Puerto Rico once again is in the midst of a political endeavor. It has been, I could say, for many centuries.
Our island is rich in culture, natural resources, professional manpower and talent.
Puerto Rico is a gem in the Caribbean. Its citizens are well-educated and are always looking to better themselves and find bigger opportunities.
Once the newest administration came to power in January 2021, they organized a committee once again, (I say “once again” because this has been going on for years) to look into the political status of the island becoming a state.
To give you a little background information, Puerto Ricans are born U.S. citizens. The island has all the federal agencies and federal laws imposed as on the mainland.
English is mandatory, taught in schools from grade school all the way to 12th grade. Society receives a huge influence from the American pop culture.
As a U.S. territory, the island is limited in its commerce and importing goods by the Jones Act. Considered protectionist legislation, the act focuses on issues related to maritime commerce and sabotage.
Without getting too technical, the Jones Act states that Puerto Rico can only ship goods on vessels operated by the U.S. maritime industry.
So, how does this small example tie up with the status of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico?
It does in a big way. This is only a small example of how the economy of a territory is limited to expand its wings and prosper.
Legislators and the government in Puerto Rico have been looking for equality. They have been looking for representation in Congress, and the only way to do so is by becoming a state.
This issue has been debated by many administrations before, but it has never become relevant enough for Congress.
As a Puerto Rican native, I have been puzzled for years by this political issue. Sometimes too sensitive to talk about for many of my fellow countrymen, it has to do with national pride.
We have a unique situation with our flag. We can display our flag at the same height as the U.S. flag. In my opinion, this is where a lot of people in PR draw the line.
That is a byproduct of the commonwealth legislation as it was proclaimed in the constitution on July 25, 1952.
The division comes when some think that Puerto Rico has the potential to become a prosperous, independent nation and others think that only by statehood they can prosper.
I can remember at least six previous status referendums on the political status of the island, with a few in favor of statehood with no apparent serious interest from Congress, as I previously stated.
What I can say is that independence is a scary subject for many. Not because we doubt our abilities to stay afloat, but because of the years of economic uncertainty this separation will entail to everyone in the island.
At the end of the day, all of us working-class citizens worry about how we are going to feed our families. How are we going to give better opportunities to our children? How can we take our careers to their full potential?
And those answers can be answered in many different ways depending on what Puerto Rican you ask.
(Jessica Preston moved from Puerto Rico to Rio Rancho in 2004. Her daughter, Amanda Mayoral, a 2018 Cleveland High graduate, is a three-time state cross country champion.)