“Statehood for Puerto Rico is impossible”. That has been the premise under which many anti-statehood and anti-colonialist have acted and act upon, they even claim that asking for statehood is the best way to resolve the status dilemma because when Congress denies it, that will precipitate anti-colonialist forces into action to achieve a solution via the model of free-associated-sovereign commonwealth, or independence. The premises for this belief is that statehood is bad for the United States and bad for Puerto Rico due to economic and cultural reasons, and therefore, they will never grant it. Thus, a denied petition for statehood would trigger a political crisis that would force the United States to decolonize Puerto Rico.
That statehood is bad for Puerto Rico and for the United States is something of which I am convinced and I am willing to argue in any forum, here or there. But in life forming a strategy to achieve what I want, based on what the other party would do, is an invitation to a jump into the abyss because my truth, necessarily, is not your truth.
Furthermore, the most unfortunate part of this strategy is that, perhaps subconsciously, it parts from a colonized vision. The implicit rationale is: I know that statehood is bad for the USA and PR, and if I came to that conclusion, Americans, who are so intelligent and infallible, will have to reach that same conclusion. In other words, the premise is that it’s impossible for the Unites States to make a mistake.
But history shows us the opposite. There is the Vietnam War, and more recently, the Iraq War, the instability in Libya and the disaster Syria is currently living. Any rational analysis of what led to each of these events confirms that such interventions were bad for the United States, but acting under mistaken premises, and/or particular intentions, the United States made those mistakes, which cost the lives of many American citizens (including Puerto Ricans) and international disrepute.
In the case of Puerto Rico there are irrefutable facts that we can’t forget:
1. After a relationship of more than 116 years, the United States does not understand Puerto Rico.
2. The United States does not understand that we are a nation with our own personality, identity and culture. For many American leaders, including President Obama, Puerto Rico is simply the place where 3.5 million American citizens live. For others, we are just another minority within the broad “melting pot” that is America. Given this ignorance, they treat us like any of the other minorities that have integrated themselves into their society, and not as a nation with its own identity.
3. The United States does not understand Puerto Rico’s particular economic situation. They don’t understand that we are a society with a developing economy that lives and survives within the most developed economy in the world. From that perspective, it’s difficult for them to understand the effects that total integration would have upon the Puerto Rican economy.
4. The immediacy of US politics can reduce the topic of statehood to the immediate electoral conveniences of one party or the other, without focusing on the consequences.
For me, statehood means the death of Puerto Rico. For the United States, it means its transformation into a multinational state, something they are not and don’t know. The negative consequences for both are too high, but let’s not make the mistake of thinking and acting like they are infallible and don’t make mistakes. We need to educate ourselves and we have to educate them. Remember Vietnam, remember Iraq.
Originally published in Spanish by El Nuevo Día on July 13, 2016.
Translated by Gabriela Acevedo Gándara