Puerto Rico is an unincorporated US territory. The US won the island from Spain in the Spanish-American War along with the Philippines and Guam, so it is also referred to as a colonial possession, specifically by the UN's Decolonization Committee.

Many US states were territories the US gained in wars. The territories ceded in the Mexican-American War had large numbers of Mexican citizens living in them, for example. Has Puerto Rico experienced fewer privileges and autonomy than other US territories? What were commonly the rights and treatment of the people like in US territories in the Continental US?

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    theoretically they have the same rights, but they have been discriminated in the the Continental US historycally as Latinos. Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 19:38
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    @EmilioGort - As were the Californios and Native Americans inside US territories.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 11:37
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    Please consider revising it to be more in line with our evolving community expectations. Like many other stacks, we expect questions to provide evidence of prior research. That helps us to understand the question, and avoids our repeating work you've already done. Our help center, and other stacks provide additional resources to assist with revisions.
    – MCW
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 18:38
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    They cannot vote in US elections while living in Puerto Rico though they can vote if living in America, so I would consider that fewer privileges.
    – ed.hank
    Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 11:21
  • This belongs in politics
    – user26470
    Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 15:38

1 Answer 1


Has Puerto Rico experienced fewer privileges and autonomy than other US territories?

Short Answer:
It's a very broad question. The way the question is worded the answer would yes.

The United States invaded Puerto Rico in July 1898 with little opposition (seven American soldiers died ). By Oct 1898 the United States signed an armistice with Spain granting it the possession of the Island.

  • 1917 the US Granted full US citizenship to the citizens of Puerto Rico.
  • 1948, Puerto Ricans could elect their own governor
  • 1952 the U.S. Congress approved a new Puerto Rican constitution that made the island an autonomous U.S. commonwealth, with it's citizens retaining full U.S. Citizenship.
  • 1967 and 1993, popular referendums were held for independence, with the majority of Puerto Ricans supporting the continuation of their special status as a U.S. commonwealth.

Detailed Answer:

Puerto Rico has experienced fewer privileges than some other U.S. Territories. If we compare Puerto Rico with Hawaii both of which became territories around the same time.

  1. From 1898 - Jan 1949, Puerto Rico had an appointed Governor and its people were denied the right to elect their own leadership. Hawaii for example entered the union in 1890 and was permitted to elect Sanford B. Dole, their first governor in that same year. Many territories enjoyed a much faster path to representative governance inside the federated system.

  2. Citizenship was also granted to all citizens of the Republic of Hawaii for example, as of 1898 immediately in 1890 when it became a US territory. It took, 20 years (1917) for Puerto Ricans to gain US citizenship after becoming a territory.

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    Typo with that "immediately in 1990"...? Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 19:01
  • It depends entirely on how one defines "privileges and autonomy". Arguably it has more than places, such as Hawai'i, that became US states, since it is not locked into statehood. It has a choice between independence, statehood, or continuing the current commonwealth relationship. There have been several referenda on its status, without a clear majority favoring any option. See e.g. the Wikipedia article: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_status_of_Puerto_Rico
    – jamesqf
    Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 4:45
  • @JMS: And I gave (as you did) verifiable examples of Puerto Rico having MORE autonomy, by being able to hold referenda on their future status. AFAIK none of the current US states were able to do that, and the states that tried to leave suffered war & destruction.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 14:27
  • @jamesqf The question was if Puerto Rico experience d fewer privileges and autonomy. And the answer to that question is yes.
    – user27618
    Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 3:30
  • @JMS: No, the answer is no (or perhaps maybe, if you add everything together and weight them by your own subjective ideas of their importance), since Puerto Rico enjoys privileges that most other US territories didn't.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 23:09

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