People, Races, Ethnicity in the U.S. Puerto Rican Americans Part 1

About the Puerto Rican Americans in the U.S. including where they are from, why they left, how many there are, famous Puerto Rican-Americans and more.


Where They Came From: Columbus sighted Puerto Rico in 1493. It was then inhabited by South American Indians of Arawak stock. A few decades later, the Spaniards brought African slaves to the island. Gradually the three--Indians, blacks, and Europeans--mingled to form a modern nationality ranging from black to white in color. During the Spanish-American War, the U.S. invaded and annexed the island, and in 1917 Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship.

Why They Left: The first Puerto Ricans immigrated to New York in the early 1800s with other hungry, jobless Hispanics from Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, and Santo Domingo. Puerto Ricans arrived in steady numbers after W.W. II. The U.S. War Manpower Commission shipped thousands of Puerto Ricans to the mainland to fill the burgeoning wartime economy, and they in turn wrote home to tell friends and families about the opportunities in the U.S. In 1945 many Puerto Ricans were anxious to leave home because their island's population density--the world's third-greatest--threatened to push them into the ocean, and the Great Depression had seriously weakened the old colonial system that had held Puerto Rican society together. After W.W. II, Puerto Ricans could make the 1,600-mi. trip to New York for a mere $40.

Where They Settled: Nearly a million Puerto Ricans live in the metropolitan area of New York City. Spanish Harlem (north of East 100th Street and east of Fifth Avenue) became the main barrio in the late 1920s. But Puerto Ricans have also established large neighborhoods on Manhattan's upper west and lower east sides and in the South Bronx. By 1970 Chicago's Puerto Rican population had risen to over 100,000; 45,000 lived in Newark, N.J.; and 25,000 had gathered in Boston's South End.

Numbers: There are about 1.7 million Puerto Ricans in the U.S. and another 2.8 million still living in Puerto Rico. Officially they are not counted as immigrants. A good many Puerto Ricans in the U.S. consider Puerto Rico their true home. Therefore, a great cross-migration occurs between the U.S. and Puerto Rico. In 1972, about 372,000 natives on the island were return migrants. From W.W.I to 1945, an average of 4,000 Puerto Ricans arrived on the mainland each year. That number jumped to 39,000 in the first year after W.W. II and averaged 50,000 a year for the next two decades.

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