Further Resources on Aqui Me Quedo

Dr Ruth Glasser recently provided an updated critic on her piece, Aqui Me Quedo. Scroll further toaccess to this update.

Ruth Glasser Recent Critic

Aquí Me Quedo – A Historical and Contemporary Resource for Teaching about CT’s Growing Puerto Rican and Latin American population

Ruth Glasser, PhD      

It has been nearly a quarter of a century since Aquí Me Quedo: Puerto Ricans in Connecticut was published, and of course longer than that for the protracted process of research the book required.  I legged it around Connecticut, interviewing dozens of people in bigger and smaller cities as well as some suburban towns, always trying to follow up on leads given to me by community members and interviewees.  Lots of research took place through local libraries, the Connecticut State Library, the Connecticut Historical Society, the Office of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, both in New York City, just to name a few sites.  The yeoman’s work of translation into Spanish was done largely by three incredible Puerto Rican allies/scholars—Raquel Requena, José Rodríguez Sellas, and María de Lourdes Martínez.  The non-profit educational organization Stone Soup provided the sponsorship for this project; the Connecticut Humanities Council [as it was then known] provided the funding.  The cover of the book came about through a happy accident—wandering around the town of Loíza, a largely Afro-Puerto Rican town on the northeast side of Puerto Rico, I happened to walk into artist Samuel Lind’s gallery.  Since so many loiceños ended up in New Haven [part of the chain migration I discussed in the book], several of Lind’s posters incorporated imagery from Connecticut as well as from the island.

A lot has changed since then.   Obviously, technology is part of the change. Recordings in the 1990s were done on audio cassettes and I did logs/partial transcriptions of each one of them since there was no transcription software available at that point. There was no Internet for research back then, so everything had to be done in person, which in its own way made the book more personal than it might be if it were done today.   Additionally, many historical records, particularly related to Puerto Rican tobacco and other agricultural workers in Connecticut, have become available since this book was written and are archived in places like the Center for Puerto Rican Studies and the Connecticut Valley Tobacco Museum and happily, a number of scholars have taken up the challenge and done a good deal more than I was able to do with my chapter 2, “Tobacco Valley.”

But the changes encompass more than research modalities and access: there have been enormous alterations in the Puerto Rican/Latin@ population since the 1990s.  When I wrote this book, the latest census figures available were from 1990.  In the introductory chapter, I discussed the fact that Puerto Rican migrants and their descendants were increasingly moving out of their historical destination city—New York—to other places, including Connecticut.   I mentioned on page 11 that Connecticut had the sixth-largest Puerto Rican population in the fifty United States.  As of 1990, Puerto Ricans in our state numbered 146,842, or 4.5 percent of the population.  The larger category of ‘Hispanics’ was 6.5 percent of the state’s population, or 213,116 people, according to the US Census.  I mentioned as well that Connecticut had the distinction of having the highest proportion of Puerto Ricans among their Latino population of any state. 

In the year 2000, the census showed that Connecticut had 194,443 Puerto Ricans, or 5.7 percent of the total state population.  The overall Hispanic population for the state that year was 320,323 or 9.4 percent of the population.[1]

In the year 2010, the census showed that Connecticut had 252,972 Puerto Ricans, or 7.1 percent of the total state population.  The overall Hispanic population for the state that year was 479,087, or 13.4 percent of the population.

Although as of this writing it is too soon to have firm numbers from the 2020 census (estimates are they will be available at the end of 2022), some preliminary reports suggest that the Puerto Rican population of Connecticut is 302,027 strong, and about 8.5 percent of the population.  Connecticut, apparently, also remains the state with the highest proportion of Puerto Ricans among its residents.[2]

 

Year

Number of Puerto Ricans in total Connecticut population

Percentage of Puerto Ricans in total Connecticut population

 

Number of Hispanics in total Connecticut population

Percentage of Hispanics in total Connecticut population

 

1990

146,842

4.5

213,116

6.5

2000

194,443

5.7

320,323

9.4

2010

252,972

7.1

479,087

13.4

2020 [tentative]

302,027

8.5

623,300

17

 

However, the overall Latino population of the state has skyrocketed to 623,300 or about 17 percent of the state’s population.[3]  Only about half of the Latino population of the state is Puerto Rican, a big change from earlier decades, and indicative of larger demographic shifts and immigrations from other countries, as well as Latin American/Latino migrations from other parts of the country and births among this non-Puerto Rican population.  Thus, it is important to recontextualize the Puerto Rican population of Connecticut within a growing group of other Spanish speakers.  For example, the 2010 census showed the following numbers and proportions for our state:

