The Role of Music During and After Puerto Rican Migration to the United States
For Puerto Ricans, music served infinite purposes. It allowed for the formation and reformation of cultural views and opinions, through the lyrics in the songs. These views were constantly changing, which in turn fed into the ever evolving identity of the Puerto Rican people. As a vehicle of expression it stimulated thought and provided a method of communication for the community. In The Puerto Rican community of New York City the increasing popularity of music indicated a desire for Puerto Rican based and oriented entertainment but more importantly for national unity. For the musicians themselves music served as an outlet for creativity while doubling as a secondary source of economic growth.
In Puerto Rico music became the major avenue for social acceleration. Musicians on both the island and the mainland looked to music as a career choice that would eventually lead to amassed wealth. This opinion, however, was not universal as the upper classes saw music as simply a hobby. “The white and more affluent populations... did not see music as a step up the social or economic ladder” (Glasser 32). Many musicians migrated to the mainland in search of a musical career that would reap fame and fortune. “For blacks and mulattos from an impoverished background, music could be a means of upward mobility” (31). Within the confines of their economical situation there was a dire necessity for improvement that was readily available in the music industry or so they thought.
Unfortunately the will and desire of the people did not suffice in a society where the mere color of the skin automatically closed many doors. This aspect of American society came as a great shock to the Puerto Rican people who were accustomed to a different set of definitions for race. “Puerto Rican society was not devoid of color consciousness or prejudice, but racial categories were different that in the United States” (53). Once on the mainland the musicians encountered an entirely different system for the categorization of people. A more simplistic system that relied on the hue of the skin as opposed to “facial features, hair texture, ...wealth or occupation”(53). Namely those who had white skin were placed into one category and those that did not into another. The racist tendencies of the Americans led to the negation of all that was black by the Puerto Rican community. “Puerto Ricans were much more prone to settle in pockets with their lighter compatriotas than to except external definitions of themselves and move into the black American sections of Harlem”(73). The focus on race does not imply that money did not play an important role in American society either, however, it did not play a major role in the book.
Glasser employs racially descriptive terms, throughout the book, that are confusing and unintelligible. These terms are found frequently, although they are not...