Is Puerto Rico Part Of The United States? (2023) – All You Need To Know

The island of Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States located in the Caribbean Sea.

The island is regarded as part of the United States with its own legal system and administration.

I grew up in Puerto Rico, so I know everything you need to know about this topic.

In this article, I will cover the following:

Is Puerto Rico legally part of the United States?
When did Puerto Rico become part of the United States?
Why is Puerto Rico not a US state?
What country is Puerto Rico in?

 

Is Puerto Rico legally part of the United States?

Puerto Rico is legally part of the U.S. but is not a fully incorporated state. 

Since it is U.S. Territory, Congress has full authority over it. 

image showing handshake between Puerto Rico and USA flags
Puerto Rico and the United States have been associated with each other since 1898.

Puerto Rico has maintained a high level of autonomy despite its legal position and has a solid relationship with the federal government.

The legal standing of Puerto Rico is not specifically stated in the U.S. Constitution. However, the Supreme Court ruled Puerto Ricans as U.S citizens.

As a result, Puerto Ricans hold U.S. citizenship from birth and are entitled to most of the same constitutional rights. 

Because of this, Puerto Rico is a distinct and intriguing political entity that balances independence and incorporation.

 

When did Puerto Rico become part of the United States?

Puerto Rico became part of the United States in 1898 due to the Spanish-American War. 

image showing Spanish troops leaving mayagues
Spanish troops leaving Mayaguez, to engage the United States forces at Hormiguero, Puerto Rico.

Spain had governed the island since the sixteenth century, but after the war, the United States took possession of it, making it a part of their territory.

If you are planning a visit to the island, check out Old San Juan and Ponce, two of the best places to explore Puerto Rico’s history.

 

Why is Puerto Rico not a US state?

Puerto Rico’s status is a commonwealth.  

image showing flag of PR and US dollars
In Puerto Rico, citizens and visitors use the US dollar.

Due to several factors, Puerto Rico has not been admitted as a state to the United States, and I have compiled the top three reasons here: 

1. Puerto Rico’s position as an unincorporated U.S. region. 

The U.S. Constitution allows the country to include unorganized regions like Puerto Rico. It has unrestricted authority to enact laws, collect taxes, and manage the region, which is known as exercising “plenary power” over them. 

This indicates that Puerto Rico lacks some benefits and rights that come with being a state of the United States.

Although Puerto Ricans can participate in the party primaries, they are not allowed to hold presidential elections and elect representatives to the U.S. Congress. 

This has sparked a prolonged and intricate discussion on the island’s status, with various political parties adopting different positions.

2. While some parties support complete statehood, others contend that Puerto Rico should remain a U.S. colony or gain independence.

The lack of a clear route to statehood is another factor keeping Puerto Rico from joining the union as a state. 

image of US Supreme Court
The future of Puerto Rico’s political status rests in the hands of the people and the government.

3. Puerto Rico is ineligible for statehood under the U.S. Constitution as an unincorporated U.S. territory.

As a result, any move to have Puerto Rico become a state of the United States would require a constitutional change, which is unlikely to pass given the country’s present political climate. 

The unique political structure of Puerto Rico is a fusion of the United States and local political systems. As a result, the two organizations now have a distinctive relationship, with Puerto Rico enjoying some degree of independence from the United States. 

Due to this, it has become challenging to work out precisely what rights and privileges Puerto Rico should be eligible for.  

Below is a video explaining why Puerto Rico is not a US state:

 

What country is Puerto Rico in?

Geographically, Puerto Rico is not located in any country. 

Puerto Rico is part of The Caribbean Archipelago (the Antilles islands) located in North America, right between the Caribbean and the North Atlantic oceans.

This map shows Puerto Rico as part of The Caribbean Archipelago.

More than 3.9 million U.S Citizens live in Puerto Rico, which also serves as a significant economic and cultural hub for the Caribbean and the U.S. 

As citizens of the United States, Puerto Ricans are free to move around the island, inside the country, and on the mainland.

Check out everything that you need to know about the Unincorporated Territory in the following video:

 

 

FAQ section

Can you go to Puerto Rico without a passport?

Passports are not necessary for U.S Citizens living on the mainland to travel to Puerto Rico. U.S Citizens are permitted to visit Puerto Rico without a passport, and when there, they are regarded as being in the country.

Are citizens of Puerto Rico US citizens?

Yes! Puerto Ricans are United States citizens from birth and have many of the same rights and privileges as other U.S. citizens, including the freedom to travel within the United States and the right to be protected by U.S. laws. Therefore, they are qualified to receive federal benefits like Social Security and Medicare.

 

Final thoughts

Based on the recent referendums the island’s residents have leaned towards statehood.

For the moment, it is unknown if Puerto Rico will ever become a state. 

Even so, Puerto Rico is an island rich in culture and full of history. 

If you are planning a trip to Puerto Rico and need some inspiration, check out our article 45 Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico.

Article by

Dimary Hernández Soto

Writer at PuertoRico.com. I have lived in Puerto Rico my entire life. When I’m not writing, I work in the healthcare industry as a Quality Control Specialist. After Hurricane Maria, my teammates and I were responsible for ensuring that life support equipment reached patients in need around the island. 

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