It was only a five-hour trip, but President Obama becomes the first sitting president to visit Puerto Rico in 50 years. Our Josh Robin tells us how this stop could have an impact on the 2012 election.
SAN JUAN -- "Buenas tardes," said President Obama during a rare presidential visit to Puerto Rico.
"Now, at the time, I was about four months old," the president said. "So my memory of this visit is a little hazy."
President Obama's trip was shorter than John F. Kennedy's, one of many differences between 2011 and 1961. The Hispanic vote in the 50 states is more important than ever. Kennedy came to bolster ties with a Cold War anchor. Obama's visit comes during an economic slog, especially here.
"These problems didn't develop overnight here in Puerto Rico or anywhere else, but that means we're not going to solve them overnight," the president said. "But day by day, step by step, we will solve them."
He's also trying to solve another quandary: Puerto Rico's relationship with Washington. Obama is pushing another referendum on the island's political status.
"And when the people of Puerto Rico make a clear decision, my administration will stand by you," he said.
That issue was more on the minds of those on the streets. Pro-statehood demonstrators lined the entrance to old San Juan. Police cordoned them off from the separatists who demand Puerto Rico become its own sovereign nation.
Juan Dalmau of the Puerto Rican Independence Party said, "This is the message that we want to send to Obama - we demand independence."
Puerto Rican Statehood advocate Carmen Otero said, "Independents? What are they gonna live off? As it is, the economy here is terrible because of what's going on. But Independents? What are they gonna eat? Cement?"
While Obama said the governance issue is entirely up to Puerto Ricans, he also noted their contributions to the United States, specifically when it comes to the military. He said their service and sacrifice is as American as apple pie -- or as arroz con gandules, a local rice specialty.