Puerto Rico Governor Doubts English Will Become Official Language if Statehood Is Granted

Puerto Rico - English - Pierluisi

Image courtesy of La Fortaleza.

By Mivette Vega

May 10, 2023

If English were to become the official language, it would be used in government, schools, and courts.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi believes that English is unlikely to become the official language if the island were to become the 51st state of the United States. 

If English were to become the official language, it would be used in government, schools, and courts.

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Last week, Pierluisi participated in the Infrastructure Investments and Repairing the Global Supply Chain panel of the Select USA Investment Summit 2023. There he described Puerto Rico as a bilingual jurisdiction.

But that is far from the reality, according to data from the Census, which shows that only about 20% of Puerto Ricans on the island speak English. This is despite the fact that Spanish and English are both official languages of the island.

“I don’t see it as necessary. To change [the government system] to English, the teaching of English would have to be substantially improved […] I don’t see it feasible now, nor do I see it feasible in the immediate future,” Pierluisi said to El Nuevo Día.

Last year when the Puerto Rico Status Act was approved by the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, 14 Republicans voted in favor of the amendment that would have forced Puerto Rico to have English as the official language, if it were to become state 51. 

The act was reintroduced with a few changes this year but has yet to be discussed.

Diaspora groups such as Power4PuertoRico have requested that any status process guarantee Spanish as the official language. To support their request, they cite the precedent of Arizona, where English was imposed prior to its admission as a state.

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Pierluisi said that he does not see a plebiscite that raises this issue close either. 

 “I don’t see it as part of [an upcoming] [plebiscite] legislation either, because the reality is that we have to improve the teaching of English in Puerto Rico, and we should focus on that,” he told the newspaper.



  • Mivette Vega

    Mivette Vega is a seasoned journalist and multimedia reporter whose stories center the Latino community. She is passionate about justice, equality, environmental matters, and animals. She is a Salvadorrican—Salvadorian that grew up in Puerto Rico—that has lived in San Juan, Venice, Italy, and Miami.



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