On Sunday, Puerto Ricans living on the island will have the opportunity to vote in a nonbinding referendum on the territory's political status: independence, statehood or the status quo.
In 2012, when islanders took part in a similar referendum, 54 percent rejected Puerto Rico's current "commonwealth" status. In a separate question, 61 percent chose statehood as an alternative, while 33 percent voted for a "sovereign free association" and 6 percent for independence.
But this year's referendum coming as Puerto Rico faces several crises, including devastating debt troubles that prompted the island to file for a special kind of bankruptcy protection, will impact the island's 3.4 million people's decisions.
Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello is a supporter of statehood, believing islanders are also favoring the option in response to the crises.
“I’ve seen the people of Puerto Rico have a significant shift in the past couple of years . . . It partly is because of the crisis,” Rossello recently told the New York Post. “People understand by being a territory we are limited in the scope of political power, we are limited in the scope of resources that we have.”
However, there is also a growing push for independence, accelerating with the release of Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar López Rivera and a progressive student movement.
Regardless of where Puerto Ricans lean with this year's referendum, only congressional action can make their choice a reality, which is not guaranteed.