According to The Latin American Tribune, a senator from Puerto Rico’s governing party on Thursday (August 28) launched a proposal to make Spanish the island’s official language and relegate English to second position in the US commonwealth.
Currently, both languages have coequal status, although Spanish is used the most in Spain’s former colony. The pro-statehood sector of the island’s population generally supports the predominant use of English and independence-minded members of the Puerto Rican public generally prefer Spanish.
The senator making the proposal is Antonio Fas Alzamora, with the governing PPD, which wants Puerto Rico to remain a US commonwealth.
COMMENT: If it factually true that 80% of Puerto Ricans do not speak or understand English, perhaps it is a failure of the Commonwealth’s educational system that so few citizens are conversant in both languages?
If a referendum is indeed being funded by US taxpayers to determine the Commonwealth's future vis-à-vis: US statehood; retention as a Commonwealth; or independence from the US, then perhaps it is reasonable that both English and Spanish continue to have coequal status as the Commonwealth's legal status has yet to be determined.
The lawmaker’s initiative proposes passing a law establishing Spanish as the island’s No. 1 language and making its use mandatory in executive, legislative and judicial areas, thus overturning Law 1-1993, which made the two languages coequal in public forums.
That law was supported by then-Governor Pedro Rossello, of the pro-statehood PNP.
“By establishing Spanish as the first official language, we will strengthen our cultural identity and validate the reality that more than 80% of Puerto Ricans do not understand or speak English,” Fas Alzamora argued upon announcing his initiative in the Senate.
He said that he is not seeking to eliminate the teaching of English in the schools.
Current legislation ignores the “undeniable reality” that a great majority of Puerto Ricans do not understand or speak English, the senator said.
“Since the US invasion of our country in 1898, different initiatives have been put into place aimed at the assimilation of the Puerto Rican people,” Fas Alzamora said after noting that the Puerto Rican “reality...in cultural, historic, geographic and judicial terms is very different from that of our US fellow citizens.”