What does it mean for Puerto Rico to be self-governing?

A self-governing body refers to a state or nation that conducts diplomatic, militaristic, economic, and social decisions under its own jurisdiction which is not subject to any third-party government. The politics and government concerning Puerto Rico has been a long-standing issue.

Since the early 1500s, the island of Puerto Rico had been a colony of Spain which was by no means self-governing. Every action taken by the governor of the colony had to be answered to the monarchy of the Spanish Empire.

During the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico was invaded by the United States. The island was then ceded to the United States by Spain upon the war's conclusion, at which point Puerto Rico became a vassalized colony of the US instead.

The American government subsequently enacted several reforms, such as the Foraker Act of 1900 which gave Puerto Ricans a civilian representative body and extended US laws on Puerto Rico. The Act allowed the local government to legislate accordingly to the people's whim; however, Congress retained power to null any acts of Puerto Rican legislature.

In 1914, despite the fact that the Puerto Rican House of Delegates voted unanimously in favor of independence from the US, Congress refused to allow it. The Jones Act of 1917 subsequently granted all Puerto Ricans US citizenship. Interestingly, this act was voted against unanimously by the House of Delegates as well, who cited that Congress only granted citizenship so that they had the power to draft Puerto Ricans into the then ongoing World War I.

In 1953, the United Nations stripped Puerto Rico's status as a non-self-governing territory after the US granted Puerto Rico the ability to draft its own constitution. However, the UN decolonization effort has also recently pressured the US in allowing Puerto Rico the inalienable right to full independence and self-determination. To this day, Puerto Rico remains an unincorporated territory of the United States.