The Puerto Rico Statehood Society hosted a “BBQ for Statehood” Saturday to promote the idea of the island territory becoming the 51st state. Students passing through Kogan Plaza enjoyed the group’s music and free food while learning about the issues facing Puerto Rico today.
Puerto Rico, an island just east of the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Sea, has been a United States territory since 1917. Although its inhabitants enjoy U.S .citizenship, they are denied many of the rights and privileges granted to residents of the states, activists claim.
“We’ve been under the U.S. flag for more than 100 years,” said club President Angel Valencia, a senior explained. “We want statehood. We have earned it.”
Formed in 2005 by a group of Puerto Rican GW students, the student organization aims to spread awareness of Puerto Rico’s territorial status. Organizers said about 65 students are involved in the group.
Not only does the organization want Puerto Rican citizens to be eligible to vote in Presidential elections, but they also want voting representations in the U.S. House of Representatives, Valencia said.
Puerto Rican activists say the citizens of the island have shown their support for the U.S. by supplying troops that fight under the American Flag.
“More than 2,000 soldiers from Puerto Rico have given their lives in all U.S. led conflicts since World War I. None of them ever having the right to vote for their Commander-in-chief,” one of the group’s flyers read.
Although the group is comprised almost entirely of Puerto Rican students, they share a diverse range of political views.
“We are a coalition of Republicans and Democrats,” Valencia said. “We allow people from both parties. We want to demonstrate that this is not a partisan issue.”
The group recognizes that some Puerto Ricans would rather achieve independence and not U.S. statehood.
Most of all, the group wants to raise awareness of the Puerto Rican issue.
“With all the issues we hear about today, Puerto Rico just isn’t something that I had thought much about,” said freshman Aiden Meister, who stopped at the event.
Although the club’s main focus is Puerto Rico, they sympathize with other areas facing “taxation without representation” issues, including Washington D.C. The District of Columbia also has no counted voting representatives in Congress.
The organization wants all members of the community to come together in the name of equality.
“I urge the GW community and people of all walks off life to call for civic equality for all US citizens no matter where they come from” Valencia said. “No U.S. citizen should be disenfranchised.”
The Society puts on events annually, and last year it hosted former Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Pedro Rossello to speak on the issue of Puerto Rican statehood.