Disputes about statehood for Puerto Rico focus on many issues, from language to taxes, but one of the simplest questions is also one of the most common: what will the U.S. flag look like with 51 stars.
Modern graphics programs are very different from the methods used in 1959, when the U.S. last added a state. They can automatically arrange 51 stars into a pleasing pattern. Updating the flag will be, quite literally, no problem.
If Puerto Rico becomes a state, the bigger issue will be its state symbols.
Puerto Rico already has a flag that can be its state flag and a seal that can be its state seal. It has a nickname, “Isle of Enchantment” or “Isla del Encanto.” According to 50States.com, it even has an official bird, the stripe-headed tanager; an official flower, the Puerto Rican hibiscus; and an official tree, the silk-cotton tree.
That’s just the beginning.
Here are some of the official state symbols recognized by U.S. states:
- Animals of various kinds, including specific categories for bats, breeds of dog, insects, crustaceans, dinosaurs (not to be confused with the official state fossil), birds, fish, and horse breeds.
- In addition to state trees and flowers, quite a few states have a state grass. California’s purple needlegrass and Minnesota’s wild rice are standouts in this category.
- Flora and fauna are among the best-known state symbols, but there are also state microbes and state fungi. Oregon is the only state to have made its state microbe (brewer’s yeast) official, but Hawaii is apparently still considering a bioluminescent microbe as well as a microbe that has been so far found only in Hawaii. Tough choice.
- State fossils have been chosen by votes among schoolchildren in some states. If you have wooly mammoths (Alaska) or saber-toothed cats (California) in your past, why not celebrate them?
- Official state minerals range from the diamonds of Arkansas to Kentucky’s coal. Vermont has five state minerals, and quite a few states have three.
- State dances are very common, but they are almost always the square dance. Hawaii has the hula and Wisconsin claims the polka, while South Carolina has three official dances, including the waltz.
- Food is another common item in the state symbols list. Most states list edible crops, like the Arkansas official state fruit/vegetable, the pink tomato, but Oklahoma has a complete state meal from barbecue to pecan pie. New York’s state snack is yogurt and Louisiana has both an official state jelly and an official state meat pie.
- Drinks are named in 28 states, but the milk industry’s lobbyists worked hard to get recognition for their product in the 1980s, and got 21 of the 28.
- Six states have official firearms and only two have state toys, but 17 have official state tartans. Musical instruments and sports (Maryland’s is jousting, but rodeo is the most common) are a couple of other relatively rare options.
While the official choices are often a fairly transparent boost for local products, many of the quirkier symbolic items express strong local feelings. Most have been gradually added over the years, so Puerto Rico won’t have to decide immediately, but with statehood will certainly come state symbols.