Democrats and Republicans Must Consider Puerto Rican Nationhood | Opinion

Lobbyists for Puerto Rico's pro-statehood movement recently have been targeting Capitol Hill with their "statehood is equality" and "voting rights" narrative, hoping it resonates with and pulls on the heartstrings of congressional members, particularly Democrats. Americans need to set aside the red, white and blue siren songs of statehood and finally begin to consider that the most viable and appropriate option to Puerto Rico's 124-year colonial problem is national sovereignty—either independence or a compact of free association.

Americans need to understand that despite pro-statehood supporters claiming Puerto Ricans are patriotic American citizens and desiring equality with their fellow Americans, Puerto Ricans are actually a distinct Spanish-speaking Latin American and Caribbean nation with its own national identity and history that has fought and resisted all efforts to impose American assimilation and English-only policies. The vast majority of Puerto Ricans cherish their national identity and unique culture; refer to Puerto Rico as their país and nación (country/nation); speak only Spanish; do not celebrate the Fourth of July; actively resist assimilation and American colonial settler gentrification; and patriotically cheer and support the Puerto Rico National Olympic Team over Team USA.

In fact, it's common knowledge that most statehood leaders in Puerto Rico cannot even speak proper English, know basic U.S. history, nor can recite the Pledge of Allegiance. That is a reality statehooders fail to mention to Americans. Puerto Rico only came under the U.S. flag when Puerto Rico was militarily invaded and occupied by the United States in 1898. Just because the U.S. imposed U.S. citizenship on all Puerto Ricans (without our consent) in 1917 and violently suppressed the independence movement for decades, does not mean we cease to be Puerto Ricans.

Some who support annexation attempt to silence pro-sovereignty voices and have strategically placed themselves within the Democratic and Republican parties, selling statehood to Americans who are uninformed about Puerto Rico's history, culture and its struggles for freedom and independence. Statehooders market statehood to Democrats as a way to secure two Democratic senators, yet with Republicans, these same statehooders then proclaim that Puerto Ricans would really vote for Republicans because some Puerto Ricans hold conservative values.

In Puerto Rico, the pro-statehood party promotes intolerance, racism and is known for its corruption and pro-dependence policies meant to tie more Puerto Ricans onto welfare and federal programs, all paid for by American taxpayers. As statehooders believe that they are a majority and that statehood is a done deal ripe for the taking with the mere passage of their H.R. 1522 (The Statehood Admission Act), Americans need to know the following information.

The Puerto Rican flag
The Puerto Rican flag flies near the Capitol building in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In 2020, Puerto Rico celebrated its sixth status plebiscite, and only 26 percent of all registered voters supported statehood and a whopping 67 percent of the people did not vote for the pro-statehood governor. Also, the pro-democracy Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) received renewed electoral support and various pro-sovereignty candidates (across various parties) were elected to Puerto Rico's legislature. The tides are invariably turning and despite statehooder claims, there certainly is no mandate for Puerto Rico statehood—in Puerto Rico nor in the U.S. Congress. Although the curated statistics of the statehooders have them claiming "victories for statehood," the U.S. Department of Justice, under both Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden, have ignored the sham plebiscites that statehooders use to convince Americans that statehood has broad support.

Most Puerto Ricans, particularly young professionals, realize that statehood is not a viable option for their country for political, economic and cultural reasons. Currently, free association is the status option with the largest growth margin of support in modern Puerto Rico, going from 0.29 percent of the vote in the 1998 plebiscite to 33.3 percent of the vote in the 2012 plebiscite. In the 2012 plebiscite, both sovereignty options together (independence and free association) garnered almost 40 percent of the vote—not too bad when one considers that independence and pro-sovereignty advocates have been persecuted, arrested, assassinated and terrorized by the colonial regime and the "equality-loving" statehooders for over a century.

Remember, as the statehooders demand "respect for democracy" from others who oppose statehood, they are only relevant and politically powerful in Puerto Rico today because they are standing atop a mountain of fear and murdered patriots. Thankfully, the fear of freedom is slowly wearing off and more Puerto Ricans are embracing nationhood and sovereignty as the best way to conclude U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico.

While statehood lobbyists are pushing for Congress to support and pass H.R. 1522, which would unilaterally impose annexation on our nation, other Puerto Ricans and members of Congress are supporting H.R. 2070 (The Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act), which would tackle decolonization in an inclusive way and consider all non-territorial options like independence and free association, not just statehood. While statehooders who supposedly call for equality wish to exclude other status options from the table, other Puerto Ricans wish to be inclusive and support the freedom to choose, which is accomplished by H.R. 2070. Statehooders fail to realize that most Puerto Ricans do not desire voting rights within another country that is not their own; they desire and are willing to fight for their nation—Puerto Rico—and their right to exist as a free and democratic nation.

Americans need to understand that Puerto Rico is not an extension of Miami; Puerto Rico is an occupied nation struggling against U.S. colonial rule for over 124 years. A majority of Puerto Ricans refuse to forever surrender our country, our national identity, our Spanish language and our aspirations of freedom, national emancipation and sovereignty for federal handouts and voting rights within a nation that is not our own. I am one of them.

We desire a voice not in Congress, but at the United Nations and other international forums. As Americans (both liberals and conservatives) understand these aspirations and consider the political, cultural and economic ramifications of statehood for Puerto Rico and the United States, they will surely come to support Puerto Rico's freedom and sovereignty. All nations are born to be free; not live in chains or enslaved in the master's house. Puerto Rico's freedom is inevitable.

Javier A. Hernandez is a Puerto Rican entrepreneur, writer, author, advisor and pro-sovereignty and decolonization advocate based in New Jersey and Puerto Rico. He is the author of PREXIT: Forging Puerto Rico's Path to Sovereignty and Puerto Rico: The Economic Case for Sovereignty. He can be reached here.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.