Catch Some Wide Eye

The 51st State. Maybe.


The press is now oddly silent about a monumental decision made on an island quite close to home. Can’t quite find it?
How about now?

At least a dozen of my family members voted in this historic decision to add an extra star to the American flag. Yet, I’m not entirely sure “America” takes us entirely seriously. Maybe it’s because you can’t tell us apart from Mexico yet?

See, Mexico is the giant hunk of land Texans have been shooting at, excuse me, I mean border patrolling for about forever. Puerto Rico is a tiny dot of an island in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of Florida. And we are NOT Cuban. And no, we do not need green cards. Every Puerto Rican is a United States citizen by birth, and three generations of my family have served in four branches of the United States Army.

This is where my mother’s side of the family is from. It’s a little sprawling city south of the mountains. Sometimes we get a dusty haze that settles over the town due to the extreme heat and lack of rainfall when the storm clouds are held prisoner by the giant mountains. The Spanglish, architecture and culture are indeed a bit different from the rest of the U.S., but no more strange than say, an Alabamian trying to navigate through Chicago.

This is where my father’s side of the family is from, on the eastern ridge of the island. You can see the beautiful patches of farmland hugging the coast at the foot of the mountains. I want so desperately for Puerto Rico to be more than just an exotic tourist attraction to the American people. We’re not just a group of funny accented dark-skinned people who can dance and drink rum. We are American, Hispanic, African, Indigenous, German and Chinese. All of these races have commingled and inseparably embedded themselves into the fabric of our history. In fact, I have never actually lived on the island. Most people I come across assume I am “white,” a category which is as insulting to me as it is ridiculous. Look beyond the xenophobic stereotype, and embrace the soon-to-be 51st state.

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74 thoughts on “The 51st State. Maybe.

  1. Although I spent the last thirty-years in Florida, I was born and raised in small towns in southern Minnesota.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with Americans who weren’t sure where Minnesota was located, although most knew it was in the U.S….somewhere.

    Funny how provincial we can be.

    Happy New Year!

    • Happy New Year to you, as well. Provincial is precisely the word for it! I’ve lived in midwestern, northeastern and southeastern states- and each region is almost world unto itself. There really should be a requirement in public schools to study all the United States’ cultural idiosyncrasies by region. Otherwise, we have a tendency to become extremely myopic and misinformed.

      • **The requirement is already taught in schools…its called geography class. Sadly, the public education system needs ALOT of re-vamping. Steadily getting worse apparently. Hard to believe Richard’s comment as true@ many Americans not knowing where Minnesota is located. But I have no doubt what he says is true…Took a poll to see how many Americans think Africa is a country & was amazed at the results. Sad, indeed. 2 thumbs UP on your post<

    • I like your blog!

    • What a cool place!

  2. In the ’70s, we had classes on the various U.S. cultural variances during our Social Studies classes. As you suggest, it is quite useful to understand the ways in which we differ, while maintaining some level of unity.

    • Now that is interesting. When I attended school in Brooklyn, we were constantly learning about sundry cultures. However, when I arrived in Georgia, I was required to study the history, geography and legal process of the state in middle school and again in undergrad. I suppose that explains a bit about why some regions seem a bit, out of touch.

  3. A clear and concise introduction to the subject. I was totally unaware that Puerto Ricans are considered as US citizens by birth. It makes for interesting reading and I am very jealous of your command of Google Maps.

    • I actually made this post in response to a challenge after I saw a tutorial on how to insert Google Maps into blog posts, so it was a learning process for me. I’m also really happy I got to spread some info at the same time. :)

  4. I love PR. :) We’ve been there several times. Wonderful and beautiful island.

  5. A warm hello from the other side of the globe :) such an informative post, as in the above comment, also didn’t know that Puerto Ricans are US citizens by birth…! Good to learn something everyday

  6. People think too in depth about such matters. I am glad you were able to put it in such a simple and concise manner that shows how it is already the United States and just waiting for the acknowledgement of statehood. People tend to be scared of the unknown, but Hawaii and Alaska being added most recently have become normal to recent generations as well. In time, so will this addition.

