It is official, Puerto Rico has voted to become a state of the United States. It has been talked about forever but it has finally been voted. American Samoa has many of the same challenges and the political status has been a topic of discussion there as well.
First of all, the vote was close to a half a million (they are still counting) and only 7,500 for free association (like Marshall Islands has) and about the same for completely independence. In reality, the question was statehood or status quo.
There are many things that are left unanswered such as how Puertro Ricans will deal with the language barrier (was a problem in the past) and how taxation will work but the bottom line is the people have made a point of self-determination that they are better with America than they are without.
What does this mean for American Samoa?
It could mean nothing or it could force the political status issue again. I was on island when the former governor tried to force the people to support independence. The end result of that was over 80% flying the middle finger to the governor.
The current governor has send mixed signals about where he stands on political status. He has said that he is for closer ties to the Union but he has given other signals that he is not interested in statehood due to “cultural issues.”
It is important to state that just a few years ago that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against giving American Samoans citizenship unless they became part of the United States. Many people, including myself, feel that American Samoans should be full citizens like the people of Puerto Rico are.
What could it mean for people travel to American Samoa?
I would say nothing to really speak of. The islanders will debate it and there will be the yearly rally at the football stadium crying about the political status in April.
It will be an open discussion in the political circles (called Fono) and it will be openly talked about over coffee at McDonalds by veterans. In most other cases, it will be business as usual.
While you travel there, you will still have all the benefits of being in America. You will still have free access to the island as long as you want. You will still pay with your right kidney for the flight to Hawaii.
As I said, business as usual for us but it will be interesting if it sparks a political movement to right a 120 year old wrong.