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Is Puerto Rico a Country or a State?

Neither, in short, Puerto Rico has been a territory of the United States since 1898.

Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth associated with the US. The island's inhabitants possess all the rights and obligations of United States citizens such as paying Social Security, receiving federal welfare and serving in the armed forces, except for the right to vote in presidential elections and the obligation to pay federal taxes.

How Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory?

Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898 following the Spanish-American War as Spain ceded Puerto Rico and other territories to the United States.

On April 2, 1900, after two years of U.S military rule, the Foraker Law is approved, establishing civil government and free commerce between the island and United States. Puerto Rico became U.S. first unincorporated territory. The new government had an American governor, with 5 Puerto Rican Cabinet members. The Foraker Law also granted Puerto Ricans a nonvoting representative in Congress, but not citizenship.

By 1917 Jones-Shafroth Act was signed, best known as Jones Act. With this law Congress Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States ("organized but unincorporated,") and granted Puerto Ricans U.S. statutory citizenship, which means that Puerto Ricans were granted citizenship by act of Congress, not by the Constitution and citizenship is therefore not guaranteed by it. As citizens, they were now allowed to join the army. During World War I, over 18,000 Puerto Ricans served.

In 1940, With the 1940 U.S. Nationality Act, which became effective January 13, 1941, ratified by the Nationality Law in 1952, the Congress amended the statute on naturalization, expanding the applicability of the jus soli rule to Puerto Rico. Under this Act, all persons born in Puerto Rico after that date are considered U.S. citizens and, therefore, their U.S. citizenship is protected under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. (In 1917, U.S. citizenship granted to Puerto Ricans was a naturalized legislative or statutory citizenship (Congress can revoke statutory citizenship under certain conditions).)

In 1950, President Harry S. Truman signed what is known as Public Act 600, which allowed Puerto Ricans to draft their own constitution establishing the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Congress had conferred commonwealth status on Puerto Rico and upgraded Puerto Rico's political status from protectorate to commonwealth.

In 1952 the New Constitution is approved, and Puerto Rico is proclaimed as Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, although remained a territory of the United States. As a United States commonwealth, it is still treated by Congress as one of the last remaining <colonies in the world.

Is Puerto Rico a State?

Puerto Rico is not a state, but a self-governing commonwealth in association with the United States. It has been a US territory since 1898. Puerto Rico has its own government, but has no representation in the Electoral College, nor have voting representation in Congress. Although, they do vote for a representative called the Resident Commissioner.

Puerto Rico's political relationship with the U.S. has been a continuing source of debate in Puerto Rico, the United States Congress, and the United Nations. The issue revolves around whether Puerto Rico should remain a U.S. territory, become a U.S. state, or become an independent country. The debate has spawned several referendums, presidential executive orders, and bills in the U.S. Congress. Ultimately the U.S. Congress is the only one who can make decisions regarding the political status of Puerto Rico, as stated under the Territorial Clause.

Although Puerto Rico is considered a territory of the United States, the island has its own Olympic team and competes in the Miss Universe pageant as an independent nation.

Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth associated with the US. The island's inhabitants possess all the rights and obligations of United States citizens such as paying Social Security, receiving federal welfare, and serving in the armed forces, except for the right to vote in presidential elections (unless they establish residency in one of the 50 states) and the obligation to pay federal taxes. As citizens, Puerto Ricans do not require a work visa (also known as green cards) to live and/or work in the United States.

Puerto Ricans consider themselves American but are fiercely proud of their island and their culture. They don't usually call themselves Americans or "Americanos", but "Puertorriquenos" or "Boricuas." To most Puerto Ricans, "my country" means "Puerto Rico", not the United States. Boricua, derived from the Taino word Boriken is used to affirm Puerto Ricans devotion to the island's Taino heritage. The word Boriken translates to "the great land of the valiant and noble Lord". Boriken was the original name used by the Ta’no population before the arrival of the Spanish.

Does the United States Include Puerto Rico?

The term "United States" when used in a geographical sense on official documents, acts and/or laws; includes the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.

The U.S. has twelve unincorporated territories, also known as possessions, and two commonwealths. The major possessions are American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. All of these have a non-voting representative in the U.S. Congress. The major commonwealths are Puerto Rico and the Northern Marianas. Commonwealths have their own constitutions and greater autonomy than possessions, and Guam is currently in the process of moving from the status of unincorporated territory to commonwealth. The residents of all of these places are full U.S. citizens, with the exception of those on American Samoa who are U.S. nationals, but not citizens.

U.S. Commonwealths, Territories and include American Samao (AS), Baker Island*, Howland Island*, Guam (GU), Jarvis Island*, Johnston Atoll*, Kingman Reef*, Midway Islands, Navassa Island*, Palmyra Atoll*, Puerto Rico (PR), U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas) (VI), and Wake Island*.

* Uninhabited


Are Puerto Ricans Americans (US citizens)?

Yes, in 1942 the Congress ratified Nationality Law, which granted all persons born in Puerto Rico after that date are considered U.S. citizens and, therefore, their U.S. citizenship is protected under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The law states that birth in Puerto Rico is comparable to birth in the United States.


Puerto Ricans have weighed in on Puerto Rico's status in six plebiscites since 1967. In 2020 the majority of voters chose to become a state, the results have not compelled the U.S. Congress to act on the issue of Puerto Rico's political status.

Puerto Rico is ineligible for statehood under the U.S. Constitution as an unincorporated U.S. territory. As noted before, the U.S. Congress is the only one who can make decisions regarding the political status of Puerto Rico, as stated under the Territorial Clause and it will require a constitutional change.

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Did You Know?

Medalla Light, Puerto Rico's top-selling light beer, won first prize in 2005 for light beer in Brussels awarded by Monde Selection. Produced by Cervecera de Puerto Rico, a family-owned business founded in 1937. Medalla Light has a thin, white head and a clear, fairly bubbly, straw appearance.