What is Puerto Rico anyway?

October 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

Dayra Rivera saw the letter as a slap in the face for Puerto Ricans: No, Apple told her over the summer, you can’t have the free iPhone case promised to US customers. Apple, which was giving out plastic cases because of problems with dropped calls, said it wouldn’t ship to an “international” destination. Never mind that Puerto Rico’s 4 million residents are US citizens, and that it is closer to the mainland than Hawaii. “I felt like I was being treated like a 2nd class citizen,” said Rivera, a 46-year-old manager of a clothing store near San Juan. Apple, as it turns out, is hardly alone in considering the island 1,000 miles southeast of Florida a foreign land. Other businesses, politicians, entertainers and even Puerto Ricans themselves are not quite sure what to make of a place where highway distances are in KM but road speeds in MPH. Puerto Rico and the US are like one of those couples who have been together forever without getting married, forcing people to make awkward introductions at weddings like “and … this is her special friend.” Perhaps Larry David captured the confusion most bluntly on the TV program “Curb Your Enthusiasm” as he riffed on America’s boundaries, asking: What is Puerto Rico anyway? It’s a question the island asks itself all the time. For now at least, the most Puerto Rican thing about Puerto Rico could be its identity issues. Puerto Ricans can’t decide whether they want to go for statehood, have some sort of in-between commitment or break up altogether. They have voted on the issue three times to date, in 1967, 1993 and 1998, and each time decided to keep the status quo. The issue may come up again in 2011: The pro-statehood movement, which now controls the legislature and the governor’s office, hopes to hold another vote. And the House has passed a bill that would allow Puerto Rico’s government to ask its residents if they want to change the island’s commonwealth status. But most exasperating of all is that, even as Puerto Rico is preoccupied with its status, much of the United States hardly seems to know or care. Several months ago, House candidate Vaughn Ward from Idaho, called Puerto Rico a “country” in a political debate. When corrected, he said, “I really don’t care what it is. It doesn’t matter.” (SF Examiner)

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