Colorado State students and faculty react to Puerto Rico statehood vote

Imagine adding an extra star to the American flag.

With a recent vote in Puerto Rico addressing the issue of statehood, the possibility of an additional state in the union has become a topic of national discourse.

The U.S. territory voted Nov. 6 on whether it wants to change its relationship to the United States and 54 percent of voters voted to change the status in some way, some supporting statehood.

In the past, Puerto Rico has been largely opposed to becoming a state.

“The last three elections all resulted in the same political situation, due to the fact that Puerto Rico did not feel ready for independence,” said Rocio Velez Pesante, a foreign language, literatures and culture major from Puerto Rico who is in favor of statehood. “Now, after 114 years under U.S rule, we want a change.”

Some say that the 54 percent vote does not actually indicate support of statehood, however.

The popular Democratic party, which is in favor of a commonwealth, saw the commonwealth option on the ballot as biased toward statehood, according to the Guardian. The commonwealth group encouraged its supporters not to choose any option to protest. Accounting for those votes, the percent in favor of statehood drops to 45 percent.

In the past, two out of the three major political parties of Puerto Rico have been opposed to statehood.

“We’ve been trapped in territory status for over a century,” said Ernesto Sagas, a professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies. “I don’t think it is likely that we will ever become a state.”

The vote, although it favored statehood, would also not lead directly to Puerto Rico becoming a state. The territory could report its results to the federal government, but Congress would have to pass legislation to change the country’s status, which could potentially take a long time.

“Republicans will oppose us becoming a state,” Sagas said, “Puerto Rico is 99.9 percent Hispanic and will add a Democratic state.”

If Congress did approve statehood, that change would affect both the United States and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico would lose its national anthem, flag and the ability to participate in international sports games.

Rafael Vidal, a civil engineering major at CSU and a citizen of Puerto Rico, said that he wants Puerto Rico to keep its current status.

“We get the best of both worlds,” Vidal said, “We have our own country, but we can have help from the United States if we need it.”

If it became a state, Puerto Rico could hold more electoral votes than some current states. With over four million people, it would outshine Utah, Delaware, Rhode Island, and many more in upcoming elections.

“The U.S is going through their own economic problems, and becoming part of them will not help either of us. The best thing is to work towards a middle ground, where we both achieve a positive outcome for our respective nations gain recognition as a country,” Velez Pesante said.

Many people in Puerto Rico are on the fence about whether or not to become a state. Many believe that it won’t happen because it is such a long process. Most believe that becoming a state won’t change a thing.

As a result, many see the non-binding vote for statehood as not having a long-term impact.

“This is more of a popularity contest,” Sagas said, “It is very unlikely that a petition for statehood will be made by the Puerto Rican government.”