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.