According to Urban Dictionary, the “Annexation of Puerto Rico” refers to “a glorious football play” popularized by the 1994 film “Little Giants.”
But the phrase has other meanings as well.
Academic sources sometimes refer to the annexation of Puerto Rico as the U.S. invasion during the Spanish American War in 1898, after which Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory or possession.
More recently, the phrase has taken on new meaning, as some critics have called the possible admission of Puerto Rico as a U.S. state to be an “annexation.”
Is Puerto Rico Already “Annexed” to the United States?
Puerto Rico is extensively integrated into U.S. laws and society today. The U.S. territory participates in the U.S. postal service, the U.S. judicial system, and many more systems of the United States.
Consider some of the many ways in which Puerto Rico is already included in the United States:
- Everyone born in Puerto Rico since 1917 has been a citizen of the United States.
- Puerto Ricans can travel study, and work in the states without a passport or visa.
- Businesses in Puerto Rico are covered by the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
- Puerto Rico’s courts are part of the U.S. judicial system.
- Federal programs generally apply to Puerto Rico, even though often less generously than in states.
- English and Spanish are the most commonly spoken languages in Puerto Rico, just as they are in the states.
- Puerto Rico supports the U.S. military and the U.S. military defends Puerto Rico.
- The Island is covered by the same national security forces as the states.
- Drug laws and protection from drug-related crimes are covered by the same laws.
- Voters in Puerto Rico participate in U.S. primary presidential elections.
- Federal disaster relief flows to Puerto Rico through FEMA; foreign countries qualify only for limited assistance through USAID
- Puerto Rico uses the U.S. dollar as its currency
- The U.S. national political parties also include representatives from Puerto Rico.
- Puerto Rico has a representative in Congress.
- Puerto Ricans are represented in the arts, sciences, athletics, and every other industry and realm of accomplishment in the United States.
- Family and marital relationships between people on the Island and people in the states are very widespread.
Would Statehood Further Annex Puerto Rico?
If Puerto Rico could be considered annexed by the United States, it probably would have already happened – way back in 1898.
Today, Puerto Rico is inherently tied to the U.S.
And yet the people of Puerto Rico do not enjoy the full panoply of democratic freedoms, including the right to vote for the U.S. President, U.S. Senators, or a slate of U.S. Representatives who make the federal laws that govern them.
If that’s the case, then statehood would turn Puerto Rico from its current “annexed” status into an equal, more dignified, part of the United States.
Updated on February 28, 2023.