Okay, hopefully I won’t offend any of my readers with this (I assume that some people take this kind of thing very seriously), but Puerto Rico is not a country. It is a territory of the United States. Its citizens are U.S. citizens. Its money is U.S. money. It is protected by the U.S. military. You can read about all of this from The World Factbook.

Why then, dare I ask, does Puerto Rico have its own Olympic team?

Now, okay, I know Puerto Rico has its own constitution . . . but so does every state in the U.S., and Puerto Rico’s constitution had to be approved by the United States Congress. I know Puerto Rico has some level of internal self government, but so does pretty much every state and territory. The fact is that Puerto Rico is part of the United States, and has been since the Spanish-American War (when Spain gave it to us). Puerto Ricans were given U.S. citizenship starting in 1917.

So if Puerto Rico is going to have its own Olympic team, how about Guam? The U.S. Virgin Islands? Well guess what, they have teams too (if you can believe it).

This is silly. If Guam can have its own team, how come Virginia can’t? I’d like to see how North Dakota does against Montana in handball, or whether Maine or Florida would win in a rip-roaring game of table tennis.

Yes, because Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are not part of any state (or the District of Columbia), they don’t get any electors in presidential elections—only the states and DC were granted that right in the U.S. Constitution—but they also don’t have to pay federal taxes, so I think it evens out.

The states and territories are all parts of the United States. They vote here, use our money, and get all the benefits of citizenship—and they should all play on Team United States.

(ed. note: this entry was updated 8/19/2004 at 8:30 a.m. After further research, I’ve learned that U.S. citizens in the territories do not have the right to vote in presidential elections because only states and the District of Columbia get electors. I incorrectly stated in the original entry that citizens in the territories vote in presidential elections. My opinion about non-sovereign territories having Olympic teams has not changed, but I’ve shifted some of how I justify my opinion.)