To the delight and approval of his audience, David Letterman began his Late Show opening monologue on January 9th with a quick plug for Puerto Rican statehood.
After welcoming his audience to the show, Letterman immediately asked the crowd, “Honestly, ladies and gentlemen, isn’t it about time Puerto Rico became a state?” After pausing for audience applause and laughter, Letterman continued, “Isn’t it? I mean, come on.” This opening bit ended with Latin music and more applause.
Letterman’s mention of Puerto Rican statehood on popular nationwide television – and his no-nonsense attitude about it – reflects how far the United States and Puerto Rico have both come since the previous plebiscite was held in 1998. In Puerto Rico, the 1998 vote was marked by confusion, while in the broader U.S. there was a general lack of awareness and concern over the un-American treatment of roughly four million U.S. citizens who lack democratic rights.
This time, with the 2012 plebiscite results, there is clarity that most people in Puerto Rico seek to move beyond their current undemocratic territorial status. On the mainland – and in popular culture in particular – there is now a growing awareness that, to paraphrase David Letterman, it’s about time to legitimize Puerto Rico’s relationship with the rest of the United States. I mean, honestly.