    Thank you for this. Well written.

  7. Great post! I wondered why there wasn’t any press on this vote after I heard it on the news (SPANISH news, btw) a few months ago. I remember thinking how major that was since I knew how many times that vote had been shot down in the past. You’d think a possible 51st state would make a headline or two outside of the Latino community. Shame. Lovely use of the maps also.

  8. Love it. Trying to convince my pale Irish husband to vacation in PR this summer (mostly so I can try out my crappy Spanish on native speakers who are required to be nice to me because I’m paying them money). Anyway, I’m from Connecticut originally, and you would be amazed at the number of people who don’t realize it’s a separate state, and think it’s just another borough of NYC. Some people are just dumb, no matter where they are from.

  9. Nice post and good use of IT to add in the Google Maps. It really makes the post a lot better. I never knew Puerto Rico’s residents were in fact born with American citizenship. Your argument is compelling and I emphasise with your “state”. Even though I believe that PR should become the 51st state, I’m afraid it won’t since America has gained this famous reputations of the 50 stars on its flag and adding a 51st star just won’t work since 50 is a big landmark and 51 is just another random number with less importance.

    I’d appreciate it if you gave my blog a check. You can find it at: http://internationaleconomicmatters.wordpress.com
    It’s about economics and global affairs. (Think you’ll like it.)

  10. I am sympathetic to your interest in PR becoming a state. I live in DC, the seat of the nation’s power of all places, and we are still not a state. We are literally the embodiment of taxation without representation.

  11. cftc10 on said:

    Reblogged this on cftc10.

  12. Really well written and organized, great use of the Google maps with your post! I would love to see Puerto Rico as an official 51st State! I love it there, such a beautiful place! Definitely deserves the full rights/benefits the mainland gets.

    • 2gadabout on said:

      I read in the news, or online that the US rejected the idea of making P.R. a state, for some contrived reason. But, in another view, why ruin P.R. by making it a state? I loved my one and only visit there and think it should be a state if they are allowed to keep their culture intact. Tough to do. Some super-rich business interests will ruin it with “helpful” laws from the U.S. that will run all over Puerto Rican’s interests. Maybe?

  13. It’s always perplexed me how we were always taught in school the 50 states and Puerto Rico instead of the 51 states. When I was a child, my grandmother and I would take her boat there from my home in LaPorte Texas. We’d go down right after school on Friday and come back Sunday evening. It was always so much fun!

  14. Several years ago, my friend & I booked a last-minute trip to San Juan to unwind after graduation. She was waiting on a security clearance for a government job at the time and couldn’t leave the country, so PR it was. She spent the next three weeks explaining to people that no, her vacation wasn’t going to mess up her clearance, as going to PR did not actually qualify as leaving the country. The kicker: these skeptics were mostly people with advanced degrees in political science, all natural-born U.S. citizens. It’s ASTOUNDING how little people know about their own country! Thanks for setting the record straight!

  15. I actually think it’s actually kind of exciting that Puerto Rico is going to be a US state. I just hope that Congress doesn’t try to quash that excitement because they don’t see it as necessary or something stupid like that.

  16. Ever since I can remember, Puerto Rico is going to become a state.

    • Actually, Puerto Ricans have voted and argued about independence versus statehood every election, just about. In fact, my late grandfather was a professor of political science, and my family’s opinions run the gamut since they were very involved in the study and passionate nature of politics from early childhood onwards. What made this vote historic, is it’s the first time a majority of Puerto Ricans have voted IN FAVOR of statehood. This solidarity is, quite honestly, something that completely caught me by surprise when I found out about it.

  17. Thank you for introducing me to the thoughts of a Perto Rican native. I heard about the 51st state but have not heard much since the elections.