 

 

 

 

Subject

Number

Percent

HISPANIC OR LATINO

 

 

Total population

3,574,097

100.0

Hispanic or Latino (of any race)

479,087

13.4

Not Hispanic or Latino

3,095,010

86.6

 

 

 

HISPANIC OR LATINO BY TYPE

 

 

Hispanic or Latino (of any race)

479,087

13.4

Mexican

50,658

1.4

Puerto Rican

252,972

7.1

Cuban

9,490

0.3

Dominican (Dominican Republic)

26,093

0.7

 

 

 

Central American (excludes Mexican)

35,023

1.0

Costa Rican

2,767

0.1

Guatemalan

16,715

0.5

Honduran

6,242

0.2

Nicaraguan

1,538

0.0

Panamanian

1,304

0.0

Salvadoran

6,223

0.2

Other Central American

234

0.0

 

 

 

South American

71,355

2.0

Argentinean

3,609

0.1

Bolivian

781

0.0

Chilean

2,356

0.1

Colombian

20,048

0.6

Ecuadorian

23,677

0.7

Paraguayan

494

0.0

Peruvian

16,424

0.5

Uruguayan

1,294

0.0

Venezuelan

2,129

0.1

Other South American

543

0.0

 

 

 

Other Hispanic or Latino

33,496

0.9

Spaniard

5,371

0.2

Spanish

3,691

0.1

Spanish American

172

0.0

All other Hispanic or Latino

24,262

0.7

 

Subject

Number

Percent

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census.

Summary File 1, Table PCT 11.

The numbers may be surprising to some.  Mexicans and Mexican Americans were as of more than ten years ago, more than 50,000 strong in our state according to official census counts, as this group has moved out of traditional migration destinations in the Southwest and West into other parts of the country.  They are followed by Dominicans, Ecuadorians, Colombians, Guatemalans, and Peruvians in significant numbers, as well as other groups with smaller but still important populations.  However, numbers don’t always account for the sequence of the migration.  Dominicans, for example, have a long-standing and strong presence in Connecticut, often partaking in a secondary migration from their first traditional destination, New York City.   Thus, although their numbers may be smaller than those of the Mexican population, their impact on our landscape may be earlier and at this point just as significant.

This multi-ethnic Latin@ diversity has permeated every sector of life in Connecticut—political, occupational, social, and religious.  It is fairly easy to trace political leaders and their ethnicities; harder to spot the subtle signs of the broadening out of Connecticut’s Latino community to a multiethnic panorama.  But you only have to open your eyes, talk to people, and participate in what might be considered mundane activities to see the changes of the last few decades.  Puerto Ricans, followed by Cubans and Dominicans, have continued to play baseball in the state’s parks and stadiums, a testimony to the colonial incursion of the United States and its primary national sport into those particular territories and countries.  However, other Spanish-speaking groups are reconfiguring the recreational landscape with their national sports, soccer or, in the case of many Ecuadorians, volleyball.  Bodegas, restaurants, and other businesses formerly owned by Puerto Ricans have often been taken over by Dominicans as the children of the Puerto Rican pioneros who owned those businesses have moved into other, often white-collar occupations.  Spanish-speaking churches that once catered almost exclusively to Puerto Ricans have now had to adapt to the presence of new groups and their patron saints’ days and worship practices.[4]  Roofing and drywall work, once the province of European-descended people, is now largely done by Mexicans, Central and South Americans.  And these are just a few examples.  As of this writing, much work still needs to be done on each Spanish-speaking ethnic group in our state, the interactions between these groups, intermarriages and multiethnic children, and a host of other topics.   

One of the challenges of doing this kind of research is the census itself.  There was no category for ‘Hispanic’ in the census until 1980.  Since then, categories have kept changing.  Respondents have been able to identify themselves as ‘Hispanic or Latino,’ members of particular ethnic groups within this rubric, or as ‘other.’  Hybrid Latino identities or intermarriage with other ethnic groups makes ethnic identification even more complicated, especially as people now self-identify their category for the census.  Many Latinos, especially those whose legal status in this country is precarious, are often reluctant to participate in the census at all.  It has become a truism that any census captures an undercount, though it’s hard to calculate by how much.

Nonetheless, the census figures are a large part of what we have to work with, and the breakdowns per town provide some intriguing insights into how the Puerto Rican/Latino population has shifted over the years. 

