American Citizenship Day is celebrated on March 2 to commemorate President Woodrow Wilson signing the Jones-Shafroth Act and granting U.S. citizenship to the residents of Puerto Rico in 1917.
Puerto Rico is an island located in the Caribbean region, 1,000 miles southeast of Miami, Florida. In the 15th century, Christopher Columbia first arrived on the land. One century later, Puerto Ricans were under the control of the Spanish until the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898.
In the early years after the war, many Puerto Ricans were Spanish nationals even though the island was ruled by the U.S. military along with officials appointed by the U.S. president.
Initially, people who were born in Spain could retain their citizenship by making a formal declaration. Foreigners were still foreign nationals, and those who were born in Puerto Rico could become American citizens.
Nevertheless, a scholar, John L.A. de Passalacqua said, “they had no citizenship whatsoever recognized under international law or even United States municipal law.”
Therefore, new changes regarding the citizenship of Puerto Ricans have been coming into effect. Finally, in 1917, Congress passed an act offering Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship for those who were born on or after April 25, 1898.
On March 2, the date of the signing, this public holiday was officially launched.
On this day, the government of Puerto Rico would host different events on the island to celebrate becoming an American citizen. Feel free to join their fun activities if you are eligible today.
Most importantly, a holiday like this pushes us to observe the history behind the world and become aware of one’s citizenship status.
Knowledge is power. Today also encourages each person to become educated about how and why we have the right of living on the land, alongside those outstanding leaders who made decisions that affect us until today.