Puerto Rican Americans Are Facing Prejudice and Misconceptions in their Homeland


Key Takeaways

  • Puerto Rican Americans, despite their U.S. citizenship, face discrimination often due to misconceptions about Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory since 1898.
  • Service denials at car rentals, flights, and stores illustrate widespread ignorance about Puerto Rican identification, resulting in unfair treatment.
  • Companies like Hertz, Avis, Spirit, and Kroger have recognized the problem and committed to corrective actions, including employee retraining.

Puerto Rico, US–Puerto Rican Americans often confront a barrage of prejudices against the mainland U.S., evidenced by several reported incidents of service denial despite their U.S. citizenship status. These unfortunate experiences spotlight the ignorance faced by Spanish-speaking inhabitants of Puerto Rico, often mistaken as foreign nationals.

Challenges Faced by Puerto Rican Americans

According to a Guardian report, Blanca Anderson, an academic specializing in Puerto Rican identity, attributes this confusion to the largely overlooked fact that Puerto Rico has been under U.S. control since 1898. However, the island needs to be understood more as a foreign entity, leading to widespread ignorance about its status.

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The report noted that Anderson, during her time as a college student, bore witness to the consequences of preserving the unique cultural identity of Puerto Ricans separate from the 50 U.S. states. This misunderstanding led to several instances where individuals originating from Puerto Rico were unfairly treated. Anderson cited an incident where she was barred from registering to vote because she was a Puerto Rican resident.

The report noted that recent cases of Puerto Rican Americans Humberto Marchand, Francisco Melendez, Marivi Roman Torres, Luis Torres, and Ricardo Florit depict an all too familiar experience. They faced denials at car rental services, a flight, and even buying groceries, all due to misconceptions about their Puerto Rican identification.

Corporate Responses and Acknowledgment

Companies involved in these incidents, including Hertz, Avis, Spirit, and Kroger, have since expressed regret and assured corrective action through employee retraining.

As per the report, Marchand, reflecting on his encounter, observed that it’s a shared experience among Puerto Rican travelers in the mainland U.S. The issue, he pointed out, often arises from the language difference, leading some U.S. English speakers to perceive Puerto Ricans as foreigners.

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Awareness through Media Representation

In the report, David Begnaud, a CBS News correspondent, played a pivotal role in bringing these stories to the fore. His statements on Marchand, Melendez, Florit, and the Roman Torres family shed light on the regular occurrence of such episodes.

“To me, this is emblematic of being treated like a second-class citizen,” Begnaud said, as per the report. “And this is proof. This is proof.”

What We Think

The reported incidents highlighting the treatment of Puerto Rican Americans as foreigners within their own country underscore the urgent need for awareness and education.

Misunderstandings about Puerto Rico’s status persist, leading to discriminatory actions against its residents who hold U.S. citizenship. The commitment by companies to address these issues through retraining is a positive step.

However, broader awareness campaigns and education on Puerto Rico’s history and status within the U.S. are crucial to prevent further discrimination and ensure equal treatment for all U.S. citizens, regardless of their origin within the nation.

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Learn more in the entire Guardian report.


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