Hurricane Maria’s destruction of Puerto Rico resurfaced a disturbing fact. More than half of Americans don’t realize Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth.

The destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria on the 3.4 million residents of Puerto Rico resurfaced a disturbing fact – many Americans don’t know the first thing about the Caribbean island. 

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll conducted in March found that fewer than half of Americans (47%) believe that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth.

They are. 

Instead, 30% of the people surveyed thought residents of the island are citizens of Puerto Rico. Another 21% just didn’t know where the people of Puerto Rico belong.

That may help explain why the nation rallied behind the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida, but have not responded in the same way to the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

“What I fear is that the federal government is not stepping up as fully and as quickly as we must,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., whose parents are Puerto Rican, said on the floor of the House of Representatives on Tuesday. “We need an air lift. We need an effort the scale of Dunkirk. We need the federal government to go all in.”

President Trump announced Tuesday morning that he will visit the island next week, but confusion remains. So what exactly is Puerto Rico?


Puerto Ricans are trying to make contact with relatives and friends after Hurricane Maria knocked out power and telephone services. Hundreds of other residents and tourists packed San Juan Airport on Sunday, which is barely functioning. (Sept. 25)

It’s a U.S. commonwealth

Puerto Rico first became a U.S. territory following the Spanish-American War, which was ignited by the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898. The war ended…