the Spanish government.
So there are small number supporting this idea, but there are at least some in Puerto Rico and in Spain who like it. The United States Constitution would allow the United States to cede Puerto Rico back to Spain.
And the group’s Facebook page sees HR 2070 as an opportunity to get their proposal on the table.
The future of the movement
Supporters of reunification see statehood as the greatest danger to their movement. Becoming an incorporated territory would also make it hard for Puerto Rico to become part of any other country. HR 2070 is the last best hope for the reunification movement.
How could they get a delegate into the status convention? Since delegates will be elected as individuals, not as representatives of parties, it is theoretically possible that some individual supporting reunification could become a wildly popular celebrity and get to be a delegate.
Since there is no upper limit to the number of decolonization options to be offered in the referendum which is to follow the status convention, it is theoretically possible that such a delegate could persuade the other delegates to slip reunification into the ballot.
Would Puerto Rico, which currently has a clear majority supporting statehood in the United States, change her mind and accept the equivalent of statehood with a nation that owned her a century ago?
In fact, Puerto Rico has already chosen statehood through a free and fair vote. Congress should take immediate action.