Puerto Rico, one of only two U.S. Commonwealths, maintains its government as a Republic, as do all 50 states in the United States. Puerto Rico has been recognized as a commonwealth since July 25, 1952. Though many resolutions, debates and congressional bills, house referendums, and presidential executive orders have spawned regarding the issue, Puerto Rico remains a commonwealth rather than being granted statehood.
The history of Puerto Rico is likely unfamiliar to most American citizens, just as its form of governance. Citizens of the island are considered citizens of the United States, able to vote in the nation's elections and enjoy the protections of both its military and its Constitution. However, Puerto Rico is considered part of a self-governing commonwealth, which means that it is not subject to all the same laws and federal rulings as fully recognized states. The debate over whether to pursue statehood or establish an independent government is a heated one. However, the final decision rests with the U.S. Congress, which is the body of the American government with the power to convey statehood onto a commonwealth. The idea of independence is appealing to many within the Puerto Rican population, but the long term results of that choice may not be as beneficial as is popularly believed.