Puerto Rico Could Learn from New Mexico
By JAY MILLER
SANTA FE -- Three stops in Puerto Rico during our recent Caribbean trip brought back more thoughts about the similarities between the Puerto Rico of today and the New Mexico of 100 years ago.
First of all, I am so glad to see that a casual tourist to my island with a whopping "three stops" of experience feels confident and knowledgeable enough to recommend a course of action for the Puerto Rican people. WOW, we are so dumb, you know, thank GOD you have decided to share your insights.
In 1898, when the United States took Puerto Rico in the Spanish American War, the territory of New Mexico was getting its act together for one more push at convincing Congress to approve statehood.
New Mexico, which had been taken in the Mexican-American War 50 years earlier, had been trying since 1850 to become a state. It would take another 14 years to achieve final success but we had figured out a systematic approach.
Our political leaders wanted statehood. They could see many advantages for the state as well as for themselves. By 1898, they were trying hard to look more like mainstream Americans. We built a capitol building with a dome on it. We started building houses out of brick. And we began promoting tourism.
OK, lets take this step by step.
1. New Mexico had to convince Congress that whites were in control of the territory.
2. This was done through the subjugation of the Navajo and Apache peoples as well as the demotion of the landed New Mexican Spaniard/Mexican population to second class citizenship.
3. It was finally the onset of American migration into the territory that convinced Congress that the population was now suitable for statehood.
4. Building a domed capitol has nothing to do with it.
5. People were already using bricks in construction before Americans showed up in New Mexico and everyone promotes tourism, even Siberia.
Possibly the most important factor was that our politicians realized they had to work in a bipartisan manner to demonstrate a united front to Congress.
But even though Puerto Rico's leaders continually push for statehood, they aren't doing it in a united manner. Each of several political parties has its own solution for the island's political status.
"Puerto Rico's leaders" do not continually push for statehood, only the pro-statehood Partido Nuevo Progresista pushed for statehood. The other two major political parties are pushing for independence or continued commonwealth status. So there cannot be a "united manner" if the goals are mutually exclusive.
And they aren't moving the island toward looking more like a part of the United States. Most Puerto Ricans speak only Spanish even though English also is an official language. Nearly every American chain has stores all over the island but signs and billboards are almost totally in Spanish.That, in itself, would convince many members of Congress that Puerto Rico should not be a state. It runs against the English-Only movement, in addition to the anti-Hispanic feelings generated by our immigration crisis.
Damn, you found us out. We speak Spanish. Yes you are right, for the oh so great prize of statehood we must give up over 500 years of history, literature, and culture, so we may fool Americans into thinking we are just like you. Again thanks for the tip.
But perhaps the biggest problem is political. If Puerto Rico were to become a state, its large population would qualify it for about 10 members of Congress. And it's certainly a possibility that all 10 would be Democrats. Think what that would do to our current delicate balance.
Another problem is that the other political entity advocating for statehood is the District of Columbia, which also is very likely to elect all Democrats. If one of those two were Republican, the chances for both would be better.
Ever since pre-Civil War days, Congress has liked to admit states in pairs. Back then, slave states and free states were paired. Most recently, the admission of Alaska and Hawaii was balanced between Republicans and Democrats.
Point of clarification here. There is actually no way of knowing whether Puerto Ricans would vote Democratic or Republican, while Puerto Ricans may be more inclined toward labor rights and universal healthcare, Puerto Ricans are far more religiously christian than the most christian state in the Union.
There are reasons to admit Puerto Rico to the union. The island's residents pay no federal taxes and yet they receive well over $10 billion in federal benefits.
Not only do residents not pay taxes, U.S. corporations don't pay taxes on profits made in Puerto Rico, even though the goods are sold in the 50 states. The federal government loses several billion more on that loophole.
Wrong, Puerto Ricans do pay Social Security to the Federal Government and in fact get less benefits in return. Yes there is no Federal Income Tax, but Puerto Rico does not have representation in Congress, remember that little thing about "No taxation without Representation". Also Puerto Rico is required to ship all goods in American Merchant ships the most expensive in the world and it is required to use American money which provides the United States with an automatic profit margin when conducting commerce in the island. The United States also forbids Puerto Rico to control its own customs service, immigration control, or conduct diplomatic or trade talks with other nations. Also American corporations are taxed as income garnered in Puerto Rico is considered foreign income and it is taxed appropriately by the IRS. In all the Federal Government profits from the current system immensely especially because Puerto Rico is powerless to change the system, or voice its concerns.
Previous polls and referenda indicate that a large minority of Puerto Ricans want statehood, but most of the people I talk to say they would be crazy to give up the deal they have now.
Based on everything you have said so far I doubt you spoke with anyone. True, a large minority of Puerto Ricans do want statehood, but the majority does not. Many want independence from the colonial relationship imposed by the United States. Many are afraid of instability in independence and choose to retain the current colonial system known in the U.S. as commonwealth, but they know they do not want to be a state.
Many politicians and social activists claim that denying statehood is just another vestige of American colonialism. For that reason, Congress invented a commonwealth status for the territory back in the '50s. No one is real sure what that means because the status can be removed by Congress at any time.
The majority of the population hasn't been convinced of anything yet. They don't want to give up their Spanish language even though English classes are available in every school.
And everyone seems to recognize a good deal on taxes when they see one.
You know I've been to New Mexico, lived in Albuquerque for about a month, and I must tell you that for a place that claims to be so multicultural, all I saw were people using culture as a novelty attraction. Santa Fe is a perfect example of what I and many others do not want Puerto Rico to become, a pageant show of culture without real substance.
Read the original article here http://insidethecapitol.blogspot.com/2007/04/puerto-rico-could-learn-from-new.html