Puerto Ricans will vote on statehood.
Even if Puerto Rico votes “yes,” Congress must still pass a law in
order to change the island’s legal status from that of a commonwealth to
a state. Congress, however, seems likely to drag its feet. That’s what
happened when Hawaii became a state in the 1950s – an experience that
offers some interesting and relevant parallels to the Puerto Rican case.
Like Puerto Rico today, Hawaii was a developed place when its
residents applied for statehood. This is in contrast with some earlier
states like Ohio and Wyoming that were carved out of sparsely populated
territories. Hawaii’s population in the 1950s – just under half a million – was greater than that of several other states, something that is true for Puerto Rico today.
As novelist James Michener observed,
“Hawaii is by far the most advanced state culturally that has ever been
admitted to the Union.” Michener was referring to the high number of
firmly established schools, churches, libraries and museums there –
something Puerto Rico can also boast about.
Other parallels between the two include a location outside the
continental U.S. and a diverse population in terms of race and