So apparently the Puerto Rican legislature is trying to get a(nother) holiday celebrating American citizenship added to the calendar (for May 20th). Well, technically, it already existed, but they're reviving it. The other holiday celebrating American citizenship is March 2nd, "el Día de la Ciudadanía Americana", in case you were wondering.
El proyecto de ley indica que el 20 de mayo los puertorriqueños deberán “rendir tributo, observar y conmemorar públicamente la ciudadanía de los Estados Unidos”. Ins[is]ta, además, a las organizaciones patrióticas, cívicas y educativas a que hagan lo mismo.I do agree with a lot of the comments left behind by readers saying it seems like a waste of funds and legislative action (although what isn't...), however, it does also raise the question of the appropriateness of celebrating American citizenship.
The bill indicates that on the 20th of May, Puerto Ricans should "render tribute, observe and publicly commemorate United States citizenship". It also insists that patriotic, civil, and educational organizations do the same.
American citizenship is a heavily contested issue. Most people don't realize that American citizenship was indeed imposed upon Puerto Rico with the Jones Act. While it was in a sense a "gift", as in it was optional, for all practical purposes it was mandatory, since anyone who didn't have it was sentenced to unemployment (after the switch American citizenship was required for jobs). So, although there were surely many dissenters (although there were many people excited about it as well, let's not forget), only a few hundred Puerto Ricans decided not to immediately become American citizens, about 400 if I remember correctly. This was 1917, after nearly 20 years under the United States.
Luis Muñoz Rivera, grandfather of Puerto Rican politics and father of an equally famous politician, Luis Muñoz Marín, the one who came up with the holiday being discussed now (and for whom the airport is named), left us with a quote that still is as thought-provoking for Puerto Rico today as it was in 1909 when he spoke to Congress:
If you wish to make us citizens of an inferior class--if we cannot be one of your States; if we cannot constitute a country of our own then we will have to be perpetually a colony, a dependency of the United States. Is that the kind of citizenship you offer us? Then, that is the citizenship we refuse.The next large challenge to this setup comes from Juan Mari Brás in 1994, when he renounces his American citizenship in Venezuela in favor of a Puerto Rican citizenship. Because of the rules involved in renouncing citizenship, he would have to be deported to his birthplace, and yet he had just refused it. Therefore, in Puerto Rico he was both legally forced to be there and yet illegally in a land he wasn't a citizen of, a strange situation indeed. To add to the confusion, in 2005 the Puerto Rican State Department (finally?) awarded him with "Puerto Rican citizenship", which technically doesn't exist and is something that still hasn't been resolved with the U.S. government.
Anyways, history aside, what's most disconcerting to me is the need to celebrate American citizenship. Not that I think most people waste time and money celebrating, because I can't imagine they do (although I don't know, I've never been around for either of the dates). And I do think that Puerto Ricans benefit a lot from being American citizens, the many examples of which I don't think I need to recount here. But by making an official holiday it's kind of paying tribute to the colonial dependence and second class citizenship that Muñoz Rivera brought up a hundred years ago. After all, Puerto Ricans are Americans that are not protected by the Constitution; they can be drafted and yet have no vote in Congress to declare war; they have their own government but the U.S. has complete, if underabused, control over its every action. Statutory citizenship leaves Puerto Ricans in a strange place, where they are both the same and yet different from their fellow Americans.
I say, if Puerto Ricans want to celebrate American citizenship, let them celebrate it on July 4th with all the other Americans, as equals. There's no sense in celebrating inferiority.