Not just the state, but individual cities and towns also had high percentages of Puerto Ricans.  As of the writing of Aquí Me Quedo, Hartford was 27 percent Puerto Rican, the largest proportion found in any major United States city, if we are talking about the 50 United States.  Bridgeport was 21 percent Puerto Rican, New Britain nearly 14 percent, and Waterbury 11 percent.  With the probability of census undercounts, the proportions are likely much higher.

A look at subsequent censes shows growth in the Puerto Rican/Latino population of these areas as well as others.   Compare the 1980 and 1990 numbers on page 23 with those of 2000 and 2010 for these towns and cities:

Town

2000 # of Puerto Ricans/Latinos as a whole

2000 %

Puerto Ricans/Latinos as a whole

2010 # of Puerto Ricans/Latinos as a whole

 

2010 %

Puerto Ricans/Latinos as a whole

Bridgeport

32,177/44,478

23%/31.9%

31,465/50,470

22%/35%

 

Bristol

2,150/3,166

3.6%/5.3%

3,050/5435

5%/9%

 

Danbury

1,818/11,791

2.4%/15.8%

3,474/18,691

4.4%/23.5%

 

East Hartford

5,121/7,552

10.3%/15.2%

9,951/13,324

19.5%/26%

 

Hartford

39,586/49,260

32.6%/40.5%

41,296/52,364

33%/41.9%

 

Meriden

9,637/12,296

16.5%/21.1%

11,846/17,085

19.6%/28%

 

Middletown

1,501/2,287

3.5%/5.3%

2,189/3,066

4.6%/6.5%

 

New Britain

15,693/19,138

21.9%/26.8%

20,070/23,794

27.5%/32.6%

 

New Haven

17,683/26,443

14.3%/21.4%

19,978/33,063

15.5%/25.7%

 

New London

3,382/5,061

13.2%/19.7

4,255/7,323

15%/26.6%

 

Norwalk

2,978/12,966

3.6%/15.6%

2,959/17,278

3.5%/20.4%

 

Stamford

3,167/19,635

2.7%/16.8%

3,745/34,824

3%/28%

 

Stratford

2,143/3,399

4.3%/6.8%

4,253/8,306

8.3%/16.3%

 

Waterbury

18,149/23,354

16.9%/21.8%

24,255/32,831

22%/29.8%

 

West Hartford

2,019/3,990

3.2%/6.3%

2,773/5,572

4.4%/8.9%

 

Willimantic [Windham]

3,310/4,777

21.2%/30.7%

4,297/6,575

24.6%/37.6%

 

While some cities have stayed relatively stable in their Puerto Rican populations/proportions, some have jumped significantly as of 2010 figures, and 2020’s census should show even more growth.  Waterbury’s Puerto Rican population had doubled, for example, between 1990 and 2010, and New Britain had virtually done so as well.  But even in cases where there wasn’t a significant increase in percentages [note Bridgeport’s 22 percent as compared to the earlier 21 percent], there has been a significant increase in the overall Latino population.  In a number of towns and cities, particularly those closer to New York, Puerto Ricans form only a tiny percentage of a burgeoning Latino population.  Most dramatic in this regard is Stamford, 3 percent Puerto Rican but 28 percent Latino.  So who makes up these populations?  Norwalk, another Fairfield County city close to New York, had in 2010 over 3000 Colombians alone.  Danbury, with less than 5% Puerto Ricans but nearly a quarter of its population being Latino, had close to 7000 Ecuadorians.

Many factors play into the shape of the Puerto Rican/Latin@ population in the state.  The exodus of Venezuelans from a nation embroiled in political turmoil will surely figure in our next round of census figures, as will the ongoing political and social crises in much of Central America.  Thousands of migrants from Puerto Rico have arrived in our state as part of an exodus spurred by Hurricane María in 2017; an estimate by Charles Venator-Santiago suggests as many as 13,000 Puerto Ricans may have ended up in Connecticut as a result.[5]  Subsequent problems with infrastructure, other natural disasters, and ongoing fiscal crises on the island has surely spurred more migration.  Although Florida has surpassed even New York as the top destination for migrating Puerto Ricans, Connecticut is still in the top six destination states.  The picture of people living in the 50 United States versus the mainland has also changed drastically, with some estimates suggesting that there are 5.8 million Puerto Ricans living in the states and only 3.2 million on the island, a startling reversal that has taken place over the last few decades.[6]  When I wrote this book, there were 2.7 million Puerto Ricans living in the 50 states and 3.5 million on the island [see pp. 13-14].

