This Sunday, Puerto Rico will vote on its territorial status, choosing among statehood, independence and the status quo. The vote will have no practical impact. But if Puerto Rico votes in favor of becoming the 51st state, it will be in conflict with Congress, which has the power to change the territory’s status but is reluctant to do so.
Here’s the background you need to understand the referendum and its results.
Puerto Rico is a non-incorporated territory of the United States, with autonomy but not sovereignty. That means it has its own constitution, set of laws and elected officials, but its laws and decisions are subject to override by the U.S. government — which Puerto Rico does not help elect.