Immigration of Puerto Ricans in to America Term Paper

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Puerto Rico is a Caribbean Island which was formerly settled by two Native American tribes, Caribe and Arawak. In 1493, this Island was captured by Spain and up until about 400 years it was ruled by the Spanish. The native settlers during this time period had become slaves to the Spanish and with time as their population began to lessen, outsiders including black slaves were imported and the Indian race became less prominent. (Whalen)

The association between the United States and Puerto Rico goes back to the times of the Spanish-American war which took place in 1898. As a result of this war and due to the terms which were presented under the Treaty of Paris in 1898, Spain had to let go of Puerto Rico. Since then it has been an unincorporated territory of the United States of America. (Duany)

For Puerto Rico, the 20th century started under the rule of the United States. The president had elected a Governor, but soon afterwards Puerto Rico was given a civilian popular government. In 1906, the U.S. president, Theodore Roosevelt suggested that Puerto Ricans become U.S. citizens and soon afterwards, in 1917 all Puerto Ricans were granted with citizenship. (Whalen)

The decision to grant Puerto Ricans with citizenship, initially did not lead to a massive outflow of residents from the island itself to mainland America. In the period after granting citizenship a total of approximately 11,000 people left Puerto Rico for the United States.

When Puerto Rico was invaded by the United States in 1898, there were some Puerto Rican freedom advocates in the island itself and some in New York who supported the U.S. because they were under the impression that they would gain independence from Spain. However, later on these advocates of independence were greatly disappointed when they came to realize that they were to receive even lesser autonomy under American control. (Whalen)

As an American commonwealth, Puerto Rico had far little political and economic control than it once had when it was under the rule of the Spanish. At that time they had the right to vote and elect members and representatives for the congress but much of this was taken away from them when they came under U.S. power. Puerto Rico became dependent both politically and economically and the economy of the island faced drastic changes when U.S. takeover was enforced. The diverse subsistence economy transformed into a sugarcane economy which later tumbled towards a decline and led to high rates of unemployment, poverty and other dire conditions. It was this economic situation that led to the very first migration of people from Puerto Rico to mainland America in the twentieth century. This first wave of migration was seen in the 1920's. (Aranda)

In the United States Puerto Ricans have been present since the 19th century; however it was only after the 20th century that a bulk migration of Puerto Ricans took place and a relatively larger number of the islanders began to settle here. When we talk of the movement of people from the Puerto Rican Island to the U.S. mainland, we can't exactly classify it as an immigration of these people. The classical definition of an immigrant is someone who moves from one country to another country to seek residency. In the situation the person is not a part or does not have any prior association with the country he or she is moving to. What is different about Puerto Rican migration and why we cannot or rather should not call it immigration is that since 1917 all Puerto Ricans were granted with citizenship and so technically they are a part of the U.S. already.

There are three major periods in which the migration of Puerto Ricans to main land America can be classified into. The first period was from 1900 to 1945 in which it is said that the pioneers arrived to America. A majority of these early emigrates settled in New York City. During this period almost 75000 people migrated to America. (Aranda)

In the second period which began from 1946 and went on till 1964 excessive migration took place. This period or phase is also known as the period of Great Migration. This was the time after the Second World War. Great employment opportunities opened up in areas of New York and other industrial centers around the United States. During the period of the great migration the number of Puerto Ricans residing in the U.S. went soaring up to a staggering 301,000 from just nearly 70,000. The already existing communities in East Harlem, Bronx and other areas of New York began to expand and the islanders began to settle in newer areas which included New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois, though the majority still remained in New York. During this period there was a phase that came which was known as the Operation Bootstrap which was a new approach to promote private investments. The idea was that mainly American companies would invest into Puerto Rico in order for it to develop as a nation and prosper economically. In this time Puerto Rico, itself had seen some improvement regarding its education, water and drinking systems, electricity and transport facilities etc. however due to an increase in population employment was scarce which forced people to migrate. (Aranda)

The third and final period of Puerto Rican migration is also known as the revolving door migration. It dates from 1965 onwards to present. During this period there has been a fluctuation pattern of migration that has been seen. At some points the number of people migrating from the island to the mainland was surprisingly opposite to what was seen during the times of the great migration. Also during this period Puerto Ricans began to disperse themselves all across the United States and did not just restrict themselves to New York as their emigrant ancestors had done. Somewhere around 1980, most Puerto Ricans began to reside outside the state of New York. As of today Puerto Ricans can be found in every state but majorly concentrated in the northeastern states.

When we talk about Puerto Rican migration to mainland American, we wonder what compelled or made people take such a step. It is believed that there are several contributing factors to the massive migration that took place in all three periods. Some believe that migration took place due to over population within the island which occurred due to advanced healthcare which led to prolonged life expectancy. Others see migration as a response to the economic changes that were taking place within the region. When unemployment within the United States went down and their national level of income began to rise, migration started to increase. Also the wage rates and employment opportunities were far better in the United States which further probed people to move there. Many have emphasized that another cause of migration was that American companies were recruiting Puerto Ricans into their firms at much cheaper rates but better rates than what the workers would be getting in Puerto Rico and so this aided migration as well. Also it is said that the government in Puerto Rico supported migration to somewhat of an extent. This is supported by the fact that it asked for cheaper air fares for those who wished to migrate and had also asked the Migration Division Office to facilitate migration. Of course, all of the mentioned factors played a role in the massive migration, the biggest factor in itself being the fact that all Puerto Ricans were given American citizenship. (Flores)

As of today, Puerto Ricans live in all states around America. Their migration is highly dependent on the job market that is present within the country. Though the Puerto Ricans have been citizens of the United States since 1917, it, in no way means that they have it easy in the United States. The experience of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. is like that of an immigrant. They are viewed as pan ethnic, just like Latinos. Because of their difference in ethnic background, race and language they face the same problems as any other immigrant does in the United States. Puerto Ricans are discriminated against and exploited economically in the United States. They are massively stereotyped and thought to be living in the U.S. only to exploit the welfare system where as a research study done shows that this is not the cause for island-mainland migration. They are thought of as drug users who harm society and are racially stereotyped as well. In the U.S. Puerto Ricans are referred to as black or white though they may vary in color. When these islanders move to the United States they face several challenges with regards to cultural and social values. In the United States a person is classified according to what color he is whereas in Puerto Rico it is the total opposite. They do not determine race only according to descent but according to social standings and features as well. In Puerto…[continue]

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