Puerto Rico has voted to become the 51st state of the Union. Congress, however, will have the final say on Puerto Rican statehood, giving residents of the fifty states influence in the decision making process as well. It is an appropriate time for all Americans to discuss this issue and look ahead to the challenges and opportunities of having a 51st state.
A nationwide City Data poll with fewer than 200 responses found supporters of Puerto Rican statehood trailing slightly. In the comments section of the poll, mainland concerns were delineated. As in most discussions of Puerto Rican statehood, there were three primary reservations among statehood opponents:
- Economics. It is true that Puerto Rico is not as strong economically as the states; it is also true that all of the states that have entered the Union in the past two centuries have had economic limitations and have prospered after becoming part of the United States. There is no reason to think that Puerto Rico will be different.
- Language. Puerto Rico is largely a Spanish-speaking community. This is also true of Hialeah, FL, and Laredo, TX, where census figures show that more than 90% of residents speak Spanish. In the United States as a whole, according to the 2000 census, 18 percent of the population speaks another language besides English at home.
- The balance of power. With statehood, Puerto Rico would gain representation in the United States House of Representatives and Senate. Many commentators express concern that the entry of Puerto Rico would change the balance of power in the government by increasing either Democrats or Republicans. There are currently Puerto Rican leaders in both national political parties and both parties have taken positions on Puerto Rico’s status. What’s more, the balance of power in the House and Senate changes regularly.
The remaining issue is the flag. Somewhere in discussions of Puerto Rican statehood, someone usually expresses doubt that 51 stars could be conveniently placed on the U.S. flag.
On April Fools Day this year, there was a rash of spoof news reports that Puerto Rico had become a state, including one at AllProudAmericans.com which featured the flag you see above: a tidy 51-star arrangement that should quell fears of an asymmetrical flag.