    • You’re welcome! I’m not sure many people have heard about it since the elections [if at all]. It really does make me wonder what the federal process will be from here on out, how long it will take to employ or if congress is sitting on it hoping that we’ll forget…

  18. It is very interesting. Seems like it could be quite an undertaking. I am going to do some research over the weekend and see what I can dig up.

  19. As the 51st state it would wise to protect your rights. Or it will the 51st slaved state!
    Pray for peace!

  20. Opinionated Man on said:

    Oh we can DEFINITELY tell you apart from Mexicans trust me… it is mainly because it just doesn’t affect the average American. Sorry…

  21. Ditrie, Awesome article..never forget who you are because their is no changing it. God bless

  22. Part of my master’s thesis dealt with the political status of PR: statehood vs. independence vs. its continued status (Commonwealth or Estado Libre Asociado en espanol)

    A lot of the politics has to do with language. If PR were accepted by the government as an official state, Congress would have to reconsider the “English only” laws many Southern states have put into places. Even though technically, the US has no official language because there is official document explicitly stating English is our official language (unlike many other countries who include this language clause in their Constitution or other important official documents). English is our de facto language.

    As far as my research goes, Puerto Rico will never be fully English-speaking. They are proud of their Spanish/Boricua heritage and see Spanish as a huge part of their identity. On the other hand, the US is a mostly English speaking country. The only way for PR to become a state is if both sides compromise–kind of like the rest of Canada did on the French/English thing (Canada’ government has two official languages: English and French to accommodate French-speaking Quebec)

    There are obviously more factors than just the language issue. But it’s definitely a major one.

  23. Statehood for Puerto Rico should have happened a long time ago. I hope it happens in my lifetime.

  24. If it were me, I would be fighting to declare my independence from a government that occupied my land and declared me a part of one of its territories. Puerto Rico is its own land, with its own rich history and culture.

    But since that is likely to never happen, people just need to get over their xenophobia and embrace cultures that are different from their own, and accept that there is no “one size fits all” that comes with the label “American”.

  25. Brilliant use of the challenge and puts my effort to shame.

  26. I remember hearing about this vote through a PR friend’s post on Facebook. I was AMAZED that it hadn’t made the mainstream media. I mean, years and years of a very heated separatist/statehood debate that did get press and now a vote for statehood and total media silence? Weird, to say the least. I’m not the conspiracy-theory type but it was so strange that it made me reach for my tinfoil hat and start brainstorming reasons why they wouldn’t want it in the news. haha. In all seriousness, I remember the arguments pro and con and at the time thought both sides had strong cases. I’m curious to see this evolve.

  27. Yeah, great post right there. I am following you now, hope you follow us back! Cheers

  28. Jakpics on said:

    Have not made it to PR yet, but life is long and I still have time. The question is will PR win over Washington DC in becoming the 51st state first. Anyway, good article

  29. You don’t board the Titanic after it has hit the iceberg. Becoming a state would a huge mistake. Right now you can exploit your ambiguous status and enjoy whatever limited advantages holding US citizenship confers. If you become a state you will join a long roster of small, insignificant, politically predictable states, that our increasingly authoritarian and corrupt government specializes in taxing and ignoring.

  30. Yes! Make Puerto Rico a state! After all, with the US government tanking in debt, unable to meet the basic needs of the 50 states already in the “Union” (unions are once again being discriminated and worked around, you know), and basically keeping the poor poor, while turning to the Federal Reserve to make money out of nothing (China, anyone?), which the government keeps spending anyway…

    I think the best thing for PR would be to defect to South America.

  31. I had always thought Puerto Rico is an idependent country like Mexico. I wonder what legal dichotomy has been created. These things reflect as to how shallow are the lines drawn on maps and colors of flags.

