Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why would we want to be a state...?

Edwin R. Jusino | PRSSA Mayaguez
June 10, 2010

I have been asked several times why would I want Puerto Rico to be a state of the United States of America, if I believe Puerto Rico has its own identity and culture. Especially, I recently was questioned as to why I would want to be a part of a nation that has been repressive against my own people. Well these are not easy questions, and therefore there is no easy answer. I take the challenge to try to explain to my readers why I believe the best next step for my people’s freedom is found within the union.

It is imperative to understand that there is no single perfect form of government, nor will there be a perfect society. To believe that the world will one day be fair, while we humans exist as its rulers, is nonsense. Humans will always be cruel to humans, and the mere thought that equality will be achieved is pure speculation. The notion of perfect equality is introduced, only by romantic and utopist writers, as something we should strive for, sort of like the way the founding fathers wrote into the inalienable rights the pursuit of happiness. We as humans will never be completely happy, we will always be in constant change. Change can bring grief along with it. We have the right to pursue happiness, but it is not something everybody achieves. Certainly what makes you happy, not necessarily will make a train bum happy, or a needy drug addict happy. If a society was all equal, some would be more equal than others.

Now leaving philosophic topics behind, but keeping them in mind, let’s examine the reality of history. No single nation can ever claim to be totally just, and fair. Therefore, can we really judge a nation based on their past? If we were to do this then war, hate, and resentment would be never ending. Governments are not perfect because they are made of imperfect people. The sins of the father’s, in this case, should not be imposed upon the sons. How can we, as puertoricans, judge the current generations for the sins of past generations? We must overcome the past to focus on the future. Yes, we cannot deny the historical realities. The Spanish and American empires both exploited economically the island, but, the United States has helped Puerto Rico in many other ways, and contributed to our culture.

Puerto Rico is what it is today because of the United States, and to think otherwise is to deny history. We must accept the good and the bad. The United States is not, and has never been, one homogeneous nation. The struggle between the races that compose the melting pot began even when the first colony at Roanoke Island was established. We could even say that even before when the first Viking settlers took helm to the Americas. The United States, a union between different states that not always got along, a union between different nations (Irish, German, British, Spanish, Russians, Iroquois, etc.), a union between liberals whom believed in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Can we really say the United States is one single culture? I think not.

It is because of the history of Puerto Rico that we are who we are, the good and the bad. Did the United States quell attempted independence revolutions in the past? Yes, that is a historical fact, but it is also a historical fact that during the Depression president Roosevelt extended the federal help to the island, when he was not obliged to do it. It is also important to note that even though the military bases in Puerto Rico were done due to the strategic need of the United States to defend the Panama Canal, they contributed to the local economy and infrastructure. 3 of the main roads in the islands were constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The obvious military purpose now has been overshadowed. Today these roads are the main arteries of the island, which reduced travel from days to mere hours.

Puerto Rico’s identity and culture has developed thanks in part to the intervention of the United States. Even before Puerto Rico was a U.S. territory, many of the liberals in Puerto Rico became enamored of the liberal ideals that were being preached in the United States. A little known fact was that many separatists of the late 1800’s favored the United States annexing Puerto Rico, in the hope of one day becoming a state of the union. Even though these separatists were a minority within their group, their ideals have transcended and have slowly become the majority of the will of the citizens of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is not a foreign nation to the United States. We’re a part of the American family, and many of the American traditions have been incorporated into the puertorican culture. For example, it was not until after the American invasion that Puerto Rico that the current Christmas traditions were brought to the island. The Christmas tree, Santa Claus, amongst other Christmas traditions all came when the Americans began to have direct contact with Puerto Rico. In fact, different religions are something that was also introduced with the advent of the American invasion. Protestantism was illegal in the island before the U.S. invasion, along with many other sects and religions. The diversity of religions is something that is now shared with the United States, along with our form of government, and other cultural and social aspects.

Legally, Puerto Rico is a bilingual state, though Spanish is the predominant language, everyday there are more and more islanders that can speak and communicate in English. Now, even if English is not the predominant language of Puerto Rico, this is not something that should interfere with Puerto Rico’s bid for statehood. The United States has no official language, and therefore states like Louisiana have more than 1 language as their official state language. Louisiana in particular has several parish governments that use the local Creole language (a language made from the mixing of French and English) as its primary language. The same happens in counties in California, Florida, and other states where Hispanics are a majority within the county.

The ignorance of many North Americans about the history and culture of Puerto Rico is based on the self destructive political movements of the separatist left found within the Popular Democratic Party and other minor political groups, and their alliance with the radical right factions within the Republican Party. These 2 groups conspire to keep Puerto Rico in its current state as a mere colony and possession of the United States.

The issue of statehood is about legal equality and rights. Puerto Rico runs as a state of the union, serves as a state in the military, yet it is not a state and does not have a right to speak its mind about the future of the union. Puerto Ricans do not have the right to vote for their commanding officer, nor do they have a say whether or not the United States goes to war, signs an economic treaty, etc. Why should we not? Puerto Rico contributes to the American economy in terms of intellectual and manual labor. Many of our brightest minds are working for companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, NASA, amongst others. Also the federal government has some of the best and brightest minds working for it in different government agencies like Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Agency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, etc. Also, let’s not forget the thousands that serve the union in the different branches of the armed forces. NASA, particularly, recruits the best minds from some of the top engineering universities in the island, and some of these are even working on important projects like the missions to mars, amongst others.

So are we that different from the Americans that live in the mainland? Well it depends on what region of the country you look at. We sure are very different to New England, but we are very similar in culture to the southern and western states. Even amongst these we have differences, and they have differences amongst themselves. Texans, in particularly, are one of the most proud peoples in the continent, whom value and protect their culture to the death. The Lone Star State was for a short time its own republic, and has developed its own custom and traditions in spite of becoming a member state of the union. So has Louisiana, and every other state in the Union.

Statehood for Puerto Rico is about dignity, it’s about better serving our One Nation under God. Statehood for Puerto Rico is our right as citizens of the United States of America, for we should contribute more to our symbiotic relationship with the federal government. Even as a State, Puerto Rico must be self sufficient it must be able to run with the least amount of governmental help. Puerto Rico must also serve as a bridge to help close the gap between Latin America and North America.

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