Many obstacles line the road to statehood for Puerto Rico, which is already classified as an unincorporated territory of the US. The main one being that US Congress is neither obliged nor likely to address the matter; at least not while it’s controlled by Republicans, who will be loathe to add millions of potential Democrats to the electorate.
While Puerto Rico looks to a stars-and-stripes future, Telegraph Travel reveals more about this lesser-known archipelago. Puerto Rico 51 state is a movement just starting.
1. Its citizens are good looking
At least the women are; Puerto Rico has produced no fewer than five Miss Universe winners, along with a couple of Miss World winners, which is good going considering how small the archipelago is. By comparison the US lays claim to eight winners, but it’s many times the size of Puerto Rico, which is allowed to compete despite being a territory of the US.
2. It once belonged to Spain
When Christopher Columbus set eyes upon Puerto Rico in 1493, he kickstarted an all too familiar process of colonization, which saw the archipelago’s indigenous inhabitants persecuted and the territory claimed by a distant European nation (in this case, the Crown of Castille, modern day Spain). Many people from Andalucia and the Canaries came to live on the archipelago, which was also populated by slaves brought over from Africa.
3. The US “won” it in a fight
Puerto Rico fell to the US during the Spanish-American War of 1898, a three-month conflict that ended with the Treaty of Paris. This treaty was particularly favorable to the US, which also walked away with Guam, Cuba and the Philippines. It is still in possession of the former, which, like Puerto Rico, remains an unincorporated territory of the US.
4. Its people are officially US citizens
Anyone born in Puerto Rico is considered a US citizen and may move freely between the archipelago and the mainland. However, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in US Presidential Elections nor can its representative in US Congress vote on legislation.
5. Puerto Rico has nine Olympic medals
Despite not being classed as a country, Puerto Rico is eligible to compete not just in Miss Universe but also in the Olympic Games. It has nine medals to speak of; six for boxing, one for athletics, one for tennis and one for wrestling. Its first gold came at the 2016 Rio Olympics, which went to Monica Puig, who won the women’s singles tennis.
6. It has a rich rum history
Rum distilleries abound in Puerto Rico, including, most famously, Bacardi, which was forced from its birthplace in Santiago de Cuba after the Cuban Revolution. The Bacardi family initially supported Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries, but soon switched their allegiances as the new regime turned against their interests. Hernando Calvo Ospina’s book – Bacardi, The Hidden war – reveals more about the Bacardi family’s fascinating story, including alleged links to the CIA.
7. It’s obsessed with salsa
Better pack your dancing shoes if you’re off to Puerto Rico because salsa is something of a national sport in the archipelago. The dance was, at least partly, born in Puerto Rico, whose citizens fused local bomba and plena dance forms with cha cha cha, mambo and other jigs from Cuba.
8. It has two World Heritage Sites
Not bad for a territory the size of Connecticut. Those World Heritage Sites are: La Fortaleza – the residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico – which dates back to 1533 and is the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the New World; and San Juan National Historic Site – another colonial complex – which contains forts, bastions, powder houses and the old city wall. No wonder people want it to become Puerto Rico 51 state.
9. It’s home to unique frogs
Found nowhere else on Earth, coquís are tiny little frogs that make a big noise. Indeed their vociferous mating calls provide the soundtrack to sultry Puerto Rican nights. There are thought to be more than 16 different species of coquis in Puerto Rico, but alas their numbers are on the slide due to a pathogenic fungus, which has devastated the population.
10. It invented the piña colada
That the world can agree on. However, the identity of the bartender behind the creation is somewhat up for debate. The Caribe Hotel, a luxury resort in the capital, San Juan, claims the cocktail was first served in its Beachcombers Bar in 1954, by bartender Ramon Marrero. This is disputed by another Caribe Hotel mixologist, Ricardo Gracia, who claims he invented the cocktail. Enter scene Restaurant Barrachina, also in San Juan, which says the piña colada was in fact invented by Ramon Portas Mingot, a bartender at the eatery, in 1963.
Puerto Rico 51 state
Original article by Gavin Haines as seen on the Telegraph