This post was written by a student in Susan Schuyler’s Narrative, Rhetoric, and Identity class at Stanford University. Each student in this class will complete a research-based argument related to the course topic.
For more than sixty years, the island of Puerto Rico has suffered from a heated internal discussion between its inhabitants over the issue of its status. While some prefer that Puerto Rico remain as a commonwealth of the United States, others find their “colony” status demeaning; this mass of dissidents is divided into those who propose statehood, and those who stand for independence. The verbal civil war has made Puerto Ricans look inside themselves, and try to define their “Puerto Rican” identity.
The “Estadistas”, or supporters of Statehood, assert that Puerto Ricans are American, in spite of obvious differences in culture and language. No amount of fiery speech, they say, can change the fact that the island has grown economically under the influence of the United States, and has absorbed a large part of the culture of the mainland, adding it to the unique fusion that defines a “Boricua”. As a state, Puerto Rico could receive even more of the benefits that it deserves, but is not currently receiving because of its status as a mere colony. Additionally, Puerto Ricans could have a voice in Congress, and thus have a hand in guiding the nation that they inherently belong to.
On the other hand, “Independentistas,” or advocates for Puerto Rico’s independence, say that they have lived for too long under the United States’ tyrannical colonial rule, which has not only stunted the economical and social growth of the island, but has corrupted and confused the identities of its people. And caught in the crossfire are those who are perfectly happy with the commonwealth status, calling in vain for sustaining political relations with the US government while preserving Puerto Rican pride, traditions and folklore.
Having been born and raised on the “Island of Enchantment,” I have realized that its inhabitants largely base their status preferences on the way they see “puertorriquenidad” (Puerto Ricanness). In my Reseach-Based Argument, I hope to explore Puerto Ricans’ self-perception, find out how it has been altered by American influence, and suggest, if not find out definitively, the elusive trait or traits that distinguishes Puerto Ricans from other societies.
-Aravind Arun, Stanford ’14