Puerto Rican Immigration
"Puerto Rico en Brooklyn" mural, Williamsburg One of the many colorful manifestation of the Puerto Rican flag in “Los Sures” Dave Cook http://www.flickr.com/photos/redhope/4513930451/
The American invasion and subsequent acquisition of Puerto Rico at the end of the Spanish-American War, under the Treaty of Paris of 1898, was integral to the massive wave of Puerto Ricans that immigrated to the United States throughout the twentieth century.
Puerto Rican immigrants were distinguished from other immigrant groups because of the legality of their immigration into the United States. In 1904 they were granted non-citizen nationality, and by 1917 they were granted citizenship. Where the 1924 Immigration Act restricted many other groups of immigrants coming to the United States, Puerto Ricans could enter with ease and legal status.
The first wave of Puerto Rican immigrants built communities throughout New York City, including one in Brooklyn in the 1920s in the area west of the Navy Yard along the river. As the community’s population grew, they began to expand into Williamsburg in the area consisting of South First through Fifth Streets. At one point the community extended as far south as South Ninth Street, possibly even farther. They called the area “Los Sures,” corresponding to the street names and location in Southside Williamsburg. By the second wave of immigration, dating from the end of World War II to 1998, Southside Williamsburg was a cultural hub and home for many Puerto Rican immigrants. The second wave was sparked by political changes in Puerto Rico that caused the economy to change rapidly. Beginning with the election of the first governor in 1948, Luis Munoz Marin, and followed by the creation of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1952, were socioeconomic shifts that moved Puerto Rico from being largely agrarian to industrial. Economic opportunity meant many Puerto Ricans had the financial freedom to migrate to major cities in the United States. The ability to use air as a quick and inexpensive mode of transit also played a key role in moving these immigrants. This was the first large scale air migration to the United States.
Once in New York City, Puerto Rican immigrants faced many challenges. In order to cope with new challenges, they relied heavily on establishing Puerto Rican-centric communities rooted in traditional family morals. Community organizations and clubs were also established in these cultural centers. Some organizations functioned to preserve the culture of particular geographic areas of the island while others worked to fight discrimination, to promote civil liberties, and to address the overall marginalization of the population. Some of the most successful grassroots community organizations formed to address a mix of issues that had led to a community downturn in the mid 1960s. Various city-wide issues led to despair in the area, and as a result the community began to suffer from unemployment, drug abuse, crime, disease, and an increased school drop out rate. A lack of public services such as fire houses and a police precinct made the existing issues even worse. Although recovered from the issues of the 1960s, the Southside Williamsburg neighborhood continues to lose its Puerto Rican community.