NARRATOR   Patria Rodriguez
During the 1960's and 70's, young Puerto Ricans organized for the empowerment of their communities across the United States. Among the organizations that emerged were the Movement Pro Independence, El Comite, the Puerto Rican Student Union and The Young Lords.

On the whole, we were first generation Puerto Ricans born and or raised in this country, and we found as we started going out into the world that the society was a very white society.

And the conditions in the community were dire, there were alot of drugs, the housing was abdominable, the health care was none existent.

It was a struggle as I was growing up in this city, and I saw alot in the communities, and I saw the system not helping any of the people that I relate to everyday. I joined the Young Lords out of anger.

We all had a tremendous sense that our people did not deserve the kind of situation and the kind of condition that we were living under. That our parents had worked just as hard as anyone else to make a better life for us and for some reason we weren't succeeding. And so we had that commitment that we were going to change things and it didn't matter what had to be done but that we were going to change things.


We started, I would say as a group, to begin to explore our history and our identity.  

We're a mix of three great cultures. The Indian culture -- the Taino group, the African culture representing many different countries in Africa and also the European presence -the Spanish presence. Those three groups are part of what contributed to our looks, our music, our foods and also our deepest beliefs.

Once we started to understand that, why we had so many different colors in our families, facial characteristics, hair textures and came to peace with ourselves, and said, yo, that's who we are, we're a multi-racial people.

NARRATOR/Patria Rodriguez

The struggle for identity dates back to the 1800s when the colony of Puerto Rico fought for independence from Spain. The revolt in the town of Lares in 1868, is remembered as the Grito de Lares, and the flag is a symbol of the independence struggle.

But Puerto Rico remained a Spanish colony until 1898. Using the sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine as a pretext, the United States embarked on a war against Spain.

Spain itself wasn't invaded, but the Americans landed in Guanica on the Southern Coast of Puerto Rico on July 25, 1898. Many of the people were happy to see the Americans because they thought their situation under Spain had been so terrible. But many also expected to be free and independent. But the United States imposed a military regime in Puerto Rico.

The United States takes the island as a prize of war, and then moves to transform the economy of the island in favor of the American corporations who want to use the land. In order to use the land, they've got to rip it off from the Puerto Rican people who live on the land as subsistence farmers.

The economic situation in Puerto Rico got worse and worse the longer the Americans stayed there. The crisis of the 1930s was a worldwide economic crisis. Things were very bad in the United States, in Puerto Rico they were much worse. People were earning six cents an hour, many people had bad nutrition, were poorly housed, very poor school system.

So lots of Puerto Ricans came to the United States desperate to change their situation, and, between the ten year period after World War II between 1948 and 1958, some 53,000 Puerto Ricans a year left the island of Puerto Rico and came mainly to New York City. The oppressive social reality was the basis for the political revolt that would follow.