My impression from reading about Puerto Rican views on statehood is that besides the pro-statehood and the pro-independence camp, there also is significant support for the status quo. Of course, some of this support might be come from those who consider their preferred goal unattainable, and don't want to waste resources on pursuing something unachievable. But I am still wondering whether there are downsides for Puerto Rico from their standpoint to becoming a US State, other than this making independence much harder to achieve?

Some background reading (thanks Jontia): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status_quo_movement_in_Puerto_Rico

For example, in the 2012 referendum 46% voted for keeping the status quo.

  • Who is trying to prevent their independence? This is all about changing the balance in the senate and the electoral college.
    – Joe W
    Commented Feb 28, 2021 at 17:26
  • 3
    @JoeW I am asking about the Puerto Rican perspective, not the mainland US perspective. If you are claiming that wanting to keep the balance for senate/house/electorial college unchanged is a significant reason for Puerto Ricans to oppose Puerto Rican statehood, please find some sources and post that as an answer.
    – Arno
    Commented Feb 28, 2021 at 17:34
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    @JoeW the question doesn't ask for anything related to wider US politics, but about support for the status quo in PR. Seems well supported, but this wiki page at least doesn't say why. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/….
    – Jontia
    Commented Feb 28, 2021 at 17:35
  • That is not what I got from the question. To me it is reading as including everything. You should clarify as asking from that side. You should also include other referendums as the one in 2017 got 97.13% voting for statehood. Sure there is controversy surrounding it but it is still an important data point.
    – Joe W
    Commented Feb 28, 2021 at 17:59
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    @JoeW You seem to be reading something into my question that is not there. 1. There seems to be a sizable number of Puerto Ricans who prefer the status quo over both Statehood and independence. 2. It seems quite plausible that this is because they perceive downsides to statehood other than making independence harder. 3. I don't know what these downsides are. I want to know. So I ask.
    – Arno
    Commented Feb 28, 2021 at 18:51

2 Answers 2


The only two certainties in life are death and taxes.

While Puerto Ricans do pay some federal taxes such as FICA (Social Security), for the most part, Puerto Ricans currently do not pay federal income taxes. Becoming a state would immediately subject all Puerto Ricans to the federal income tax. There would most likely be enhanced benefits to Puerto Rico should it become a state, but this is not a certainty. Being subject to federal income tax would be an absolute certainty.

¿Habla Inglés?

Despite the fact that the US does not have an official language, there would be huge pressure on Puerto Rico to make English be its dominate language should it become a state. This would likely result in a reduction of their Hispanic heritage and culture. Puerto Ricans are very proud of their culture, which is older than that of the US.

  • 1
    I did not mean "Habla Inglés"' to be taken derogatorily. I know what "haluatko kupin kahvia" (Finnish) and "vil du ha en kopp kaffe" (Norwegian) mean ("would you like a cup of coffee"), but that is about the extent of my cultural heritage. Other than remembering a few key phrases, knowing how to make weird holiday breads, and being able to roll naked in a snowbank after a sauna, my cultural heritage has been wiped out. Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 6:16
  • For the first point there is a closely connected question that goes into detail as to how much purto rico receives from the government vs how much it pays in taxes. Put simply PR is currently getting far more out of the government then they are paying in, and so statehood likely would result in a much higher tax burden with any additional financial support from the federal government unlikely to compensate for the increased taxes: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/25501/…
    – dsollen
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 17:20

The language barrier there isn't merely an inconvenience. The English-Spanish debate has been contentious there before

In 1991 the government of Puerto Rico, under the administration of PPD's Rafael Hernández Colón, made Spanish its sole official language through a law that was commonly called the "Spanish-only Law." In recognition of the historical defense of the Spanish language and culture, the Spanish Monarchy awarded Puerto Rico the Principe de Asturias' Prize that same year. On 4 January 1993, the 12th Legislative Assembly, with the support of the newly elected PNP government of Pedro Rosselló González passed Senate Bill 1, establishing both Spanish and English as official languages of the government of Puerto Rico.

In 2009, the grassroots community cultural organization Unidos por Nuestro Idioma ("United for our language"), whose goal is "defending Spanish in Puerto Rico", expressed concern that the use of English terms on official road signs reading "Welcome to Guaynabo City", and on mass transit ("City Hall" and "Downtown") as well as police cruisers ("San Juan Police Department") were evidence of the English language replacing Spanish in official use. The group advocates the defense and use of Spanish in Puerto Rico. The group states it is not against the use of English, recognizing the importance of Puerto Ricans learning it, but states that it should not displace Spanish.

This would be the first state where English was not the predominant language of its population. The 2000 census found very few people there speak English

Both Spanish and English are the official languages of Puerto Rico, but Spanish is without a doubt the dominant language, as the majority of the people in Puerto Rico are not proficient in English. Fewer than 20 percent of Puerto Ricans speak English fluently, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

Hawaii, by contrast, had been forced by the US government to switch long before it became a state so it never really became as large an issue. There would be increased pressure to have more English taught and used.

  • Is this a general "more integration into the US will strenghten English compared to Spanish" issue, or are there concrete mechanisms how the federal government could make Puerto Rico use English?
    – Arno
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 14:33
  • @Arno It's more a general integration problem. The vast majority of the US uses English, and being a state would increase the need for English, far more than what it is now. There are some nativist Puerto Ricans, and they would likely oppose such efforts. It's unlikely (given the current political climate) that they would be forced to switch by the Federal government.
    – Machavity
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 14:55
  • @Arno: Canada & Quebec make an interesting parallel to this (right down to people complaining about signage!) Basically, in the early 20th century English was the language of the moneyed elites while French was the language of the poorer working class. This led to several acts (most notably the Charter of the French Language) that sought to protect French as the primary language of Quebec. It's not too hard for me to imagine a similar situation playing out in Puerto Rico should they gain statehood. Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 16:17

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