A 51-Star American Flag?

A 51-Star American Flag?


For the first time in more than 50 years, the American Flag could add a new star. The Governor of Puerto Rico announced this week that the island will hold a 2012 vote on whether it will become the nation’s 51st state.

However, now that the U.S. is in one of the worst financial situations it has seen since the Great Depression, is it appropriate to consider another addition to our federal roster?

Concerns about an additional state range from the trivial fear that our flag will lose its aesthetic appeal – although there are some decent renditions of a 51-star flag – to the very real economic fear that Puerto Rico’s poor will become a drain on our already limited financial resources.

On the one hand, Puerto Rico has a multitude of resources, from a well-educated population and disciplined workforce, to a number of natural and agricultural resources.  Its most successful industry is in the manufacturing sector, where it is now the hub for the world’s pharmaceutical companies.

But let’s face it, the economic picture of Puerto Rico is anything but rosy:  If it were a state, it would be the poorest, with per capita incomes around one third of the U.S. average. Its unemployment is higher than any state at 16%, and 45% of the population lives below the poverty line.  Not exactly good marketing points for statehood.

Some believe that the island’s economy has made recent improvements despite the stagnant U.S. economy upon which it mostly depends.  Since his inauguration, Governor Fortuño has overseen a slew of drastic changes to the government, its bureaucratic system, and its tax structure.  Decreasing government spending and controlling the budget allowed for a credit rating upgrade, even while the U.S. was downgraded.  Decreasing taxes for corporations has invited investment from a multitude of sectors, which promises future growth, again, at a time when the U.S. economy is struggling to grow.  All of these adjustments have improved the economy; however, the drastic improvements that everyone is waiting for may still take years to develop.

What is most at stake here may be equality and fairness.  Many say that the American citizens on the island are not treated with the same regard as Americans from the States.

Residents of Puerto Rico are not allowed to vote for their commander-in-chief, even though they have served in the military, with distinction, and died in every war since the Spanish-American.

Puerto Rico can send an elected “Commissioner” to voice their opinions in Congress, but he has no legal vote on any issue, even those affecting Puerto Rico.

Many organizations have sprouted up attempting to fight the perceived inequality.  Rafael Rodriguez, President of the Center for Puerto Rico Equality and Advancement, agrees that equality is largely at issue, and if treated equally, Puerto Ricans would be able to greatly contribute.

“Equality is something that must be fought for, it will not be given.  In the free market of ideas, Puerto Rico has a strong and valuable potential to continue to contribute to our nation,” said Mr. Rodriguez.  His organization believes that statehood is the answer to inequality for Puerto Ricans on the island.

It seems as though the argument for Puerto Rico has always been about which status will help them the most: independence, statehood, or the status quo.  Yet, despite the many arguments about freedom and fairness there really is only one way that Puerto Rico will have the real freedom to be successful: by improving their economic outlook.

When they are able to do that Puerto Rico may be able to successfully answer the inevitable question that Congress will ask if the people choose statehood: “What can you do for us?”


  1. Justin:

    While there is no disputing the numbers you present, I ask you to consider what would the alternative be. Would the US really say no to 3.7 million US Citizens who vote to become a state? Would the US really say no to 3.7 million US Citizens who are saying "we want to be taxed like the rest of them"? Puerto Rico's economy is bleak, no doubt, but much of our economic deficit has to do with our colonial situation.

    Taking Hawaii as an example, their economy began growing right after becoming a state. A Harvard study I used back in 2002 (here is one from '94 reaching the same conclusion http://www.queensjdiexec.org/publications/qed_dp_… ) held that our economy would improve once the status question was resolved.

    Now given, I personally favor Independence, but Puerto Rico now receives close to twice its budget in federal funds. How much more would it cost the US? The real question Congress has to ask itself isn't how much we would cost, but rather if the US is ready to accept a Spanish-speaking state into the Union. Not a state in which Spanish is spoken, but a state whose primary language is and will continue to be, Spanish.

  2. The real concern about an additional state in the american flag is this one: the star in the Puertorican Flag is SO BIG to fit in the USA Flag!! Viva PR Libre!!!

  3. Puerto Rico has been a territory of the USA since 1898, American citizens since 1917, in the Island there are approximately 3.7 million in the islands this without counting the thousands that have emigrated to the mainland looking for stability. As stated by the previous comment the vast majority of our structural and economic problems come from our status quo, because we are in the middle of two possibilities, and in our current positions we can't reach our maximum potential in either way. I understand that Puerto Rico's two options and those are Annexation (as a state in the Union) and Independence (as a sovereign republic) As a state we could have equality, have just representation in congress, and vote also for the President. As a republic we would achieve what we don't have as we are, and that is to move forward a country in look for better ways to improve our economy.

    Both statehood and pro-independence group are in favor of this referendum/plebiscite because we all acknowledge the fact that in our present status we our stuck and can't move forward. As stated in this article the government has taken difficult measures to ensure that we don't fall further economically, and there has been progress. Yes, unemployment is really high but measures are being put into action to find better ways to stimulate both small industries and to attract large multinational industries. As well public/private alliance industries. Now it's a matter of waiting to see what the people of Puerto Rico the over 2 million electors to decide our future and congress in the end will have to respect and take action on the will of US citizens.

  4. Dear Friends:

    My name is José López from Bayamón, Puerto Rico. I am contacting you to see if you could help.

    The United Nations' (UN) Decolonization Committee is in its third decade of trying to eradicate colonialism in the world. In that effort, it holds a hearing every year around June (the month New York City holds its Puerto Rican Day Parade) to discuss Puerto Rico's colonial situation.

    It would be helpful if in next year's discussion there could be a full house in the hearing room with people interested in the decolonization of Puerto Rico. This hearing is not well publicized since some people would like to maintain the status quo forever.

    Could your organization spread the word out to your people so that those interested in attending the June 2012 hearing could do so? The exact date has not yet been determined by the UN.

    Thank you for your time in this matter!


    José M. López Sierra

    United Partners for the Decolonization of Puerto Rico 2012 http://todosunidosdescolonizarpr.blogspot.com/?v=

  5. OMG, what's up with the people at this site? every error is grinding my brain. From the first sentence, to correct the fact, PR have had prior opportunities to change their status, but they always are in favor of ELA. And those referendums were made couple of years ago, not 50 years ago!