Puerto Ricois an island located in the Caribbean Sea in the West Indies. It is anincorporated territory of the United States of America. The first white man toset foot on the island was the Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus, whodeclared the name of the island to be San Juan. However, when gold wasdiscovered in the river, the name of the island changed to Puerto Rico, Spanishfor rich port.’ Puerto Rico was colonized by the Spanish until 1898, when it came under the dominion of theUnited States.
However, even in this state, it is still largely aself-governing state. The island came under the rule of the United States,because, during the Spanish-American war the United States had invaded it, notonly because it was a Spanish territory, but also because it was a hub forgrowing sugar. After the United States promised to fight for the liberty andfreedom of the Islanders, Puerto Ricans joined their war effort by attacking Spanish-ownedenterprises. However, when the Spaniards were kicked out of the island, insteadof keeping their promise of restoring Puerto Rican dignity and liberty, theAmericans stayed put and installed a colonial system, thus supplanting theparliamentary system the Puerto Ricans had hoped would be their system ofchoice, and whose members had been democratically-elected by the Puerto Ricans.During itsexpansion in the 19th Century, the United States had createdincorporated territories such as Colorado, with the view that residents ofthese places would eventually gain American citizenship. However, Congressblocked such a move for the Puerto Ricans, arguing that people from territoriesformerly under Spanish rule were ‘aliens’ who would never be able to understandAnglo-Saxon systems.
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Thus, the Puerto Ricans stayed in this limbo where theneither had their full independence nor were they citizens of the United Statesof America until 1917 when they gained their citizenship following theJones-Shafroth Act, a move that critics argue was only possible because theUnited States needed people to fight for them in the First World War, ratherlike the Emancipation of the blacks during the American Civil War. In 1952,Puerto Rico officially became a Commonwealth of the United States. This meantthat while it was under overall American control, it was a self-governingterritory. However, Puerto Ricans, along with residents of areas such as theUS.
Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa,don’t have the ability to vote for President, or even for a representative tothe Senate. While they may have representation to Congress, this is through anonvoting member of the House of Representatives who doesn’t have the power to vote, even on issues affecting PuertoRico.PuertoRicans have held several attempts to fight for their independence. In fact, inJanuary 2017, their governor, Ricardo Rosello, came into power on the back of apromise tofight for statehood. Later that year, a referendum was held, andPuerto Ricans voted to become a fully-fledged state of the United States.
However, such a vote has no legal consequence unless it is ratified by theAmerican Congress, which has no aim of doing so.