1 Puerto Rican Immigrants: A Resource Guide for Teachers and Students Created by: Warren Stevenson Joshua Romano Kaitlin Quinn-Stearns Thomas Kennedy Summer 2009: TAH Program Immigration and the American Identity, Dr. Laura Baker
2 Narrative Overview: Puerto Rican Immigrants Puerto Ricans hold a unique place in the American immigration story. Technically Puerto Ricans do not match the definition of an immigrant a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence. Since 1917, Puerto Ricans have been recognized as US citizens. A person moving from Puerto Rico to New York should be no more considered an immigrant than a person moving from Massachusetts to Texas. However, the Puerto Rican experience in America has been an immigrant experience. The reason for this is two-fold: language and color. According to Paul Spickard, a prominent historian and advocate of a new paradigm for understanding US Immigration history, there is a fundamental difference between the experiences of peoples of color and those of White immigrants. He continues, The assimilation model does not work for people of color. No amount of wishing will make it so. 1 Following the Spanish-American war there was much debate within the United States regarding its newly acquired territories from Spain. Cuba and Puerto Rico were relatively close to the United States and economic interests led some in the United States to advocate for Cuban and Puerto Rican statehood. However, there was a fear of incorporating the predominantly Spanish speaking islands into the union. In 1900 Congress passed the Foraker Act which cemented Puerto Rico s territorial status. It declared that Puerto Ricans were citizens of Puerto Rico, but not of the United States, and yet Congress maintained veto power over Puerto Rico s laws and the President would appoint its governor and Supreme Court. In 1917 Puerto Ricans gained US citizenship. In 1 Paul Spickard, Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity (New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2007), 14.
3 1952 Puerto Rico gained the right to self-government and entered into a unique relationship with the United States as a commonwealth. As US citizens, Puerto Ricans are free to come and go to the continental United States without any restrictions; this is one element of the Puerto Rican migration experience that is very different than the rest of the Latin American experience. Puerto Rican migrant history follows the International Labor Migration model advocated by Edna Bonacich and Lucie Cheng. Bonacich and Cheng argue that mature capitalist economies seek cheap labor. They also argue that economic forces link the sending places and the receiving places. 2 Initially, Puerto Ricans followed the agricultural labor path to the United States. However, following World War II, Puerto Rican migration was mostly to urban centers as laborers in factories. Puerto Rican migration redefined the demographics of America s urban centers. Paul Spickard states, New colonias were built, as East Harlem became Spanish Harlem and the South Bronx became home to tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans. The same was true for depressed pockets of northern New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, and other urban centers. 3 The proximity of Puerto Rico to the United States, US citizenship for Puerto Ricans, cheap air travel, and more recently the world wide web has led to Puerto Ricans maintaining an unusual tightness to their ancestral homeland. 4 This is a distinct feature of Puerto Rican, and Caribbean migration in general, to the US. Puerto Rico s political status within the union is an important issue to both Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico and 2 Ibid., Ibid., Ibid., 309.
4 those in the continental United States. Under the current status as a commonwealth of the United States Puerto Ricans are US citizens, vote for their own local government, serve in the US military, do not pay federal income taxes, but do pay federal social security and Medicare taxes. The US Congress still holds jurisdiction over Puerto Rico, but Puerto Rico has no voting representatives in Congress and thus, no means to vote for President of the United States. Currently, Puerto Rico s Governor supports maintaining commonwealth status while the legislature is dominated by supporters of statehood. Nineteen-ninety-eight saw the most recent plebiscite held on the status of Puerto Rico. The results were as follows: Number of Votes Results by Percent None of the Above [Option 5] 787, % Statehood [Option 3] 727, % Sovereignty [Option 4] 39, % Free Association [Option 2] 4, % Limited self-government % Total 1,561, % turnout Sovereignty offered independence; Free Association offered a path towards sovereignty, but would have retained close ties to the United States in economic and defense matters; Statehood advocated for Puerto Rico to become the 51 st state; and Limited Self-government would have been a vote to remain a commonwealth. However, supporters of the commonwealth option noted that the Limited self-government option did not guarantee the retention of citizenship rights and urged supporters to vote none of the above. 5 In the two previous plebiscites (1993 and 1967) the commonwealth option won, statehood came in second, and independence came in third. 5 D Angelo Gore, FactCheck.org, 14 May 2008, <http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/why_does_puerto_rico_participate_in_the.html>
5 The Puerto Rican experience in the United States has been an immigrant experience. Push and pull economic factors brought Puerto Ricans from their island commonwealth to the mainland United States. There, they have encountered the prejudices based on color and language. At the same time, many Puerto Rican migrants maintain close ties to their homeland, sending money home, and often making return visits. Though US citizens since 1917, Puerto Ricans are viewed as part of the panethnic group, Latinos, and thus, with darker skin and the Spanish language, separate from the normative America.
