The History And Culture Of Puerto Ricans

2026 words - 8 pages

The History and Culture of Puerto Ricans

ETHNICITY AND EMPOWERMENT IN THE MIGRATION EXPERIENCE

The Puerto Rican people have a rich history of culture and ethnicity. Despite the many migrations of the Puerto Ricans, an intense spirit of ethnicity and cultural pride has followed these people wherever they have gone, whether that be migrations from rural areas to industrialized cities or from the small island of Puerto Rico to the vast mainland of the United States. However, the struggles of these people have become obscured over the passing of generations. As evidenced by Shakira Ramos, generations of Puerto Ricans born and raised in the United States aren't always well informed of the rich history of their ancestors. Shakira admits that she too was unaware of such cultural aspects before reading about the struggles and political movements of generations past (http://frontpage.trincoll.edu/sramos/puerto.htm). Regardless of the present obscurity of this history, the idea of ethnicity and identity has long been an influential factor in the lives of Puerto Ricans, especially those who have resolved to become actively involved in bettering their situations and those of generations to follow. The activism of the Puerto Rican people is evident in their migrations to the United States and their involvement in politics faced with the difficulties of living in America.

Beginning as early as the late nineteenth century, Puerto Ricans began to migrate within the island of Puerto Rico, shifting from areas of coffee production to those of sugar production. This relocation of much of the labor force became a prevalent internal migration and "the circulation of the Island’s labor force through the international plantation system began" Lopez (349). While under the supervision of North America, this migration was certainly not the last movement to result from labor related reasons. "The migratory currents of the time foreshadow later massive displacements" (345). These later migrations would ensue for the duration of the entire twentieth century, bringing increasing numbers of Puerto Ricans into the United States.

With the Spanish American War of 1898 came added difficulty for the population of Puerto Rico. Recently acquired by the United States, citizens of Puerto Rico were actually citizens of nowhere until granted statutory citizenship to the United States in 1917. The Jones Act of 1917 merely granted Puerto Ricans a status of citizenship, which was not equivalent to the constitutional citizenship. This partial citizenship, however, did not prevent the United States from drafting Puerto Ricans into the armed forces during World War I, or from recruiting Puerto Ricans to labor in defense industries during the time of war. The desire for full citizenship as well as poor economic conditions in the homeland resulted in the migrations of many Puerto Ricans to the United States throughout the twentieth century.

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