Puerto Rican

Republican Governor Rick Scott of Florida came out in support of Puerto Rican statehood, following Tuesday’s May Day protests against austerity ending in tear gas.

The Orlando Weekly pointed out that this position is certainly politically advantageous to Scott, whose state just saw an influx of 56,000 Puerto Ricans who left the island in the wake of the disastrous Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Scott has been trying to woo the Puerto Rican vote recently, which has been met with skepticism.

“They’re Republicans,” said political activist Luis Miranda, father of acclaimed Hamilton composer Lin-Manuel Miranda. “When we think of Republicans, we think of Trump throwing paper towels.”

But intention aside, the idea is hardly unique to Governor Scott.

In the wake of the devastating storms that left the island in shambles even longer than the outrageous predictions before Irma and Maria made landfall, the longstanding identity crisis of the territory has again come to the fore: Puerto Rico is neither independent nor a state, and to the minds of many that has to change.

Frontline and NPR conducted an investigation of the humanitarian crisis that set the stage for the damage done by the storms. Blackout in Puerto Rico is an hour-long documentary both on the effects of the storm and how it came to pass.

Slate commentator Mike Pesca, on his daily podcast The Gist, called Hurricane Maria the “Katrina moment” of President Trump. But Blackout’s reporter, Laura Sullivan, made it clear that no disaster site she’s seen ever resembled Puerto Rico.

And one reason why this horrible crisis has lingered, why Congress has been largely ambivalent and why Maria was not a Katrina Moment is statehood. And a renewed push for statehood began almost as soon as the wind and rain stopped.

“The only way to fix long-term the situation in Puerto Rico is through statehood,” said Jose Fuentes, Puerto Rican Statehood Council chairman, just weeks after the storm.

It’s also becoming clear that the alternative to statehood is not the status quo, but independence, because the status quo has utterly failed the island.

Ultimately, whether Scott is trying to garner political support, keep the largely progressive population of Puerto Rico from changing Florida’s political landscape or actually help Puerto Rico doesn’t change the fact that the current state of affairs is untenable, and no American state would ever be treated the way this American territory has been.


Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.

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