Why isn’t Puerto Rico a state and What would statehood mean for Puerto Rico?

The main reason Puerto Rico a state isn’t a state is that Puerto Ricans have voted against becoming one.

Statehood has certain disadvantages for Puerto Ricans. Because tax exemption for U.S. businesses would end, companies would probably leave the island, throwing people out of work. On the other hand, statehood would give Puerto Rico full representation in Congress.

The question was put to Puerto Ricans in a plebiscite, or direct popular vote, in 1964 and 1993. Both times Puerto Ricans voted in favor of remaining a commonwealth.

However, in the 1993 vote, the movement for statehood gained ground: 46.3 percent of voters wanted statehood, only a little less than the 48.6 percent who wanted commonwealth status. With a margin that narrow, the vote might easily go the other way in the next vote, scheduled for late 1998.

If the movement for statehood prevails, Puerto Rico might become the nation’s fifty-first state. If so, it would be the first state with an almost entirely Hispanic population. The idea is not unthinkable.

Millions of Puerto Ricans who have left the island already live within the fifty states.