Friday, December 30, 2016

My Fellow Americans...


Although described by Huffington Post as squashing the question, author and NPR correspondent Tom Gjelten is gracious in his conversation with a C-SPAN listener who called in to suggest "vetting" migrants from Puerto Rico. Gjelten ignores the racist undertones of a call that begins by praising migrants from Norway and then goes on to suggest that migrants from Puerto Rico need extra screening. Rather, Gjelten patiently explains the difference between migration and immigration -- people from Puerto Rico cannot immigrate to the United States because they are already here.

Gjelten takes it easy on the caller for two reasons. One is that his style is naturally inclusive, and he is used to conversations with people of many different ideological persuasions -- so he glides past the "good" immigrant memories in order to get to the teachable moment.. The other reason might be that he knows the breadth of geographic ignorance in the United States, even regarding our own country.

The status of the Commonwealth is unusual, and even as a geographer I sometimes need reminding of the details. It is a semi-colonial place that has partial representation, full citizenship, limited taxation, and almost no autonomy. It is a complex relationship that is explored in cogent detail by actress and comedian Rosie Perez in her film ¡Yo soy Boricua, pa'que tu lo sepas! (available on Netflix DVD and elsewhere).

For more on Puerto Rico, see our 2010 Celebrating the States entry (from our year of marking the entrance of each state or state-like entity into the United States) and our posts about a Puerto Rico-related film and book. For comparison, I also suggest our post about my home town, which also has a semi-colonial relationship to the United States.

Finally, feel free to enjoy some of the photos we took during our first visit to Puerto Rico, in May 2016. We had won a stay in a villa near San Juan at a school auction over a year earlier, and were glad to be able to enjoy several parts of the island as a family. Of course we included a coffee farm! And we did not need our passports.
Photo from my first visit to the island. See the full collection of
Hayes-Boh photos from Puerto Rico 2016 

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