Puerto Rico: la isla del encanto


Votes have been cast and United States citizens have elected their next president, or at least most United States citizens. A few miles from Florida, there’s a small island that consists of 3.5 million Puerto Ricans who did not vote in the United States election, even though they are all American citizens.  

As a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico does not have active representation in the Federal Government and therefore cannot vote for congressmen, senators, or the President of the United States. As a result, people who are not elected by the citizens of Puerto Rico decide the supreme law of the land. However, we can vote in the primaries and we do send delegates to the Republican and Democratic Conventions to cast our votes, but that’s it. After that it’s over, and in the general election we just sit idly and wait to be told what once again was decided for us.

This has been Puerto Rico’s reality since 1898, when the United States conquered the territory from Spain during the Spanish-American War. In the year 1917, the United States granted Puerto Ricans American citizenship and almost 100 years later people who are supposedly considered American citizens cannot participate in the democracy of the United States.

I grew up in the midst of this political situation, even though I was not always aware of it. I remember the day I realized that we are not allowed to vote for the President and the frustration I felt that day has stayed with me ever since. When elections come around every four years, this frustration is multiplied: I cannot understand how 3.5 million citizens that have American citizenship are not allowed to vote for their Commander in Chief by the same country that asks them to fight in their wars.

Most recently, things have gotten worse as President Barack Obama signed into law a bill known by its acronym PROMESA (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act), which means ‘promise’ in Spanish. PROMESA was created to help combat Puerto Rico’s debt of $72,000,000,000, and states that a fiscal control board will take over the fiscal decisions of where the government will distribute its funds. The main concern with PROMESA is that it will not help to restructure Puerto Rico’s economy, only solve the debt problem. While the debt problem is hindering Puerto Rico’s growth, what happens after? How are we going to prevent Puerto Rico from falling into debt once again? PROMESA was also chosen by the U.S. Congress, Senate and President so once again we had no say in the decisions that affect us. Does that sound like democracy to you?