Letter to "The Washington Times"
by DCDave

September 12, 1997

Letters to the Editor
The Washington Times
3600 New York Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20002

Dear Editor:

With his column, "Puerto Rico freedom option," (Sept. 10) Patrick Buchanan is certainly not going to win many friends among the 3.8 million U.S. citizens on that Caribbean island. His blunt call for highhanded legislation permanently foreclosing the statehood option for Puerto Rico, as well as his suggestion that Puerto Ricans are only interested in statehood because of the additional money they would get, might even result in some unlikely Puerto Ricans rallying behind the statehooders out of revulsion over such talk. But he is right to warn us about current proposed legislation which seems designed to put Puerto Rico on the fast track to statehood without coming to grips with the very different understanding between Puerto Rican statehood advocates and most of the rest of us as to what statehood would entail.

Statehood leader Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barcelo has said in Congressional testimony that he rejects the idea of America as a melting pot, preferring instead the "salad bowl" comparison. Spanish as the permanent dominant language in Puerto Rico is something that he has repeatedly said is non-negotiable. He has had to take this position in order to have any Puerto Rican support at all, knowing as he does that very nearly the worst thing you can call anyone on that proud island, whose Spanish settlement preceded the Mayflower's landing by more than a century, is an "assimilationist."

The legislation, remaining silent on the question of language, in effect buys into the "salad bowl" metaphor. Nothing fundamental would change in Puerto Rican culture, Romero is able to promise the people, except that residents of Puerto Rico would cease being second class citizens. But the fact of the matter is that a determinedly unassimilated minority speaking a different language from the majority would continue to be second class citizens whatever the change in political status. Not even a Canada-like law mandating Spanish--as opposed to French--as a co-equal national language with English, which Buchanan is correct to say we could likely anticipate as the next step, would change that fact.

You don't have to favor Buchanan's statehood-never proposal to worry about a bill that nudges Puerto Rico toward statehood while pushing off into the future the potentially nation-fracturing language-culture issue. One is reminded of what happened when the Founding Fathers did that with the slavery question.


David Martin

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