6 Puerto Rican Immigrants: Key Questions to Consider How does race affect the relationship between Puerto Ricans and typical white Americans? Because of dual citizenship and the parental relationship of the United States to Puerto Rico, to which country do Puerto Ricans identify more with? If Puerto Rico, is that only the case with those born and raised in Puerto Rico, or those born in the US as well? To what extent does the United States control the government, economy, and social-cultural development of Puerto Rico? In what ways are Puerto Ricans used for economic exploitation by the United States? Is there a benefit to this or does it have a negative impact on Puerto Ricans and their relationship with the United States? Are Puerto Ricans considered true Americans, or are they immigrants? What factors are used to determine the answer to this question? What limitations exist for Puerto Ricans in the United States, if any, despite being considered American citizens? To what extent does race play a role in the decision to keep Puerto Rico simply a territory, rather than grant it statehood? Why do the Puerto Rican people continue to vote against independence from the United States? Puerto Rican Immigration Lesson Plan Ideas 1. Debate on Puerto Rican independence. Students can work in groups or independently reading one of the two articles for or against Puerto Rican independence. A. Pro Independence (from the Puerto Rican Independence Party website): B. Anti-Independence (from the New Progressive Party on PuertoRicoUSA.com, a pro-statehood website) After reading the articles and working in groups to review and organize the material, students will debate the issue of Puerto Rican statehood versus independence versus maintaining the status quo of commonwealth status.
7 2. Research or Timeline Students will research the following significant events or aspects of Puerto Rican culture and history and complete presentations for the class.: Operation Bootstrap Holidays (i.e. Three King s Day, Discovery Day, Emancipation Day) Foraker Act Jones Act 3. Debate on bilingual education. Students will research into and support either the melting pot idea of education for non-english speakers (immersion programs) versus the salad bowl approach of being taught in their native language while learning English. A. Overview article: or B. The English-First website C. Bilingual support: 4. Esmeralda Santiago, When I Was Puerto Rican When I Was Puerto Rican is the memoir of Esmeralda Santiago, a Puerto Rican actress and author, describing her experiences as a migrant from Puerto Rico and her childhood in New York City. A. The Immigrant Experience and School (pp ) This excerpt describes Esmeralda and her mother Mami attempting to register Esmeralda for the eighth grade. The principal wants to place Esmeralda in the seventh grade until she speaks English better. Esmeralda argues that she was an A student in Puerto Rico and convinces the principal to allow her to enter eighth grade. But Esmeralda soon learns she has been placed the lowest ability group in the eighth grade. Guiding questions: 1. Is coming to the United States of America good for the immigrant? 2. What are the rights of non-citizen immigrants? 3. How are recent immigrants received by more established immigrant groups? 4. How are newly-arrived Puerto Ricans received by Puerto Rican Americans born in the US to Puerto Rican parents? What accounts for the tension between these groups?
