Puerto Ricans have migrated to the United States since the late nineteenth
century. Mid-century, Puerto Rican revolutionaries met with others
in New York to plan the independence and liberation of Puerto
Rico from Spain. In 1898, the United
States declared war on Spain and, as victor of the war,
took Puerto Rico as a possession -- beginning the colonial relationship
that persists to the present day.
Rican migration to the United States began in during World War I
when the United States government needed both soldiers and workers.
In March 17, 1917, Congress passed the Jones Act making the Puerto
Rican people United States citizens. As citizens, Puerto Rican men
were drafted into the United States army to fight in the war; many
fought and lost their lives. In addition, due to the scarcity of workers
in the United States to construct ships and armaments, the federal
government actively encouraged and recruited Puerto Ricans for that
purpose. During 1917 and 1918, the government transported thousands
of men from Puerto Rico to industrial complexes. Puerto Ricans were
considered the most feasible source of labor because the United States
had recently reduced the number of foreigners allowed into the country.
By 1930, Puerto Rican communities were established in New York City,
the largest and best known were found in East Harlem and Brooklyn.
at the end of World War II, United States companies began looking
to Puerto Rico for cheap labor, and they sent agents to recruit workers.
The demand was so great that the New York City Mayor Robert Wagner
publicly stated in 1953 that he and all New Yorkers would welcome
any Puerto Rican willing to work. Laboring jobs were plentiful! Jobs
coupled with encouragement by the island government increased the average
yearly migration of Puerto Ricans from 1,800 between
1930 and 1940 to 31,000 from 1946 to 1950, and to 45,000 from 1951
to 1960. In 1953, Puerto Rican migration to New York reached its peak
when 75,000 people left the island. Estimates are that more than one
million Puerto Ricans migrated during this period. By 1964, the Puerto
Rican community made up 9.3 percent of the total New York City population.
Within the United States, Puerto Ricans also settled in many other
urban areas such as Chicago, New Haven, Hartford, Boston, Jersey
City and Philadelphia. The conditions faced were deplorable and
poverty was rampant. Puerto Ricans in the United States fought
against discrimination and economic exploitation. As the numbers
grew in the 1950s, they were increasingly portrayed as unwilling
to work, welfare leeches, drug addicts and juvenile delinquents.
As a consequence of this public view, business and government leaders
were able to get away with policies and practices that exploited
and demeaned Puerto Ricans in jobs, housing, and education.