As I look back on this project, I recognize not just what was covered but gaps and possible errors.  No book project can be comprehensive or perfect, but with the advent of digital sites such as this one, I hope that other scholars and community members will correct, augment and update this research and add their own personal narratives.  For instance, the story of Augusto Rodríguez, who I cited as a Puerto Rican who fought in the Civil War, may be erroneous.  The assertions about his history were based on only one source [a no-no for professional historians and testimony to my youth and inexperience at the time]—an intrepid researcher has since pointed out that in the census Rodríguez is listed as a Spaniard.  Since Puerto Rico was under Spanish colonial rule at the time, it is possible that Rodríguez was in fact Puerto Rican, but it is also possible that he was not.  Areas such as politics, suburbanization, cultural expressions within the community, interethnic relations between different Latin@ groups, and a host of other areas could have been covered more thoroughly.  But, as I say in the introduction to the book, “it should be seen as an introduction to the history of Puerto Ricans in Connecticut, rather than as the last word in that history.”  It is my hope that some of you, dear readers, will contribute to the ongoing subject of the history and current situations of Puerto Ricans and other Latin@s in Connecticut, and that this piece and the accompanying book can provide a jumping-off point.  Some topics are even suggested at the end of the book [see pp. 190-191] but there are undoubtedly many more to pursue.

 

Additional related resources:

Puerto Rican Passages: The movie “Puerto Rican Passages” [Frank Borres, director, 1995] serves as a companion piece to the book.  It can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8qYVfBytk0 or you can access it through Connecticut Public Television if you become a member: https://video.cptv.org/video/puerto-rican-passages-1mqwta/

Curriculum materials for Aquí Me Quedo, developed by myself and Marie Galbraith under the auspices of the Mattatuck Museum and with the sponsorship of the Connecticut Humanities Council, along with a trio of remarkable teachers: Ana González Batista, Nancy Gratacos Atterberry, and Robert López.  [You will note that Ana is one of the interviewees in the book and Robert’s father, Alejandro López, also featured prominently in the narrative].  In turn, we worked over two summers with a group of dedicated teachers who developed and then tested these K-12 materials in their classrooms.  These curriculum materials can now be found on and downloaded from www.laplazavirtual.org.

Caribbean Connections is a series of books put out by the organization Teaching for Change.  They include books on Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, on im/migration [the book Moving North] and an overview of Caribbean history.  These materials and others created by Teaching for Change are mostly available for free download or low prices at https://socialjusticebooks.org/store/

My piece: “Mofongo Meets Mangú: Dominicans Reconfigure Latino Waterbury” is part of an anthology called Latinos in New England, edited by Andrés Torres (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006).  It can be downloaded through such databases as Project Muse, or you can order the whole book.

Waterbury Immigrant Oral History Archives: Over the years, students in my immigration and Latino history seminars have collected oral histories, including many on Puerto Ricans and immigrants from Latin American countries.  Despite the title, there are several interviews with Puerto Ricans in Hartford too in this collection.   This collection is archived at the Dodd Center at the University of Connecticut.  To see full transcriptions of interviews, please go to https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002:20090014

 

 

[1] Betsy Guzman, The Hispanic Population: Census 2000 Brief.  United States Census Bureau, May 2001, p. 4.

[2] “Puerto Rican Population in the United States,” Puerto Rican Report, October 2, 2020.  Retrieved from https://www.puertoricoreport.com/puerto-rican-population-in-the-states/#.YVt1MX0pBPY on October 4, 2021.

[3] Paul Hughes, “Census Shows Hispanic Population in State Has Steadily Increased Since 2010,” Republican American, September 15, 2021.

[4] For an illustration of the adaptations one group makes as another arrives, please see my piece, “Mofongo Meets Mangú: Dominicans Reconfigure Latino Waterbury,” in Andrés Torres, Latinos in New England (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006), pp. 103-123. 

[5] Matthew Ormseth, “Hurricane Maria, One Year Later: Exodus Strained Connecticut, but Families and Service Providers Still Resilient,” Hartford Courant, September 20, 2018.  Retrieved on 10/18/21 from https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-news-hurricane-maria-year-later-20180918-story.html

[6] “Puerto Rican Population in the States,” Puerto Rico Report, October 2, 2020.  Retrieved on 10/18/21 from https://www.puertoricoreport.com/puerto-rican-population-in-the-states/#.YW2QahwpBPY