Reminder: Puerto Rico is not a country

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attending the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attending the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City.
Steve Edreff/Shutterstock
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attending the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City.

Reminder: Puerto Rico is not a country

And it’s actually the president’s job to “fix” it.
July 15, 2019

On Sunday, President Donald Trump went on a Twitter rant, brashly directing “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen” – presumed to be Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar – to “go back” to the places “they came from” and “help fix” those “totally broken and crime infested places.” 

Trump’s statements were widely criticized as being racist and factually inaccurate, considering all of the women he was referring to (other than Omar, who was born in Somalia) were born in the U.S. Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter on Monday to respond to the president’s tweet, accusing him of using “white supremecist” rhetoric. Ocasio-Cortez, as was mentioned quite a few times on her campaign trail and thereafter, is from the Bronx. Her dad is from New York. And her mother is from Puerto Rico.

Left out of the national conversation about whether Trump’s comments were racist is an important distinction: Puerto Rico isn’t a foreign country. It’s part of the United States.

The small Caribbean island is a United States territory (technically an “unincorporated territory”) and has been since 1898, after the U.S. claimed victory in the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans have American citizenship and are able to travel throughout the U.S. mainland as they please – and it’s under the jurisdiction of the current occupant of the Oval Office. 

It appears that the president – who hails from New York, the state that contains the largest population of Puerto Ricans in the country – is either not entirely aware that Puerto Rico is not another country, or is refusing to acknowledge that it’s a part of the United States. 

After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, leaving the island in a devastated state and taking the lives of roughly 3,000 individuals, Trump was criticized for failing to provide the island with the funds needed to rehabilitate it fast enough. He famously threw paper towels to Puerto Rico’s hurricane victims months after the island was ravaged, during a visit to the island, which became a symbol of the ineffectual federal response. In early June, Trump signed a $19 billion disaster relief bill that will provide Puerto Rico with aid after resisting the legislation because he believed it would send too much money to the island – and as of late last month, the U.S. territory has yet to receive any money.

Naturally, the internet decided to weigh in. Here are a couple of the most notable reactions to Trump’s latest online bluster:

Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
is City & State's web reporter and social media editor.
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