Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Saturday, December 25, 2010



Recently, the US House of Representatives passed a bill you might have missed. It granted the territorial government of Puerto Rico the right to hold an election in 2011 to decide whether or not the island wants to become the 51st US state. Heard this one before? Well, this isn't the first time Puerto Ricans have gone to the polls on the subject. In 1967, 1993 and 1998, similar ballot measures failed, and the island remained a US territory. But nowadays, things are different. For the first time ever, a pro-statehood political party is in control of both the legislature AND the governor's office. Finally, it seems the people of Puerto Rico want to formally join the United States of America and lose their status as an 'unincorporated territory of the USA'...a very confusing term.

Confusing is a good word to describe Puerto Rico. Even the name itself is confusing. The island was discovered by Christopher Columbus, who named it after St. John the Baptist. However, traders and pirates refered to it as the 'rich port.' Somewhere along the way, the names for the city and the island got switched. So, today, the island is called 'Rich port' (Puerto Rico) and the city has Columbus' original name of 'St. John' (San Juan). How the island became a US territory is also confusing. After the Spanish-American War, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippine Islands were ceded from Spain to the USA. While Cuba and the Philippines would later become independent nations, tiny Guam and heavily populated Puerto Rico would forever be left in limbo. Are they a colony or a territory or a commonwealth...or...or...whatever.

The confusion continues. While the 150,000 people on Guam are fine being a forgotten island, the four million folks on Puerto Rico are not. Over the last 113 years, many attempts have been made to clarify their status as 'Americans.' In 1917, President Wilson signed legislation officially making all who live on the island US citizens. Twenty years later, they were included in the Social Security Program...and later in Medicare as well. However, Puerto Ricans are not required to pay Federal Income tax, and cannot vote for president. Nor do they have a representative in Congress. All of which is very confusing. Hopefully, next year's vote on statehood will help solidify the lush island's status. Until then, the DUNER BLOG has a fun quiz for you to take. Here are five true or false statement about Puerto Rico. Good luck!

1. Miss Puerto Rico competes in the Miss America Pageant.
2. You can shop at 7-11, Costco and Wal-Mart in Puerto Rico.
3. The island uses the US dollar as currency.
4. France has an embassy in San Juan.
5. US citizens need a passport to visit Puerto Rico.

1. False. Miss Puerto Rico competes in the Miss Universe Pageant, not Miss America.
2. True. Almost all American conglomerates are active on the island.
3. True. American dollars have been used since 1898.
4. False. As a territory, it can only have foreign consulates, not embassies.
5. False. US citizens do not need a passport to enter a US territory.

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