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Located about a thousand miles southeast of Florida, Puerto Rico is a Caribbean archipelago with a complex colonial history and political status.

However, while subject to U. The explorer swiftly claimed the island for Spain and renamed it San Juan Bautista. For years, Puerto Rico was under Spanish colonial rule.

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During this time, the island experienced extreme levels of poverty, repression and taxation. By the midth century, fed-up Puerto Ricans started to revolt.

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Inhundreds of pro-independence Puerto Ricans attempted an uprising in the mountain town of Lares. While the Spanish military suppressed the rebellion, it marked a turning point for the island.

National political parties were born, slavery was abolished and Spain began granting Puerto Rico some autonomy. But the decades of relative sovereignty ended inwhen the United States declared war on Spain.

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On July 25,U. Under the United States, a military government was established and it ruled the territory until April 12, when a civilian government was created under the Foraker Act. Before the 20th century, the U. According to Christina D. Ponsa-Krausprofessor of legal history at Columbia Law School, some American legislators feared that racial mixing would occur among white Americans in the contiguous United States and non-white Puerto Ricans if Puerto Rico were admitted as a state.

Puerto Ricans were restricted to limited self-governance—under a U. Pro-independence movements on the island continued to call for autonomy.

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To quell tensions, inthe U. Under the act, a senate and bill of rights was established; however, the U. More than three decades later, inthe United States allowed Puerto Rico to draft a constitutionas long as it did not alter its territorial status and established a republican form of government and a bill of rights. After the Legislature of Puerto Rico held a constitutional convention to draft the constitution, it was approved by the president and Congress in Decades after adopting the status of commonwealth, there remains confusion around what the classification means.

Early adopters believed the deation would give Puerto Rico a special legal status that wasn't a state, independent country or territory.

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They surmised that because the island had an elected self-government and a constitution that it was no longer a colony. However, Ponsa-Kraus and other constitutional scholars argue that because the U. Further complicating the matter of status, the official name of Puerto Rico in Spanish is different from its name in English.

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In Spanish, the territory is referred to as el Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Ricowhich translates to a free associated state. Under international law, a free associated state is an independent country that has enhanced association with another country through a treaty.

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This is also a misnomer since Puerto Rico is not an independent country but rather a U. For hundreds of years, the people of Puerto Rico have fought to decolonize the archipelago. However, there has long been division over the best way to resolve this issue: statehood, enhanced commonwealth status where Puerto Rico is still in relationship with the United States but given more autonomy or independence.

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Likewise, by simple legislation, Congress can provide for the independence of a territory. Despite its constitutional and legal simplicity, politics make the process complex.

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In NovemberPuerto Ricans voted in a non-binding referendum on statehood. About 53 percent of Puerto Ricans favored statehood, while 47 percent rejected it. However, only 55 percent of Puerto Ricans voted in the referendum.

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Statehood proponents viewed the as proof that most Puerto Ricans want the territory to be admitted, but opponents questioned the validity of the votes as referendums are unbinding, often promoted solely by the pro-statehood party and include the opinions of only half of Puerto Ricans. Some people oppose statehood based on the argument that Puerto Rico will assimilate to the United States if it becomes a state. Twice a week we compile our most fascinating features and deliver them straight to you.

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