Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory for over a century, yet many Americans know little about the island and its relationship with the United States.
The history of Puerto Rico and the mainland is long and complicated, but it doesn’t excuse that a 2016 survey found that only 43 percent of Americans know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. AJ+ producer and host Sana Saeed’s new video, released Sunday, is a great first step to change that.
“There’s very little conversation about Puerto Rico itself despite it being a U.S. territory for over 120 years,” Saeed says at the beginning of the video.
In a little over six minutes, Saeed gives a quick breakdown of the history of Puerto Rico ― from the United States’ acquisition of the island during the Spanish-American War to Puerto Rican’s 2012 plebiscite over statehood or independence (which is more complicated than she has time to explain) ― and how its ambiguous status has contributed to the island’s need to file for bankruptcy in May.
“Puerto Rico’s status and treatment as a U.S. territory has been at the heart of its $74 billion debt crisis,” Saeed said.
Julio Ricardo Varela, founder of Latino Rebels and co-host of the “In The Thick” podcast, added some thoughts of his own about what people should be asking themselves when it comes to Puerto Rico.
“I’m done with asking the question, ‘Should Puerto Rico become the 51st state?,’” he said in the AJ+ video. “I think the question is, ‘When will the rest of American start respecting Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, and what they’ve contributed — when will they start hearing their voice?’ That’s the question. When will people start demanding Congress to pay attention to American citizens.”
Varela also said that there are more and more people in Puerto Rico who believe “that the current territorial status is obsolete. It represents a previous era and is colonial in nature.”
To get a better sense of why that is, watch Saeed describe the "tumultuous" relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico above.