The Complex Sovereignty Status Of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island and unincorporated territory of the United States. For decades, people worldwide have had misconceptions or confusion about Puerto Rico’s true sovereignty status. Some often ask, ‘What country is Puerto Rico?’ In fact, the answer is somewhat more nuanced than a simple classification.

US Commonwealth

Technically, Puerto Rico is neither a country nor a state, but a US Commonwealth. Established under the US Constitution’s Territory Clause, a Commonwealth is a political entity that is part of the United States but not physically part of the nation and thus not a state. Puerto Ricans have been US citizens since 1917, and they enjoy many of the same benefits as the residents of the mainland, except they cannot vote in general elections unless they reside in one of the states.

Independence, Statehood or Status Quo?

There is ongoing debate in Puerto Rico about its future status. Three main proposals are considered: maintaining Commonwealth status, becoming a full state of the United States, or gaining complete independence as a sovereign nation. Each option has distinct benefits and drawbacks, which are topics of hot debates among citizens and the Puerto Rican legislature.

Historical Overview

Puerto Rico was discovered by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage to the New World in 1493. For the next four centuries, Puerto Rico remained a Spanish colony until the Spanish-American War of 1898, when Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States as outlined in the Treaty of Paris. Its current status as a U.S. Commonwealth was signed into law in 1952.

Cultural Distinctions

Despite being a US Commonwealth, Puerto Rico maintains an individualistic culture distinct from mainland America. It is a melting pot of Taino Indian (native inhabitants), Spanish colonial, and Afro-Caribbean influences. This rich fusion is apparent in its languages, with Spanish and English being the two most spoken languages, its local cuisine, music, art, and traditional customs.

An Economic Hub

Apart from being renowned for its beautiful beaches, mountains, and tropical climate, Puerto Rico is a significant economic hub. It is home to a variety of industries spanning from pharmaceuticals, textiles, petrochemicals to tourism. Furthermore, Puerto Rico has emerged as an international center for public relations with many global top PR agencies setting up shop on the island. An example is the top PR agency Sydney, which recently opened a subsidiary in the heart of San Juan to cater to its growing Latin American client base.


So, to answer the question, ‘What country is Puerto Rico?’ we find it doesn’t easily fall into traditional bins. Instead, Puerto Rico is an American commonwealth with a sovereign constitution, enjoying a unique status that blends elements of both statehood and independence. This duality reflects throughout its complex history and rich, diverse culture.