8 5. How are your experiences similar to/different from those of an immigrant? To what extent does an immigrant s treatment depend upon his/her country of origin? B. Immigrants and Work (pp ) In this excerpt Esmeralda s mother, Mami, finds a job as a thread cutter in a factory. Guiding questions: 1. Do immigrants benefit economically by coming to the US? 2. What is the correlation between hard work and getting ahead? Is it the same for native-born Americans and for immigrants? Explain. 3. How do Mami s experiences compare with the workers in the Lowell factories in the 19 th century? (modified from lessons on m) Timeline of Puerto Rican migration to the United States : Spanish colonize the island, beginning with the voyages of Columbus and set up a colonial government. In 1873, the Spanish monarchy is replaced by a republican form of government and slavery was abolished on Puerto Rico. In November 1897, Spain approves the Autonomic Charter (Carta Autonomica) and cedes political control to the island government. Puerto Rico retains its representation in the Spanish Cortes and sets up its own bicameral legislature. 1898: February 9, new government officially takes control of Puerto Rico. March 10, two members of the Puerto Rican Cuban Revolution Party correspond with US President McKinley in the hopes that the US will include Puerto Rico in whatever it does with Cuba. They give the US information on Spanish military presence on the island. April 25, US and Spain formally declare war. July 26, US gains Military control of the island. France contacts McKinley administration to begin discussions toward peace. August 12, McKinley and French Ambassador Cambon sign armistice requiring Spain relinquish control of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the US.
9 1899: February 6, US ratifies the Treaty of Paris which granted Cuba its independence, ceded Puerto Rico and Guam to the US and allowed the US to purchase the Philippians for $20,000, : April 12, US Congress passes the Foraker Act, which established a Puerto Rican civilian government under the control of the United States. It allowed for representative government on the island, but did not allow a vote at the Federal level. May 1, US civilian government of Puerto Rico takes over 1901: Hollander Law was approved, granting Puerto Rico a Resident Commissioner in Washington. 1904: Puerto Rican Unionist Party is established as a resistance movement to US colonial rule under the Foraker Act. 1906: November 6, all males 21 and older are granted the right to vote. Unionist Party wins election in Legislative Assembly and sent an islander to Washington as Resident Commissioner. 1912: First Puerto Rican Independence Party is formed. 1917: March 2, President Wilson signs the Jones Act granting statutory US Citizenship (Congress can revoke) to Puerto Ricans. The Foraker Act remained in effect for the purpose of governing the island. The Jones Act also made Puerto Rico a territory of the United States, created a bill of rights, stated that elections would be held every four years and made English the official language of Puerto Rico. May, President Wilson signs legislation drafting 20,000 Puerto Ricans into US Military service 1921: June 3, Johnson Act is passed establishing immigration quotas for Europeans coming to the United States. This created more job opportunities for Puerto Ricans who chose to migrate to the United States.
10 1922: US Supreme Court case Balzac v Puerto Rico (258 US 308) declares that Puerto Rico was not part of the union, thus the US Constitution does not apply in Puerto Rico. 1929: Stock Market Crash and Great Depression are devastating to the island. Many farmers were foreclosed upon, banks failed and there was far-reaching hunger and unemployment. Many Puerto Ricans moved to the United States as a result. 1940: US Nationality Act is passed and ratified by the Nationality Law of 1952 stating that all persons born in Puerto Rico after 1952 are US Citizens and are protected by the US Constitution. 1942: Hiram Bithorn becomes first Puerto Rican to play Major League Baseball (Chicago Cubs) 1943: Senator Tydings introduces a bill calling for Puerto Rican independence, Congress defeats this bill 1945: First mass migration of Puerto Ricans to United States searching for jobs and better economic situations. 1947: August 5, President Truman signs the Elective Governors Act allowing Puerto Rico to elect their own governors. 1948: Puerto Rico sends its first Olympic delegation to the London games and boxer Juan Evangelista Venegas wins the island s first medal (Bronze). November 2, first popular election for Governor is held Luis Munoz Marin wins. 1950: July 4, President Truman signs Public Act 600, which allowed Puerto Ricans to draft their own constitution and changed its status from protectorate to commonwealth. November 1, two Puerto Rican nationalists from New York attempt to assassinate President Truman. 1951: July 4, the 600 Law takes effect and Puerto Ricans can begin to draft their constitution
