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Students examine Puerto Rico’s possible status change

Gabriela Pabon, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore who was born in Puerto Rican, said that while she would not mind Puerto Rico becoming a state, she worries the people would lose their culture.


“The way of life in mainland United States is very different than in Puerto Rico, and my biggest fear would be that our traditions would eventually be erased,” she said. “In Puerto Rico, people are a lot more laid back and are very warm. I feel like people in the U.S. are more concentrated on the individual, while people in Puerto Rico are more concentrated on the collective.”

About 80 percent of Puerto Ricans voted in a referendum Tuesday that re-evaluated Puerto Rico’s status as U.S., according to the Puerto Rican General Elections 2012 website. Fifty-four percent voted “no” when asked if they were content with the current relationship with the U.S. and 61 percent voted favoring statehood.

Thirty-three percent voted for Puerto Rican semi-autonomy, and 6 percent voted for complete independence.

Julian Go, a Boston University sociology professor, said the vote does not confirm that Puerto Rico will become a state.

“If you think about the history of these types of referenda, it’s non-binding, so even if Puerto Rico votes to become a state, it’s not going to happen necessarily,” he said.

Go said the Puerto Rican statehood bid has been an ongoing matter for years.

“There’s a whole history of a desire to become a state and at the same time, fundamental disappointment,” he said. “There’s a history of resentment and disappointment, and I think that history going back so far means that these votes are more symbolic than anything else.”

Juan Pablo Cáceres, a Puerto Rican College of General Studies sophomore, said the referendum was illegitimate.

“It’s more like a stunt that the previous governmental party did because they are pro-statehood,” he said. “To get reelected for this new term, they tried to do this new plebiscite so … at least people would see it back home better than our current status [as a] freely associated state.”

Cáceres said Puerto Rico’s current status is damaging, but he supports independence.

“Right now our current status is worse than statehood or independence because we have so many limits that are imposed on, first, our economy,” he said. “The development of our economy is really going downward from being [associated] with the American companies.”

Taylor Boas, a political science professor, said Puerto Rico’s current status has both benefits and drawbacks.

“The tradeoff is that Puerto Ricans don’t pay U.S. federal income tax, they don’t have voting representation in congress, and they don’t have Electoral College votes for president,” he said. “It’s hard to say what would be better for them. It really is trading an economic benefit right now for being able to have a greater voice in politics.”

The results of Tuesday’s referendum suggest people are shifting toward believing a political voice matters more than economic benefits, Boas said.

Arlene Garcia, a CGS sophomore who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, said Puerto Rico should be a state.

“I hope that this does get more attention by the United States and by the Puerto Rican government,” she said. “The governor that was elected doesn’t believe in statehood. Personally, I think the issue will be pushed under the rug as soon as next year starts because of the politicians that were elected.”

Pabon said if Puerto Rico were to become a state, she hopes more Puerto Ricans take advantage of education in the U.S.

“We do have a good education in Puerto Rico, but I feel like you get exposed to so many different people and so many companies [in the U.S.],” she said. “The United States has been globalized in so many ways and many in Puerto Rico don’t see it.”


One Comment

  1. The press in the U.S. and in the world have been misinformed about the results of this referendum. First the party that won the elections, the Popular Democratic Party, who supports the formula of Commonweath, was opposed to this referendum and did not participate in the talks previous to defining the referendum. The parties that participated and agreed on this referendum were the Puerto Rico Independence Party, who is in favor of independence and the New Progressive Party, the ruling party until the end of the year, that supports statehood.

    The ballot was divided in two parts totally independent one from the other. In the first part, voters had the option for voting in favor of continuing the current status with a yes vote, or voting against it.

    The results of this part were as follows:

    Sí (yes): 796,007 votes
    No (no): 934,238 votes
    Total de votos (total votes) : 1,730,245
    En blanco (unmarked ballots) : 64,123
    Protestadas( protested): 12,720
    (The number of total votes only includes people who voted for the yes question or the no question. The votes of the people who deposited the ballot unmarked or protested were not included in the total votes. Why? The Comision Estatal de Elecciones, the entity that conducts the election have not answered that.)

    The second part of the ballot stated: “Regardless of your selection in the first question, please mark which of the following non-territorial option would you prefer.” And it had three options: statehood, independence and sovereing commonwealth.

    The result of this part was as follows:

    Estadidad (statehood) : 802,179 votes
    Independencia (independence) : 72,551 votes
    ELA Soberano (sovereing commonwealth) : 436,997 votes
    En blanco (unmarked ballots) : 468,478
    Protestadas (protested) : 17,602

    (As in the first question, the Comision Estatal de Elecciones did not count the ballots that were deposited unmarked or protested, that is why statehood comes with 61% of the votes. If all the votes were counted statehood will come with only 44.6% of the vote.)

    The result in the first part reflects that voters voted against the current status.

    The second part, which as the ballot instructions said is totally independent of the first question, out of a total of 1,797,807 ballots, 802,179 voters favored statehood. That’s a 44.6% votes in favor of statehood. The reason for the high number of unmarked and protested ballots was that the Popular Democratic Party and other political movements encouraged their militants to leave this question without voting in it or protesting it by writing some message of protest.

    To say that statehood was favored is totally incorrect.

    Here is a link to see the ballot used in the referendum: