Spanish no real objection to Puerto Rican statehood


When considering Puerto Rican statehood, dislike against admitting a primarily Spanish-speaking territory into the union is often the first objection.

And there are apparent examples to suggest that a linguistically-divided country is an unstable one. Belgium, divided between the French-speaking Walloons and Dutch-speaking Flemish. Or Spain, with Basque and Catalan speakers long-agitating for more autonomy or complete independence. Even placid Canada came close to losing the province of Quebec after  French-speaking separatists nearly won a 1995 referendum. Resurgence of the Parti Quebecois this year brings the possibility of continued drama there, as well.  

But those examples differ in key ways from the question of Puerto Rico and the United States. Linguistic differences in those countries are signifiers for differences in nationality, and, to the degree that separatist sentiment isn't a short-term expression of disaffection with a bad economy, an outcome of an unwanted historical union with a central power.

Puerto Rico, were it to become the 51st state, would be doing so voluntarily and with the knowledge that English is the primary language of the other 50 states. English already an official language there and about half of the population is bilingual.

Further, objections about Spanish-speaking overlook the fact that the strength of the United States is that we are a country of multiple nations. Yes, there's a degree of cultural assimilation that does and must take place as immigrants stop being primarily Irish, German, Italian, Vietnamese, Laotian, Mexican, Salvadorian, (or Croatian, in the case of my parents), etc., and eventually old national identities mostly disappear through sheer irrelevance. But, the promise of the United States is that anybody can be an American. U.S. citizenship (which Puerto Ricans already have) is a values-driven proposition, not an ethno-linguistic one.

Whether Puerto Rico actually wants to be a state is a different question. Results from the Nov. 6 referendum there are unclear despite 54 percent of voters apparently having supported it. The referendum was unclear and voters rejected the incumbent governor in favor of statehood in favor of one who doesn't support it. In other words, it's not time yet to get the new-statehood paperwork out.

But, should the Puerto Rican people say clearly that they wish to join the United States as a state, the objection of language should be seen as the false objection that it is. - Dave