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Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance

Early Puerto Rican Migration & Operation Bootstrap (1940s)

From Puerto Rico to New York - Early Migration

The first Puerto Ricans to "immigrate" to New York was during the mid 19th century (Puerto Rico was still a Spanish colony). The earliest Puerto Rican community was in Manhattan. Most came from well-to-do families (or people with money) who could afford to travel by steamship, an expensive and long trip. Others immigrants included men and women who were exiled by the Spanish Crown for their political beliefs and struggles for the cause of Puerto Rican independence.

Despite the fact that Puerto Rico became a possession of the US in 1898 (Spanish American War), Puerto Ricans moving to New York were not considered "migrants" until 1917, when the United States Congress approved Jones-Shafroth Act which gave Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship (so they could draft Island men to help fight World War I). During the First World War (and afterwards) the flow of immigrants coming from Europe was affected, and United States companies began looking to Puerto Rico for cheap labor. The 1924 Immigration Act that restricted European migration to the United States further accelerated the massive migration of these internal colonial subjects to New York

One documented case from the 1920s was the recruitment of 130 women directly from Puerto Rico by the American Manufacturing Company, a rope factory. They were brought to Brooklyn, New York by steamship, met by a company representative, and set up in company-owned, three floor apartment buildings on a "centrally located, spacious thoroughfare" (a big, busy street in Brooklyn?). The buildings had modern electric lighting, verses gas light, which was a perk in those days. The building came complete with two Chaperones from well-known respected Puerto Rican families who looked after the women's welfare, and four other women who were in charge of domestic services (like cooking). There was a free company bus (40-person) that took them to and from work, and could be used for recreation excursion trips on the weekends; they just had to pay the cost of gas and driver. Businesses sprang up in these Puerto Rican migrant neighborhoods to serve workers needs, like bodegas that served hot lunches (rice and beans!) to the workers during the week.

Operation Bootstrap (1940s)

Operation Bootstrap (Operacióanos a la Obra) was the name given to the ambitious projects which industrialized Puerto Rico in the mid-20th century. The island's traditional economy was based around sugarcane plantations. By the middle of the twentieth century it remained one of the poorest in the Caribbean. In 1948 the United States government began Operation Bootstrap, which invested millions of dollars into the Puerto Rican economy, to transform the rural agricultural society into an industrial working class. Puerto Rico's Departamento de Fomento ("Department of Economic Development") encouraged the establishment of factories.

The US government in Puerto Rico enticed US companies by providing labor at costs below those on the mainland, access to US markets without import duties, and profits that could enter the country free from federal taxation. The Departamento de Fomento invited investment of external capital, importing the raw materials, and exporting the finished products to the United States. To entice participation, tax exemptions and differential rental rates were offered for industrial facilities. As a result, Puerto Rico's economy shifted labor from agriculture to manufacturing and tourism. The manufacturing sector shifted from the original labor-intensive industries, such as the manufacturing of food, tobacco, leather, and apparel products, to more capital-intensive industries, such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, machinery, and electronics.

Although initially touted as an economic miracle, by the 1960s, Operation Bootstrap was increasingly hampered by a growing unemployment problem. There were not enough industrial jobs brought in to offset the loss of jobs in Agriculture. As living standards and wages in Puerto Rico rose, manpower-intensive industries faced competition from outside the United States. It also faced criticism from civil rights groups, and the Catholic Church, who perceived the government promoting birth control, encouraging surgical sterilization, and fostering the migration of Puerto Ricans to the United States. Due to this failure, the late 1940s began a period of mass migration from Puerto Rico to the United States.

HISTORICAL REFERENCES:

Operation Bootstrap: http://ngnewsarticles.blogspot.com/2006/06/operation-bootstrap-industrialization.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Bootstrap

"Puerto Rican migration to New York," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rican_migration_to_New_York "History Puerto Rican Migration," Latino Education Network Service, http://palante.org/History.htm

Puerto Rican [Migration] / Cuban Immigration http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/immig/cuban3.html

"Long Night's Journey," The Puerto Ricans: a documentary history, Kal Wagenheim and Olga Jimenez de Wagenheim, Markus Wiener Publishers, 1994.

"From Colonia to Community: The History of Puerto Ricans in New York City, Virginia E. Sancheck Korrol, University of California Press, 1983.

Jimenez de Wagenheim, Olga, "Puerto Rico: An Interpretive History from Pre-Columbian Times to 1900," Markus Wiener Pub., 1998.

[8] "Puerto Rican migration to New York," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rican_migration_to_New_York

[9] "History Puerto Rican Migration," Latino Education Network Service, http://palante.org/History.htm

[10] Puerto Rican [Migration] / Cuban Immigration http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/immig/cuban3.html

[11] "Long Night's Journey," The Puerto Ricans: a documentary history, Kal Wagenheim and Olga Jimenez de Wagenheim, Markus Wiener Publishers, 1994.

[12] "Rural Life Under US Rule," Cultures of America - Puerto Ricans, Petra Press, Marshall Cavendish Corp., 1996.

[16] "From Colonia to Community: The History of Puerto Ricans in New York City, Virginia E. Sancheck Korrol, University of California Press, 1983.

[18] Wagenheim, Kal and Jimenez de Wagenheim, Olga, "The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History," Markus Wiener Pub., 1996. (Before I read this book, I hated history. ;) A facinating book that presents history in the words of those who were there.)

[19] Jimenez de Wagenheim, Olga, "Puerto Rico: An Interpretive History from Pre-Columbian Times to 1900," Markus Wiener Pub., 1998.

[20] Kal Wagenheim, "Puerto Rico: A Profile", Praeger Publishers, New York NY, 1970.

[21] Morales Carrion, Arturo, "Puerto Rico: A Political and Cultural History," W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1983.

[22] Pico Fernando, "Historia General de Puerto Rico," San Juan, PR: Ediciones Huracan, 2000.



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