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Why Puerto Rico is not a US state

Puerto Ricans are US citizens. But that doesn’t mean they have the same rights as other Americans.

Christina Thornell is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

Nearly half of Americans don’t know that Puerto Ricans are US citizens. They are — and have been since 1917.

As residents of a US commonwealth, Puerto Ricans have US passports, can travel freely throughout the country, and can serve in the military. But that doesn’t mean they get the same rights and benefits as US citizens stateside.

Most notably, Puerto Ricans, despite paying most federal taxes, don’t have federal representation in Congress. This means they can’t vote on issues that affect the island’s development, such as Medicaid, food stamps, or even their political future.

Watch the video above to understand how Puerto Rico became one of five inhabited US territories, the tangled relationship that developed between the island and the mainland, and how it all affects Puerto Rico’s prosperity and development today.

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