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Queen's University
 

Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies


United States

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TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 3.5 3.5 3.5


1. Federal or quasi-federal territorial autonomy

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • Puerto Rico is an “unincorporated territory” of the United States, that is, an insular area belonging to the United States, but to which only selected parts of the Constitution of the United States apply (Office of Insular Affairs 2007).
  • The first Constitution of Puerto Rico in 1952 officially declared the island to be an “Estado Libre Asociado,” a self-governing territory of the US with commonwealth status. The constitution established internal self-government which has authority over Puerto Rico’s internal affairs.
  • Non-binding, locally initiated plebiscites were held in 1967, 1993 and 1998 to determine the political status of the island. Voters were presented with various options: statehood, independence, an enhanced form of commonwealth or, in 1998, a more autonomous “free association” with the US (Pérez 2002).
  • Following these referendums, the “President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status” was created by Clinton in 2000 to ensure an ongoing discussion about the island’s status, but pro-commonwealth governors in 2000 and 2004 worked to block all legislative actions (Let Puerto Rico Decide 2005; Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration 2009).
  • The Puerto Rico Democracy Act, 2009, authorizes the conduct of another plebiscite to determine the island’s political status.
  • At present, Puerto Rico’s relationship with the US is very similar to that of other American states, with certain exceptions. For example, residents lack voting representation at the central state level; no federal taxes have to be paid on local income; and the island receives less funding in some federal programs. Puerto Rico also manages its own local taxation system (ibid.).


2. Official language status, either in the region or nationally

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • Spanish and English are both official languages in Puerto Rico. English is used in all federal matters, but the Commonwealth government and its municipalities run their affairs in Spanish.
  • The only reference to language in the Constitution of Puerto Rico, 1952, states that all members of the Legislative Assembly have to be able to read and write both Spanish and English.
  • Spanish and English have had official recognition for more than a century in Puerto Rico, with a short exception starting in 1991, when Spanish was made the island’s only official language. The equal status of Spanish and English was restored in 1993 (Welcome to Puerto Rico 2009a).
  • The United States has no official language, despite many attempts to amend the constitution so as to make English the official language of the country (U.S. Constitution Online 2010).


3. Guarantees of representation in the central government or on constitutional courts

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • Puerto Ricans are not eligible to vote in elections for the US president and vice president, but they are accorded equal/proportional representation in both Republican and Democrat primaries. They are represented in the US House of Representatives by a nonvoting delegate, the resident commissioner (Central Intelligence Agency 2010).
  • Puerto Rico is not represented in the Senate, which is composed of two representatives per state (for a total of 100 senators).
  • Article 2 of the Constitution of the United States gives the president power to appoint judges to the Supreme Court. Even though no piece of legislation explicitly excludes Puerto Ricans from being nominated as justices, none of the Supreme Court judges have so far been residents of the island.
  • No change has been observed on this matter in past decades. An eventual plebiscite on Puerto Rico’s status, as authorized under the Puerto Rico Democracy Act, 2009, could, however, lead to a radical transformation in the island’s representation in the central government.


4. Public funding of minority-language universities/schools/media

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence (education):

  • The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (1952) gives all citizens the right to free public education. The public education system is funded and managed by the Puerto Rico Department of Education.
  • English-medium education has been favoured in Puerto Rico in the early decades following its cession to the USA in 1898. Spanish was gradually introduced as the language of instruction (particularly in the lower grades) in 1915, while higher grades were taught predominantly in English (Welcome to Puerto Rico 2009c).
  • Since 1949, Spanish has been restored as the primary language of instruction in the public school system, but English is still taught as an integral part of the curriculum from kindergarten to high school (Barreto 2007).
  • In 1996, a public education reform led to the creation of bilingual education centres, aimed at improving English instruction. These centres are still the topic of much discussion in Puerto Rico (ibid.).
  • Puerto Rico has more than 50 institutions of higher education. The Universidad de Puerto Rico, founded in 1903, operates completely in Spanish.
  • While language policies with regard to the education system are still a topic of controversy in Puerto Rico, no substantial change has been observed since the 1949 reform.

Evidence (media):

  • The first public TV and radio stations based in Puerto Rico date from the creation of the Public Radio and Television Service, in the mid-1950s.
  • The operation of public broadcasting was transferred to the Corporación de Puerto Rico para la Difusión Pública in 1996, which was granted increased budget and increased the quality and quantity of programming services. It now runs two radio stations and two television stations in Spanish (Museum of Broadcast Communications 2010).
  • The establishment and operation of television and radio stations in Puerto Rico is regulated exclusively by the US Federal Communications Commission (Bas García, 2001). This has limited the development of Puerto Rico’s broadcasting industry, partly explaining the popularity of Spanish-language media based in the United States and in Latin American countries (Artero 2009).
  • With the exception of a limited number of programs, all stations in Puerto Rico transmit in Spanish. Most of them are affiliated with, or owned by, an American network (ibid.).
  • Public funding of Spanish media has been continuously ensured for the past 50 years, and increased in the mid-1990s.


5. Constitutional or parliamentary affirmation of “multinationalism”

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • There is no mention of the national or distinct character of Puerto Rico in the Constitution of the United States of America nor in the Constitution of Puerto Rico, 1952. On the contrary, the concept of the “nation” is used in the dominant discourse in the USA to refer to the entire country.
  • Public Law 600 (1950) and the Puerto Rico Democracy Act (2009), respectively the oldest and the most recent pieces of legislation on the self-governing status of the island, are presented as the product of, and a response to, domestic and international demands, and are devoid of any reference to the existence of a Puerto Rican nation or a distinct society.


6. Accorded international personality (e.g., allowing the sub-state region to sit on international bodies, sign treaties, or have their own Olympic team)

   Partially.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0.5 0.5 0.5

Evidence:

  • The United States has control over most topics of international politics: interstate trade, foreign relations and commerce, immigration, nationality and citizenship, etc.
  • The island hosts no embassies, but does host consulates from 41 countries (mainly from the Americas and Europe). It is a member or associate member on a series of international organizations such as the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, the World Federation of Trade Unions, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Welcome to Puerto Rico 2009b).
  • Puerto Rico has representation in all international competitions; it has its own Olympic team and competes in the Pan American Games, the Caribbean World Series, the Central American and Caribbean Games and Miss Universe competitions. It is a member of the International Olympic Committee and the World Combat League (ibid.).
  • The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has its own national anthem, La Borinqueña.

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