Why Opponents of Equality Will Not Succeed in Derailing Puerto Rican Self-Determination
Puerto Rico as a state would have a Tenth Amendment right to keep English AND Spanish as both of its official languages. Any notion to the contrary is a change of the statehood rules in mid-game.
If you, as so many Americans do, support English as the official language of the United States of America then get in line in your particular state and lobby to have that state recognize the lingua franca as its official language–as 30 other states have done. That’s what federalism is all about, but to pretend that Puerto Rico is the Quebec of the United States after 112-years of active participation in the American armed forces, or that its prospects of bilingualism as a state would undermine the very foundation of American culture with roughly two-thirds of this country being former foreign lands, or that only with an English-only Puerto Rico can American culture be safe from the vandals of multiculturalism even as every government body and private industry across the land moves toward bilingualism is an obsence affront to the very principles and culture for which these so-called defenders of American culture are fighting for.
There is a variety of national organizations that promote the concept of English as the official language of the United States, which is an exercise of their consitutional rights under the First Amendment. Further, as American organizations and individual citizens, they also have a stake in Puerto Rico’s status–but that is where the two topics’ connection ends!
Those same organizations do not have a constitutional right to undermine the full capacity of the people of Puerto Rico to run their state as they so wish, and that would be their Tenth Amendment right. Puerto Rico’s unique culture is not some homogenous, static “thing” that can be controlled (and that much can be said about the broader American culture); in fact, those who champion one or the other, in Puerto Rico or the mainland, live under an illusion of the highest magnitude.
To pretend that American culture has not permeated every nook and cranny of Puerto Rico’s own local customs carries the same harsh penalties of ignorance that would be leveled upon anybody in the mainland who tried to deny those same permeating qualities of culture that have created our unique American style.
To be sure, those organizations that promote official English claim to be protecting American values and the overall linguistic culture by opposing a bilingual state like Puerto Rico (or Hawaii or New Mexico), but they are more than happy to have a bilingual colony. That, to them, presents no problem of conscience. No blemish on the American fabric of freedom, just the spoils of war and the bad luck of Puerto Rico for having been claimed by the Spanish Empire rather than the English 500 years ago.
Let us remember that it was not Puerto Rico who invaded the U.S. in 1898. As history tells it, it was the American flag that came to Puerto Rico after over 400 years of Spanish language dominance and the Americans knew it. And if we follow the invading American general’s (Gen. Nelson A. Miles) remarks, it sounded like the Americans were in Puerto Rico to stay:
“We have not come to make war upon the people of a country that for centuries has been oppressed, but . . . to bring you protection . . . to promote your prosperity, and to bestow upon you the immunities and blessings of the liberal institutions of our Government.”
In addition, America’s private industry–which nobody can deny wields extraordinary power in defining our American culture–trips over itself to throw money at Hispanics in the United States. They are willing to print every advertisement slogan in both English and Spanish, and whatever other languages the bottom line requires. But we do not see Official English organizations picketting private businesses. In that instance, then, the stains on their American culture and its “distortions” are the price of doing business, right? Somehow, though, citizenship equality, equal enfranchisement for all Americans, and equal opportunity for the people of Puerto Rico like the peoples North Carolina, Texas, Iowa, California, Vermont, Utah, and all the other states, each unique, have is not as important to these organizations.
The acceptance of new states into our Union has depended not on cultural proselytizing but on cultural assimilation. Assimilation, though, does not mean the absorption of a small- into a large culture; it is, rather, an amalgamation of both, with the largest, of course, defining the relationship. Indeed Puerto Rico’s qualifications for statehood–when held before the record of history–look as good as all of its 37 predecessors. That same record tells us that there are three basic, tradition-based requirements: population size, republican form of government, and a territorial majority for statehood. Period!
Any attempt to throw the non-germane issue of language should be viewed as simply more attempts to derail the status question and keep four million American citizens unequal–democratically and economically.