ON H.R. 856



MARCH 19, 1997


Chairman Young, distinguished members of the Resources Committee.

 I am Zoraida Fonalledas the Republican National Committeewoman from Puerto Rico and a proud descendant of public servants who over the 100 years of America’s administration of Puerto Rico have been champions of statehood for our island.

 Passage of the United States-Puerto Rico Political Status Act, H.R. 856, will be the fulfillment of that quest not only for my family, but for the 3.7 million Puerto Ricans who will finally obtain first class American citizenship, a right which they have earned in common with all other Americans.

 That I am speaking to you today in favor of this bill speaks volumes for the distance which Puerto Rico has traveled since it became part of the United States nearly 100 years ago. But, quite frankly, a woman leader in a leadership role of a major political party in Puerto Rico is merely reflective of the total American experience.

 It's a mirror of the best of our beliefs, the inclusion of all citizens in the political process and more broadly n an entire society that looks to the United States constitution as the guiding light of our national unity and purpose.

And, as it should be, it is this shared dedication and devotion to the American ideals of human dignity and equality that must be the only standard by which Puerto Rico should be measured for inclusion into the union as the fifty-first state.

Yet so much has been said about what a few see as separating us or limiting Puerto Rico’s aspirations for equality that not enough has been given to what joins us together: these shared ideals.

Nor can the merits of our quest be evaluated in simple monetary terms. There can never be a price tag on the blood that has been spilled by thousands of Puerto Ricans unflinchingly defending the stars and stripes.

Like the rest of Americans, Puerto Ricans who cherish their United States citizenship, and all do, the American dream is our dream, too. It is a dream that speaks in many tongues, comes in many colors and is a rainbow of many backgrounds. It is a dream not with a dollar value but of untold wealth whose currency is idealism and whose denomination is virtue.

Puerto Ricans share in their mainland brethren's devotion to our country, the United States of America. That devotion would alone merit a fifty-first star.

A devotion that has sent some 200,000 soldiers to defend the United States abroad since the first World War. A devotion that has been declared in the immortal souls of over 2,000 of our sons and daughters.

 But the defense of our nation is not the only grounds upon which Puerto Ricans has a legitimate and long over-due claim to statehood. We are as much a part of the fabric of America as all other Americans. Our contributions to the American society whether measured in the arts, economics, education, sports or politics is as great as all other Americans.

But it is our commitment to the democratic process, which is legendary. Nowhere else in American society do voters routinely turn out in numbers approaching 85 percent to cast their ballots in elections of all types.

Politics, public issues, the future of our island and the United States nation are dear to us as we cherish our families and wish only, like all other citizens, to assure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to future generations embellished by our own contributions.

 That goal can only be guaranteed with Puerto Rico’s entry into the union. The American citizenship for which we have shed our blood and the unrealized equality, which we seek, can only be attained with statehood.

 Is it not right that 100 years after the United States' acquisition of Puerto Rico and 80 years since we became citizens that Puerto Ricans become full and equal partners with all other Americans? That we can vote for the commander-in-chief that sends us into battle, that we can be vote in congress for the laws that affect our daily lives and the future of our children?

 The answer to these questions must be a resounding yes!

Continuing on the road to inclusion and setting the standard for human dignity and equality worldwide the United States must begin at home by ending the last vestiges of disenfranchisement and second class status among its own citizens, the 3.7 million of us who make Puerto Rico our home.

 As my grandfather, Senate President Rafael Martinez-Nadal so eloquently put it some 60 years ago, 'Statehood is not a question of dollars or cents but of a deep desire for liberty."

 This deep desire for liberty among all Puerto Ricans has been declared over and over again since 1898. It is the complete fulfillment of this desire that we seek today as an equal and integral part of the United States.

 In any language and at the ultimate price we have declared our devotion to liberty and we have earned our right to a fifty-first star.

 Mr. chairman, members of the Resources Committee, I urge enactment of H.R. 856, a historic piece of legislation that will finally give us the opportunity to attain that coveted star.

 Thank you.

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