11 1952: March 3, Puerto Rican flag is officially adopted, based on design created by those seeking independence in July 25, new Constitution takes effect and Puerto Rico officially becomes a Commonwealth. 1953: Largest migration of Puerto Ricans to the United States 69,124 emigrated to the mainland (mostly New York, New Jersey and Florida) November 27, United Nations stops listing Puerto Rico as a colony 1967: July 23, election on political status of Puerto Rico is held o Commonwealth 60% o Statehood 39% o Independence 1% 1989: Native Puerto Rican Antonia Novello is appointed as Surgeon General of the United States by Present George HW Bush. 1993: Election held and Puerto Ricans choose to maintain Commonwealth Status o Commonwealth 48.6% o Statehood 46.3% o Independence 4.4% o Nulls 0.7% 1996: July 25, US Government recognized Puerto Rican Citizenship, which denotes residency more than anything else. Puerto Rican citizens are those US Citizens who reside in Puerto Rico. Juan Mari Bras renounced his US citizenship and retained only his Puerto Rican citizenship, making him the world s only Puerto Rican citizen. 1998: December 13, non-binding referendum offered Puerto Ricans the following choices (with results) o Commonwealth 0.06% o Free Association with the US 0.29% o Statehood 46.49% o Independence 2.54% o None of the Above 50.30% 2006: May, schools and government offices are forced to shut down for two weeks due to huge fiscal crisis.
12 November 15, Taxpayer Justice Act amended Puerto Rican tax code in order to combat fiscal crisis by creating a sales tax. 2007: February 7, Puerto Rico Democracy Act filed in Congress, would provide for a referendum on Puerto Rico s status to be help by December 31, Puerto Ricans would have the option to choose either remaining a commonwealth or becoming something else. If the latter option were to be chosen, another vote would be held by December 31, This bill was never voted on. 2009: May 19, Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR) introduced the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009 (HR 2499), which would again give Puerto Ricans a choice on whether to remain a Commonwealth or to choose something else (statehood, independence, etc). This bill is still in committee. Timeline Bibliography "Chronology of Puerto Rico." February 13, 1998.http://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/1898/chronpr.html (accessed 7/13/09). "History of Puerto Rico." May 1, 2008.http://welcome.topuertorico.org/history.shtml (accessed July 13, 2009). "Puerto Rico Democracy Act." July 10, 2009.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rico_Democracy_Act (accessed 7/13/09). ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY Ayala, Cesar J, and Rafael Bernabe. Puerto Rico in the American Century: A History since University of North Carolina Press, This book offers the reader a comprehensive look at the history of Puerto Rico since the beginning of US rule in The authors look at the ways in which Puerto Ricans cope with daily life and how the lives of those who live there have been affected by the US control. Puerto Ricans consider themselves to be a distinct group of people, yet they have US citizenship but they are unable to participate in Presidential elections. This is the conundrum that Puerto Ricans find themselves in, the land that they live on is not independent, but it also is not part of the United States. This is an excellent book for a study of Puerto Rican migration to the United States because of the fact that it covers the entire history of the island from the time the
13 US gained control. Each of the great migration periods are studied from the point of view of those who lived on the island and moved to the United States searching for a better life. Santiago, Esmeralda. When I Was Puerto Rican. New York: Vintage Books, An autobiographical look at one woman s rise from rural Puerto Rico to graduating with honors from Harvard University. Esmeralda Santiago details her life growing up in Puerto Rico, her childhood scarred by the constant battles of her parents, not to mention the constant chaos that comes with being one of eight children. She talks of learning the things that young Puerto Ricans learn and then of being torn away from the only home she has ever known to move to New York. It is an excellent example of how an immigrant/migrant overcomes the adversity of moving to a new place and having to learn an entirely new language in order to be successful there. Source: Report by the President s Task Force on Puerto Rico s Status Date: December 2007 In 2000 President Clinton established the Puerto Rico Task Force. One of the main goals of the Task Force is to establish options for Congress to extend to Puerto Rico to allow Puerto Rico to determine its own fate. Puerto Rico has held three previous plebiscites on its own fate, but none were ever sanctioned by the US Congress and there was no guarantee that Congress would honor the Puerto Ricans choice. The most interesting part of the Report is the legal analysis of Puerto Rico s options. The Report finds that the statehood, independence, and status quo options are all constitutional. However, the enhanced commonwealth option which could lead to Puerto Rico remaining a commonwealth, but not under US Congressional authority would violate the US Constitution. Source: ProQuest Historical Newspapers New York Times Database This is a fantastic research tool for any study on Puerto Rico-United States relationship since I searched for Puerto Rico Statehood and limited the date field to A cursory reading of articles that came up with the search included the following headlines: EXPANSION CALLED AN EVIL; Eloquent Argument Against Annexation of Islands by Moorefield Storey. FOREIGN POLICY CONFERENCE Speaker Says Disregard of Our Principles in the Acquisition of Hawaii Will Yet Plague Us Sorely -- Other Addresses. What Shall Be Our Colonial Policy?
