Many activities took place in Puerto Rico last weekend
commemorating 100 years of the United States' presence on the island.
The supporters of independence, who make up about 3 percent of the
voters, protested the invasion of Puerto Rico by the United States.
Others celebrated the union between Puerto Rico and the United
Gov. Pedro Rossello, whose party is pro-statehood, announced that
a local plebiscite will be held in Puerto Rico before the end of
1998. In last week's column, I quoted Rafael Rodriguez-Aguayo,
Puerto Rico's adviser on constituents and governmental political
affairs, saying, "A status referendum would carry little meaning
unless Congress sets the general terms and definitions used to
describe the options on the plebiscite ballot."
Orlando's Joe Bracero had an interesting response.
"Puerto Rico may petition Congress for admission to the Union as a
state; however, there must be a consensus within the Puerto Rican
community without doubt, the same as Alaska and Hawaii," he wrote.
He goes on to quote a passage from a study done by the University
of Puerto Rico to suggest another possibility.
"Several states, beginning with Tennessee in 1796, chose a bold
method of obtaining admission to the union. The states which
followed Tennessee's initiative undertook a uniform course of action
once they made a decision to seek statehood. The `Tennessee Plan,'
as it has come to be known, consists of the following steps: 1)
Unsuccessfully petitioning Congress for admission; 2) Drafting a
state constitution without prior congressional intervention; 3)
Holding state elections for state officers, U.S. Senators and
Representatives; 4) In some cases, sending the entire congressional
delegation to Washington to demand statehood and claim their seats;
5) Finally, Congress, presented with a fait accompli, has little
choice but to admit a new state through the passage of a simple act
Bracero continues, "As mentioned earlier, Tennessee was the first
territory to begin the statehood process on its own initiative. In
1795 the territorial legislature passed a bill calling for a census
and a poll on statehood. Given the opportunity to express their
preference, 73 percent of the voters endorsed statehood.
"Voters went to the polls and elected a governor and a general
assembly, which in turn elected two men to the U.S. Senate.
Tennessee's `Senators' lobbied for admission and President Washington
endorsed statehood for the territory. Congress quickly agreed.
"However, two conditions were imposed: 1) Tennessee's Senators had
to stand for re-election, which they did successfully; and 2) Until
the next census, Tennessee was to have one representative, not two.
The most significant aspect of Tennessee's statehood battle was the
swiftness of the process. It was admitted 5 months from the
convening of the constitutional convention and 3 months after the
election of the two United States Senators," Bracero writes.
Bracero can be contacted at: email@example.com. 1-888-5-CETUSA.