Some years ago, a blowhard who pretended to be My friend said "Puerto Rico is a Third World country with a First World veneer."
Said blowhard, from the Italian side of Brooklyn, wouldn't have known veneer from a venereal disease until the needle plunged into his ass...but he had a point.
Pardon the pun.
Look hard at this Puerto Rico of the early 21st century from a First World perspective: Overpopulated. Highly dependent on welfare. Insufficient infrastructure. Politically corrupt. Debt-ridden (though that isn't really considered a bad thing, for it's largely personal debt, bred by consumption.) Ecologically damaged and damaging.
Now let's look at it from a Third World perspective: Rich. Protected. Stable. Educated. Comfortable. Technological. By and large, We've got it good. But is the "First World" merely a covering for what is really "Third World" reality, a sort of "lipstick on a pig" situation?
Let's get nasty: According to statehooders, it is. To these brainless cads, Puerto Rico can only be "saved" by absorption into a country that exploits Us without caring much, rather like a pimp with an ugly-but-eager whore. To statehooders, We are nothing unless We "rise" to being admitted into the Union, thus absolving Our "ugliness" with the "true essence of Americanism."
What about commonwealthers, do they see Us in the same way? Yes, but their limp-wristed "solution" is to throw the whole L'Oreal line at the "pig." More makeup! That's the ticket! Forget about changing what We're perceived to be, let's just cover it all up! With money, of course.
The independence statues? They, now they reject the notion that We are anything but First World. "Yankee go home and take your crap with you!" is their battle cry. Yeah! But then you ask them the simple question "Then what?" and they quickly begin grunting and snuffling in apparently random fashion, while clutching their dollar-stuffed wallets (made of...pigskin?) with fervid zeal.
Let's reach beyond petty politics and look at some real answers. Is Puerto Rico a Third World country? No. Are the "First World components" home-grown? Some, but not all. Does this mean that these components are mere window-dressing, lacking true substance? No. Only a blowhard with his face in the Mafia's crotch could think that.
But can We become--fall back into being--a Third World country? Yes. Not as easily as many of Us think, but yes, it can happen. And though the probabilty is certainly smaller than the perception of its being possible, it is this real fear that independentista leaders have consistently--stupidly--failed to address and overcome.
Statehooders prey on it with campaigns of fear promising that "Uncle Moneybags" can cure it all with a gracious "Come on in!" Commonwealthers try to pretend the fear isn't real and yet that it can be papered over in greenbacks and childish abdications of responsibility.
Here's a tip: We are what We are. We will become what We choose to become. We cannot let others--wherever they may be--choose for Us.
We must choose. We must choose.
The Jenius Has Spoken.