Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

In March, the House of Representatives voted to allow the commonwealth of Puerto Rico to hold a referendum on statehood. Although the Senate is expected to sit on the idea indefinitely, advocates of D.C. statehood are not pleased. It was only five years ago, after all, that a supposedly more sympathetic Democratic Congress squashed statehood for our capital city in an embarrassingly lopsided 277-153 vote.

To some, the tacit approval of Puerto Rican statehood is especially galling in light of D.C.’s more statelike behavior. One of the main differences: Our amigos in the Indies are curently exempt from federal taxes; statehood would mean more money in federal coffers. But a brief glance at some of the other disparities between the two might explain both why Puerto Rico would make a better state than D.C. and why the Latino-courting GOP might prefer it.

—Jake Tapper

Candidates Puerto Rico District of Columbia
Population 3,782,862 543,213
Climate Mild; mean temperature of 77 F Unbearable summer humidity; wearisome, drab winters
Official Motto “Joannes est Nomen ejus” (John is his name) “Justicia Omnibus” (Justice for all)
Unofficial Motto (drug-induced) “Gatillo al chota” (Shoot down the snitch)—ubiquitous graffiti slogan “The bitch set me up”—Mayor Marion Barry
Local Government Democratically elected representative house Democratically elected but federally baby-sat council
Language Spanish Bureaucratic gobbledygook
Political litmus test 82% pro-life
91% pro-school prayer
Mayor Barry endorsed a 1997 initiative to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes
Voter registration Not known (Puerto Ricans can’t vote in U.S. elections) 78% Democrat
7% Republican

We Recommend


Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.