  32. Reblogged this on grrby and commented:
    Hi mate :) I like your blog .Check out mine .I’m quite new but yesterday posted something which may be interesting .Thank you in adnvance

  33. She spent the next three weeks explaining to people that no, her vacation wasn’t going to mess up her clearance,

  34. Here in Britain, our media will often cover American affairs quite reliably. I’d have thought that the (happy) news that the US will soon have a 51st state would be worthy of a few articles in the press, but evidently not.

    I think it will do the United States good to realise that they have a real responsibility to work productively with Caribbean nations on a more respectful basis, now that they have fully unified territory there.

  35. Love your so NOT myopic perspective and your writing. You have a new follower.

  36. I knew that PR was a protectorate of the US. I have no qualms about that changing to statehood. It’s funny that I’ve not heard a single word about it until this blog. The comment about the border patrol shooting at Mexicans was a little disturbing. If the Mexicans come into the country legally, that’s all right. However, they are stealing their way in and using up all the services meant for legal citizens. If Mexico is so bad, why don’t they do something to fix it? I doubt that the flag needing 51 stars would be a hindrance. If that were the case they would have stayed at 13. That made a neat, round circle.
    Welcome aboard.

  37. Love the idea of another state, and have many Puerto Rican friends, but the codescension towards mainlanders and Texans is childish. I’m sorry, but we are not all ignorant as it seems you imply, and we Texans are not all out “shooting” at Mexicans. If we are all so hellish, why would you want to join us? And yes, I’m a borderlander!

  38. Love the post ;-) I have friends from Puerto Rico and understand the ramifications of the issue. Indeed. Enjoyed this greatly!

  39. Coming from one of the bastions of provincialism :) , I was wondering how the vote came out. Dead silence on this end, too…I guess they are too busy. Re-blogging this onto bythemightymumford.wordpress.com…in case you are interested. You do good work here. —Jonathan Caswell

  40. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    Puerto Rican Statehood—WHY HAVEN’T WE HEARD THE RESULTS OF THE VOTE FOR/AGAINST??? –jONATHAN

  41. I hold nothing against PR but, I would rather the United States of America not expand it’s regime and the governmental idealization of globalization. Wouldn’t it be for the better of the citizens of PR to declare the independence of their own nation?

    • Ely May on said:

      Actually no trust me it wouldn’t the day Puerto Rico decides to do that will be the death of the land. Everyone on the island knows and understands that without the help of the United States we would be nothing. It sounds so tragic, but its the truth. Puerto Rico has a terrible economy. You have to fight to find and keep a job and when you do the pay is terrible. The government can’t even properly control its people. Its a sever crisis on the island. You have to live in PR to really understand how deep it goes. But for PR to become a state is one of the grandest of debates not only in America, but Puerto Rico as well.

  42. I heard about the vote when it first occurred, and kept waiting for something to come of it…haven’t heard a peep! Our country’s attention span is terrible!

  43. From what I’ve read online only a fourth of the population of Puerto Rico speaks English? There would need to be significant change in that regard before I’d support US statehood for Puerto Rico.

