As I continue to work on my film, the last few weeks have been very productive. The question of Puerto Rico’s status with The United States of America has been a hot button issue since the US came into possession of the island after the end of the Spanish American War in 1898.
My intentions with this film are to cover different bullet points that cover Puerto Rico’s past, from its beginnings as a US territory, the island’s culture to the identity of those of us living here on the mainland. My film wouldn’t be complete if I chose to ignore the “status” question so in part, I chose to focus a good amount of time on my project speaking with folks who had very interesting ideas regarding the island’s current state and the possibilities for the island’s future.
This month, I had a chance to sit down with Congressman Darren Soto (FL-09) and speak on his thoughts regarding Puerto Rico’s status, its future and how he envisions a future for our people on the island. In March of this year, Congressman Soto, along with a bipartisan delegation, introduced a resolution to recognize last November’s Plebiscite results. In November 2020, while most of the US was embroiled in the presidential election, Puerto Rican’s living on the island were given the opportunity for a simple Yes/No vote in favor of Puerto Rican statehood. By introducing this bill, Congressman Soto, who represents the largely Puerto Rican Kissimmee, Florida area, wanted to uphold the Puerto Rican people’s vote.
The Statehood option was favored by 52.5% of the vote. Mind you, this was a simple Yes/No vote and not a true referendum offering the options of Statehood, Independence, or continued Commonwealth. The last referendum to do so was the “2017 Puerto Rican Status Referendum” which saw Statehood win by an overwhelming margin of 97.13% of the vote. Of course, the next steps are up to those on Capitol Hill.
I’m not going to get into which of these options I support, because as a Puerto Rican born and living on the mainland, it really isn’t my place to tell our cousins on the island how they should vote. Those living on the island should be able to determine their future.
This does bring me to an interesting conversation that I’ve noticed while working on this project for the last ten months; support for the pro-Independence movement is greater by mainland Puerto Ricans living outside the island than it is by our family members who still call the island home. I see this ideology plastered all over social media pages and groups, people calling for an end to colonialism through independence.
I admit, the idea of it is very romantic, especially with “Hamilton” still fresh in our memories, fueling thoughts of independent thinking and living, however the numbers were just not there in the 2017 referendum. You could say that the vote was boycotted by various anti-statehood parties for various reasons, however, looking at this with objective eyes, the votes just were not there.
Don’t get me wrong, I see nothing wrong with wanting independence for the island, however, calling for independence while benefiting from mainland living is a little bothersome to me. The island itself has to make the moves for independence, and yet, as of this writing, the movement is far greater here than it is on the island.
When discussing Puerto Rico’s status with Congressman Soto, the subject of disasters such as Hurricane Maria, the 2020 Puerto Rican earthquakes and COVID-19 Pandemic came up and Rep. Soto, did mention he believed the island would have been much better off had there been two US senators and actual Congressmen/Congresswomen with actual voices on capitol hill speaking on behalf of the island. Of course we agreed that leadership sitting in the White House at the time was the biggest reason for the failures of disaster relief in Puerto Rico.
My interview with Soto touched on a few more items surrounding Puerto Rican status that will be presented in the finished film. The subject of Puerto Rican status is one that definitely can cause heated debate and although there really is no easy answer, I’m happy to have included it in my film.
I’m looking forward to focusing on the next few segments of my film, which will include art and culture, and that is something all Puerto Ricans can agree with and come together on.
Until next time.