CATHERINE M. LOZADA
Judy Vega of Astoria, whose parents, sister and cousins live in Puerto Rico, likes the idea of the island becoming a U.S. state because she believes the benefits outweigh the negatives.
“People who live on the island don’t know what to expect, but I haven’t spoken to anyone who is against it,” said Vega. “The younger generation supports statehood. They leave the island and come here for better opportunities. I’m sure they would like those same opportunities over there.”
Once again, the issue of the status of Puerto Rico has been brought to Congress, and if passed, House Resolution 2499, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2010, will once again authorize a referendum to give Puerto Ricans the opportunity to decide their fate. What that fate is – remain a commonwealth, become a state, or seek independence – is as controversial as the vote itself.
According to a 2008 report by The Center for Latino Studies at CUNY, about 800,000 Puerto Ricans live in NYC, making up 28 percent of the population. In 2008, 108,857 lived in Queens.
The National Chair of the National Coalition for Puerto Rican Statehood, Peter Fontanes of Long Island City, attended a HR 2499 Rally in Washington, D.C. on April 29 to show his support for the bill.
“It’s time for Puerto Rico to choose its destiny,” Fontanes, who opposes the idea that Puerto Ricans can be drafted by the US military but can’t vote for their Commander-In-Chief, said. “It’s been too long to maintain what has been a colony of the U.S.”
Michelle Nieves of Ridgewood thinks Puerto Rico becoming a state is a great idea and that it would stimulate the island’s economy, but thinks it probably won’t happen.
“I feel like if it hasn’t happened so far, it probably never will,” Nieves said.
Daisy Santiago of Little Neck, whose family lives on the island, said she’s uncertain what the best option is.
“The U.S. has done a lot of damage to them and took advantage of their natural resources,” Santiago said. “I don’t know how they’re going to benefit from statehood. They’re between a rock and a hard place.”
Puerto Rican Congressmember Nydia Velázquez, who represents Maspeth, Ridgewood and Woodside does not oppose statehood, but feels HR 2499 has been imposed on the Puerto Ricans by Congress.
“Let us be clear – this legislation is designed to push the statehood agenda, regardless of whether that agenda is the best solution for the Island, or even popular among the people,” said Velázquez. “If the people of Puerto Rico want to become a state, the statehood option should stand on its own. Let Puerto Ricans decide their own destiny – without undue Congressional demands,” she said.