14 CONVENTION IN PUERTO RICO.; Municipal Representatives Desire Statehood in the American Union -- Favor Restricted Suffrage. Source: The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History. Kal Wagenheim, ed. New Jersey: Markus Weiner Publications, This book tells the story of the history of Puerto Rico through documents from the discovery of Puerto Rico by Columbus through modern issues regarding the political status of Puerto Rico. In particular, the book has a series of chapters dealing with American imperialism/colonialism and Porto Rico, as the spelling was used for much of American history. Source: Puerto Rican s History and Promise: Americans Who Cannot Vote. Jim Stafford. Mason Crest Publishers, This book details the culture of Puerto Rico and the contributions prominent Puerto Ricans have made in the United States, such as Roberto Clemente. The history, art, and language (the aspects of multi-lingualism among Puerto Ricans, including a section on the Spanglish many Puerto Ricans in the United States use) are among the topics explored. King, George G.. Letters of a Volunteer in the Spanish American War. Chicago: Hawkins & Loomis, A collection of letters written by King, himself, about his service during the Spanish- American War. This could serve as both a secondary source, as well as primary, because it is a collection of first hand accounts. Provides students with a soldier s point of view of the war, and allows them insight into a soldier s experience. Available in both book form or electronically, and can be accessed at the website referenced above: Puerto Rico at the Dawn of the Modern Age. Stavans, Ilan. Latino USA: A Cartoon History. New York: Basic Books, This resource provides a unique perspective on Latino relationships with the United States, portrayed through a graphic novel. It is a helpful source because it challenges the typical textbook perspective of Latino relations, and allows students to explore different perspectives, as well as a different way to interpret and present history.
15 ANNOTATED PRIMARY SOURCES Roosevelt, Franklin D. Letter on Self-Government of Puerto Rico August 29, 1944 Roosevelt s letter to Judge Bell of the House Committee on Insular Affairs outlining the President s feeling that Puerto Rico is ready to take on a greater role in its own government, and urging the House to pass the legislation that would allow for this to take place. Source: Judge Sonia Sotomayor's 2001 address to the 'Raising the Bar' symposium at the UC Berkeley School of Law Date: Oct. 26, 2001 This speech comes from the UC Berkeley School of Law symposium titled "Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation." Since Sonia Sotomayor s nomination to the Supreme Court this speech has received significant attention in the media for the remark, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life. As inferred in the symposium name, a significant portion of Judge Sotomayor s speech was based on her experience of living in the United States as a Latino, and more specifically as a Puerto Rican American. This is an important source for students to read. It not only provides insight into the thinking of a potential Supreme Court judge, but also can lead to discussion of minority identity in the United States. Source: AmeRican by Tato Laviera Date: 1985 Tato Laviera was born in Puerto Rico in 1951 and moved to New York in AmeRican is a fascinating poem concentrating on both Laviera s pride in his Puerto Rico ethnicity and his analysis of Puerto Rican integration in the continental United States. With lines like, AmeRican, defining myself my own way and AmeRican, integrating in New York and defining our own destino Laviera is focusing on the sociological affect of growing up in a minority group. Another important focus of the poem is the combination of the Spanish and English terms. This poem is an important analysis of the modern Puerto Rican experience in the United States.
