Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño opened his remarks at the Republican National Convention last night with a welcome of “buenas noches” and ended with “muchas gracias.” In between, he explicitly told the convention delegates that in Puerto Rico “[l]ike in your home states, we raise and salute the American flag,” and described freedom as “the essence of who we are as Americans.”
Puerto Rico is part of America.
The relationship can be complicated and sometimes difficult. Puerto Ricans do not have the quintessentially American freedom to vote for President or equal representation in Congress. Over the years, there have been efforts to compensate for this incomplete democracy. But as our founding fathers knew, there are repercussions from not having a voice in the institutions that govern us.
Last night at the convention, Puerto Rico’s status as a territory did not matter. Governor Fortuño comfortably began and ended his remarks in Spanish. His speech, however, was in English. The United States is, after all, an English speaking country. Yet our strength is in our diversity, and growing U.S. multilingualism will continue to strengthen our country. In a world growing smaller though technology and travel, multilingualism is also inevitable.
Governor Fortuño spoke about visiting a wounded Puerto Rican soldier at a U.S. Army medical center and the 200,000 Puerto Ricans who have served in uniform to defend “our nation and the freedom we hold so dear.” Puerto Rico’s proud history of involvement and leadership in the U.S. military creates an indelible bond with the rest of America. Puerto Ricans have fought in the trenches with other Americans beginning with World War I. Since Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States more than 110 years ago, our fates have been intertwined.
Governor Fortuño spoke in favor of the Romney/Ryan ticket, but he did not disparage the Democratic Party or individual Democrats. In Puerto Rico, the statehood/commonwealth divide is sharper than the partisan Republican/Democrat divide. Governor Fortuno is affiliated with the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP), but so is Puerto Rico’s representative to Congress, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, who is a Democrat. The Governor and Resident Commissioner are aligned in their Puerto Rican political affiliation even though one is a national Republican and the other a Democrat.
In casual remarks the day after she addressed the convention, Ann Romney called her campaign trip to Puerto Rico a “wonderful chance” to “peek into a culture and a vibrancy and energy,” that “represents the best in America.” Although she spoke these words at the Republican Convention, she also delivered her remarks as an American, just as Governor Fortuño did last night.