The Great Puerto Rican Migration

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US history have taken place for many different reasons pertaining to the laws and reasons of the great migrations. Although the immigration of Puerto Ricans isn't nearly as significant as many others, it has made enough of an impact to make it on to the history books. As mentioned by Bill Breisky in Looking for the Promise Land, Compared to history's great population shifts, the Puerto Rican migration to the mainland is not significant. But in America, in this age of immigration quotas, it is a notable phenomenon. The chronicle of the migration is a story of how a partially cooled melting pot is making room for what may be its last great influx from a "foreign" land. As the time has passed since the first great migration in in the late 1800's, a population of over 5 million Puerto Ricans has formed over all 50 states according to the BEPR. Puerto Rican Immigration to New York in the 1800's was due to an extended period of injustice towards the residents on the island from the Crown in Spain and then later in the 1900's there was mass immigration again to New York due to the economy.

Puerto Rico became a colony of Spain in 1508, it remained this way until 1898. In the years that it was a colony of Spain there was no middle class, only a royal class and the majority were poor. The lifestyle of the people was that of a very poor nation, as the crown got richer. This led to revolts and as soon as the United States ceded the Island from Spain in 1898 there was some people that immediately decided to leave. Many of those that wanted to couldn't because they could no afford it. So once Puerto Ricans finally had the right to move to the United States very few of them decided to leave. Although people in the United States attempted to describe Puerto Rico as a glamorous tourist destination, there was a time in the early 1900's that the island suffered a severe economic depression. Poverty was widespread, and very few could afford the expensive trip to the mainland. According to the article in the Library of Congress Immigration in 1910, there were fewer than 2,000 Puerto Ricans in the continental U.S., mostly in small enclaves in New York City, and twenty years later, in 1930, there were only 40,000 more.

Puerto Rican migration exploded once World War 2 ended. In 1945, only 13,000 Puerto Ricans lived in New York City; but after 1946 there were more than 50,000. That was the breaking point, over the next 10 years more than 25,000 Puerto Ricans started to migrate over each year, topping out in 1953, when more than 69,000 came in just that year. By 1955, there were almost 700,000 Puerto Ricans in the United States and by the mid-1960s, more than a million Puerto Ricans had moved over.

From the 40's to the 60's Puerto Ricans viewed the United States as the land of opportunity. The mentality was that they would come to this land where there was a Gold Rush and they would make plenty of money. For some this was certainly the case and they found great success in places such as New York working industrial jobs or in California in the Steel Mill industry. Many found themselves on their way back home to the Island when they realized that they had moved to a culture they didn't understand, to a style of life they did not know to fit into and to an economy that although was rebuilding and booming didn't quite fit the description that they were told when the Industrial Recruiters went to the island to tell the people of these great jobs that were available. As mentioned in Of Immigrants and Migrants, Puerto Rican migrants brought greater social costs because they were entitled to access the American welfare state. In all technicality the movement of Puerto Ricans from the Island to the mainland is considered internal migration because Puerto Ricans are born Citizens. They have every major right that someone born in the 50 states has other than voting for congress, unless they move to a state and then they are qualified to vote for congress. This was such a false concept though, to consider Puerto Ricans migrating from the island to the mainland internal migration was far from accurate. They had to make an enormous transition from the Spanish culture to that of a growing developing nation with all sorts of diversity.

The first large group of Puerto Rican to move over to the United States found themselves forming communities in cities throughout the country. Some of these cities were Chicago, Philadelphia. However, even though there were Puerto Ricans moving to other parts of the country, since the 1930s, the capital of Puerto Rican culture in the United States was New York City. Although it was far from the Caribbean the ability for Puerto Ricans to use Airplanes to migrate made the move attainable. Puerto Ricans found themselves moving in masses to a specific area of Manhattan, in a neighborhood that eventually was called Spanish Harlem. Most of these men and woman moving over to New York were farm workers in Puerto Rico, yet they had to adapt and so they found themselves getting jobs such as staffing the hospitals, the factories, the hotels, and they soon became a major part of the city's political and cultural life.

The migration to the 50 states practically halted in the late 60's and was very slow all throughout the 70's, as a recession led to fewer jobs in large U.S. cities. This caused many of the first generation that moved to the States to start making their return to Puerto Rico. The ones that decided to stay started to run into very common issues for immigrants such as poverty, unemployment, and racial discrimination. As mentioned in the article Immigration, the darker-skinned Puerto Ricans were omitted from jobs and ran into the same issues that most other colored people a that time were running into with housing and education. Another major issue that Puerto Ricans ran into was the language barrier, which at times made it very difficult to find good paying jobs or the ability to go to government agencies and get adequate treatment.

Eventually the second generation of U.S mainland born Puerto Ricans came around and new political movements were born as well. This generation of Puerto Ricans started to make the proper moves towards getting granted greater civil rights, such as education and less discrimination in the job market. The most major campaign that this generation brought on was the desire to change the status of Puerto Rico. Finally, the day came in a 1951 referendum, the Puerto Rican population voted and with overwhelming results the island became a U.S. commonwealth as they would rather that over remaining a colony. This was not enough for many Puerto Ricans and groups formed that called for full independence. This led to militant nationalists going as far as firing weapons on the U.S. House of Representatives as they attempted to assassinate President Harry Truman. There were also groups that form to create awareness for the people that remained on the island, which continued to struggle economically.

All these tremendous efforts by the first and second generation of Immigrants from Puerto Rico carved the way for the rest of those that decided to keep moving into the 90's and 2000's. There are plenty of institutions such as churches, community centers, schools and businesses built by Puerto Ricans all throughout the country. The Puerto Rican parade is the largest parade for any cultural or ethnical group. Times were tough for many that came looking for opportunity in the United States in the early 1900's, as would be expected for any immigrant or internal migrant. Its never an easy task to leave the comfort of your native city or state so much less would it be an easy task to leave the comfort of your native country and culture and must fully immerse yourself into an entirely new one. Now the new generation all the way into the Milleniums get to enjoy a very normal American life and the immigration efforts of all their Grandparents and Great Grandparents have created a significant population of Puerto Ricans in the USA that has become significant enough to sway elections and become a significant group to keep on your political side in states like Florida and New York according to the article Puerto Ricans in the United States, by the Oxford Research Encyclopedias. This has been a long time coming, many efforts initially came from those that were just trying to find a better life, then came the groups that simply wanted a change of scenery with a mix of those that really needed to find a better life and eventually left us with the generations that are living a very normal life from the day they are born without even having any recognition of why or how they ended up where they are.

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The Great Puerto Rican Migration. (2019, Oct 31). Retrieved June 14, 2024 , from

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