16 "Political cartoon portraying Sotomayor as a piñata is insensitive but deserves no rash judgments." June 3, 2009.http://www.latinalista.net/palabrafinal/2009/06/political_cartoon_portraying_sotom ayor_a.html (accessed July 14, 2009). The above cartoon originally appeared in the Oklahoman on June 3, It portrays a view of Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor as a piñata for the Republicans in Congress to take their hacks at during her upcoming confirmation hearings. It shows Congressional Republicans being placed in an awkward situation, if they do not confirm her, they will be seen as anti-hispanic, but if they do they may be going against what they believe about who is (or is not) a good fit for the Supreme Court. This could make for a great discussion in class about whether President Obama truly feels she is the best choice for the court or whether it is a savvy political move to further isolate Republicans. Source: Website: American Propaganda: Controlling Public Opinion in Puerto Rico John Rivera-Resto, 2001 at This website provides multiple political cartoons exploring the Puerto Rican relationship with the United States. Some of the examples include the issue of bilingual education and whether or not Puerto Rico should become independent, remain a territory or become a state. King, George G.. Letters of a Volunteer in the Spanish American War. Chicago: Hawkins & Loomis, A collection of letters written by King, himself, about his service during the Spanish- American War. This could serve as both a secondary source, as well as primary, because it is a collection of first hand accounts. Provides students with a soldier s point of view of the war, and allows them insight into a soldier s experience. Available in both book
17 form or electronically, and can be accessed at the website referenced above: Puerto Rico at the Dawn of the Modern Age. Annotated Websites "History of Puerto Rico." May 1, 2008.http://welcome.topuertorico.org/history.shtml (accessed July 13, 2009). This website offers an in-depth timeline of Puerto Rican history going back to pre-columbian times and ending in There are frequent mentions of migration periods of Puerto Ricans to the United States and also discussion of events of historic significance to Puerto Rico, the US and the world. It is very easy to navigate and a good source to use in the classroom. Korrol, Virginia Sanchez. " Bridging the Caribbean: Puerto Rican Roots in Nineteenth Century America." March 2005.http://www.historynow.org/03_2005/historian4.html (accessed July 14, 2009). This article discusses the impact of Puerto Ricans on American Immigrant history, and also the fact that this is a group of people who are left out of the immigrant discussion in the United States because of the fact that Puerto Ricans are technically nonimmigrants. This website could be used for an entire class in studying immigration from Latin America. Puerto Rico is one of the options on the website. The Puerto Rico link focuses on modern times with the majority of articles dating from 2000 to the present. However, the images are primary source documents that range from This website would be very interesting for students because it is an online newspaper edited with Puerto Rican perspectives. This would differ from mainstream US papers. The site appears to have a bias towards statehood. There is a poll on their front page showing that a majority of Puerto Ricans in both Puerto Rico and the United States favor statehood. Also, they have a link on their front page that dates from 2007 entitled, STATEHOOD: Is NOW the best chance? Students could read the articles on this website and then find a website from a Puerto Rican newspaper that favors independence and compare the way information is presented by both newspapers. Puerto Rico at the Dawn of the Modern Age:
18 This website provides a collection of resources on Puerto Rico, including its colonization by the Spanish and the Spanish-American war. Resources provided include primary and secondary sources, dated from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. The World of 1898: The Spanish American War This website secondary sources on the Spanish American War, including maps, timelines, and biographies. It also contains information and resources on the following areas that the United States had an imperialist influence on in the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries: Cuba, Guam, Philippines, Spain, and the United States. Sources are provided in several translations, which is helpful for those teaching bilingual students or English language learners.
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