  44. Pingback: 51 « MowryJournal.com

  45. First and foremost, congrats on being FP’ed (only deserved)! Plus, your writing -misunderstood ironic comments aside- is fresh, clear and most informative.
    I must say this came as a great reminder of things left unfinished. As a South American (born and bred in Argentina, living in Brazil for a few years now) I’ve often wondered why we just can’t come together as one, Latin America I mean… wrong question! Too many issues involved, not to mention the apparently diverging slants and interest of more recent governments. So I just can begin to imagine the formidable difficulty and unlikelihood [sorry if I just made up this term, 2nd language here] for that unification to happen between “mainland US” and PR. As a matter of fact, the US legally and finally swallowing up PR.
    A few issues keep ringing after reading your greatly-put article and each and every comment so far…
    * Amelie88 rightly put up a rather central issue: culture. Though her perspective may have seemed basically about language, I may say it is never “only just language”; it is on the one hand none other than the representation of a CULTURE. And speaking of culture, and though I am really not aware of the various implications, I reckon there must be more than Hispanic-Boriqua/American, island/mainland, we’re-not-that-Hispanic-after-all/we’re-not-as-American-as-some-might-wish. We’re talking heritage here, girl! I shudder to think how much some would quickly trade for full-fledged belonging.
    * John Baker wisely called upon a most interesting issue: exploiting ambiguous status vs all manners of central pressure. Food for thought galore! I’m too ignorant to ramble on this, but it sounds definitely worth some thinking.
    * Finally for now, a rather touchy topic: perceptions, ignorance, (in)tolerance, borderism [coining terms again? perdón!] > I mean to remain as respectful as I possibly can, though I read a couple of interesting thoughts, for and against, among the replies. What with real vs assumed ignorance (the fact that Africa is thought of as a “country” is by no means a privilege of US citizens, sad as this may be), endless discussions and debates on Mexico, states functioning quite separately as a great advantage in some aspects but a dangerous issue as it may generate detachment within the country. Just a few “asuntos a tener en cuenta”.
    All in all, I find this article and its replies most interesting. Thanks for writing and posting it, and thanks WP for highlighting it as well! Que todo sea para lo mejor que se pueda, pero puertorriqueños no cambien su riqueza cultural y humana por nada ;)
    Cheers

  46. I am sorry to tell this, but PR will most probably never be the 51st State. Or at least, not any time soon. I don’t know why PRicans in the island keep voting whether they want to be the 51st State or not, since it’s the US that don’t want PR as a State. There have been discussion for more than 50 years now, if USA wanted it to be a State, it would have been long time ago.
    P.S. I love PR, my husband is Puertorrican (born and raised in the island), it’s like my 3rd home (it used to be my 2nd but we moved to NY so this is my 2nd home now :) )

  47. Ely May on said:

    If only *sigh* I have lived on the island for 6 years now and I’m finally leaving next month. For Puerto Rico to become a state would be the best thing that could ever happen. Actually I participated in the vote to making it a state, but now the Governor is “Popular” meaning against state hood. So I have no idea where the future of PR is going. I wish it well though the culture is amazing and the island is so beautiful its very sad that most islanders aren’t taking better care of the land. The Economy is terrible, its incredibly difficult to make a living in PR unless you start your own business or come here to retire. I wish so much for things to be different.

  48. Love Red Roses on said:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    I found this to be interesting and very well written. Being Puerto Rican myself, I felt the need to re-post this, in hopes that someone else can enjoy this as well. I feel it is a great topic, and should be shared~~~

  49. Love Red Roses on said:

    I really enjoyed your blog, and found it quite interesting. My boyfriend, and I are both Puerto Rican, and we both had different opinions in regards to this topic. At the end of the day, I hope whatever the outcome that it benefits the people living on the island.

  50. jlorenzo93 on said:

    Preach girl!

  51. Yes, Ditrie, it’s time…and for 52, 53, etc…I propose statehood for
    New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

  52. mkesling63 on said:

    What a farce. Who in their right mind would want to become a part of a global farce of democracy that the states now are trying to get away from. I am a born and raised US citizen and I say defect the governments , all of the past they are all failures and criminally chargeable in all they do. That includes the United Nations.
    Not only do I believe it I live to so it and keep them out of people’s life’s too. They will not survive the New World Power.

  53. When visiting our beautiful island you may take a look at this new site:
    http://www.tierraadentroconmisamigos.com

  54. Hi Ditrie. Thanks for introducing yourself by following our site. This is a fabulous post, and I absolutely love that it stemmed from a google map tutorial. (Now THAT is knowing how to take full advantage of every moment!) I’ve lived in many places in the U.S. and the world (Georgia among them) and it’s amazing how varied the levels of geographical and social understanding can be. (The American South is such a place unto itself, where the civil war is still “the war of northern aggression”.) But, I digress. I look forward to exploring your site further. I hope we can collaborate at some point.
    Also, if you’re a facebook user we invite you to “like” at our page. See you there!

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