Related topics

San Juan Municipal Assembly Approves Dual-Language Ordinance

March 12, 1991

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Throwing a counterpunch in the debate over statehood and language, the capital’s Municipal Assembly has passed an ordinance making Spanish and English the official languages of city business.

The 13-3 vote late Monday by the pro-statehood assembly was seen as a largely symbolic retaliation to last week’s decision by the island’s Senate designating Spanish as the sole official language of the Puerto Rican government.

The city measure says the municipal government of this capital of 1.1 million can use either language, although it has little practical effect since both languages are already widely used for municipal business.

The measure now goes to Mayor Hector Luis Acevedo, who questioned its legality. Acevedo, who could veto the proposal, has 20 days to act.

″Puerto Rico is a land with a culture,″ the mayor said. ″An integral and fundamental part of it is the official and predominant use of Spanish.″

Even if Acevedo vetoes the measure, the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, which has 14 of the 17 assembly seats, could easily muster the two- thirds majority needed for an override.

Acevedo and Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon are both members of the Popular Democratic Party, which wants Puerto Rico to keep its 39-year-old U.S. commonwealth status.

The party pushed through the Senate bill as the U.S. Congress mulls legislation to allow Puerto Rico to hold a referendum on its relationship with the United States.

Some members of Congress have questioned whether a culturally distinct, Spanish-speaking island could be easily assimilated as the 51st state.

The March 4 Senate measure, which revokes a 1902 law that established Spanish and English as official languages, is expected to receive final passage by the Puerto Rican House this week. It would then go to the governor for his signature.

Update hourly