The history of Puerto Rico is intertwined with the history of the United States. The island was first inhabited by Taino Indians and then colonized by the Spanish Empire.
In 1898, Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States as part of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-American War. The island became a territory of the United States, and its residents were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917.
Since becoming a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico has had a complicated relationship with the mainland. While Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, they are not represented in Congress with voting members and do not have a vote in presidential elections. They are also subject to U.S. federal laws but do not have representation in the creation of those laws. Many Puerto Ricans have advocated for the island to become a state, while others have pushed for greater autonomy or independence.
Puerto Ricans would finally have the opportunity, after over a decade, to express their opinion on whether they would like to gain some sort of independence or become a state, with the only difference this time being that the results of the referendum have to be accepted by the federal government, no matter the outcome.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, in a 233-191 vote, to allow voters in the U.S. territory to vote in November 2023 on a binding referendum on whether to become the 51st state, an independent country, or a sovereign state in free association with the United States.
The proposal was dubbed the Puerto Rico Status Act, and 16 House Republicans joined 217 Democrats to vote in favor of the bill. Now that it has been approved by the House of Representatives, the Puerto Rico Status Act heads to the closely divided Senate and needs at least 60 votes in order to be signed into law by President Biden.
However, analysts say that the bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate as this kind of move represents potentially adding more Democratic voters to the national electorate, but it surely marks progress toward Puerto Rico’s long-sought dream of self-determination.