Puerto Rican Impact In Connecticut
By Pablo Otero & Alejandro Dávila
History of Puerto Rico In the U.S.
There is a largely interconnected history between Puerto Rico and Hartford, Connecticut that still remains prominent today. For decades, Puerto Ricans have migrated in large numbers to the city and over time have created a large network of businesses and organizations that benefit the people that live in the Greater Hartford Area. Due to economic issues on the island, many Puerto Ricans migrated and found Hartford to be a place they could prosper by applying their skills and intellect to better their community. The plentiful efforts by Puerto Ricans to improve things like social services and activism within their city also played a vital role in ensuring the success of Puerto Ricans and gave resources to other populations in CT as well.
While Hartford, Connecticut has always been regarded as a city of immigrants, there is a distinct community of people that have made their presence known throughout this city’s history; Puerto Ricans. Migrants from Puerto Rico have carved their image into this city leaving behind milestones of cultural tradition and expression that have led to the creation of a unique cultural identity in a transformed landscape. Today, 1 out of every 14 state residents is of Puerto Rican descent, and 1 in 3 Hartford residents. From establishing bilingual education, to guiding Hartford city politics, to creating an abundance of non-profit organizations, to creating the Park St commercial center, Puerto Ricans in Hartford have left behind a legacy incomparable to that of any other migrant group of the past century, not just in Connecticut.
Please follow this link as it will provide you with the vocabulary you will need to understand for this section.
You may use this link as a resource to tests students knowledge of these words or simply to have them informed before going into your future lesson plan.
History on Puerto Rican Migration
- Puerto Rico’s first migration to the United States has no clear date, but data gathered establishes that the first Puerto Rican migrants to arrive in Connecticut arrived in the 1840’s. Even so, it wasn’t until after WWII that Puerto Ricans began migrating in waves.
- Towards the later half of the twentieth century, increasing waves of Puerto Rican migrants were arriving in Connecticut. There were many opportunities that arose from new factories in the larger cities such as Waterbury and Bridgeport, as well as a large demand for tobacco pickers in the capitol city of Hartford
- Puerto Rico’s economic stability has been in peril for many years due to investors from all of the 50 states investing in its municipal bonds that resulted in a fortune for investors due to the tax treatment on the island. On top of this, because of the island’s status as a territory, Puerto Ricans on the island receive less money for things like Medicare and Medicaid, and are unable to declare bankruptcy. From an objective standpoint, the debt of an average of $129 million is largely, and mainly, because of this situation.
- This economic instability has led many to migrate to the mainland, particularly Connecticut, in search of better lives. Driven by a desire to be part of a freer and more economically advanced environment, many PR migrants were already highly qualified and skilled in different career fields, enabling growth as a community and creating more and more opportunities for their people as well as those in need.
- Since then, generations of Puerto Ricans in Connecticut have dedicated themselves to social services by pioneering bilingual education, creating and establishing a vast network of social agencies, community institutions, small shops, community organizations, and churches.
- Through these accomplishments, the Puerto Rican presence in Connecticut has extensively grown and has become distinguished in a number of areas.
CT: Connections To Local Realities
CICD Hartford, Puerto Rican Day Parade
- This website provides a simple yet detailed walkthrough of the early Puerto Rican presence in Hartford, Connecticut and how events like the Puerto Rican day parade came to be.
- It provides a well developed background for the many other traditions, festivals, and events that Puerto Ricans host in Hartford in order to represent their culture and practices of their ancestors that came from the island.
Co-Evolution In An Outlying Ethnic Community: The Puerto Ricans Of Hartford, Connecticut
- This Journal article provides insight in the distinct generational migrant communities of Puerto Ricans in Hartford, Connecticut.
- Presents topics centered on public housing, socio-economic relations, and political issues of the time.
Teaching on Puerto Rican Impact in Connecticut
Concretize Puerto Rican presence in Hartford, Connecticut through the community’s social work and activism orchestrated for the public good.
Analyze the struggles and efforts Puerto Rican people in Connecticut have gone through to establish landmark institutions and organizations as a form of cultural identity representation.
Destigmatize Puerto Rican history in Connecticut, although rough, accomplishments exceed that of any other Hispanic group in the city and the state as a whole.
Present the interconnectivity of islander identity and mainland identity and how a hybrid identity is constructed by combining both.
Approach to discussing / teaching it:
- Getting students to form small groups in order to discuss certain things they see in their everyday lives for a couple of minutes once a week and then present it to the class would be a good way of making these topics interactive and argument based. What do they observe about how culture is expressed, represented, embraced?
- Students that speak of the noticeable Puerto Rican presence will inspire others to subconsciously notice certain things they would think normal in their environment but actually have Hispanic heritage to it, especially Puerto Rican.
- Assigning students in class places from the heritage trail and discussing how these places interconnect with one another and how they came to be marked by the Puerto Rican community would be another interesting way of going about it for the class. How do people shape and use community space? What visions have Puerto Ricans transplanted from the island?
How might a consideration of the PR presence in CT help students analyze the dynamics of power, race, gender; and the ways in which steps towards equity often lead to a push forward/pushback interplay between dominant and minoritized cultures:
- What is a social hierarchy? Teachers might encourage a discussion of how migrants integrate into society. Where do they live when they first arrive? What kinds of jobs do they often do? How does language, family ties, cultural norms and differences, and how they are received impact how well they do economically? What does this look like with Puerto Ricans? How do they fit into the social hierarchy?
- A past, present, and future hypothetical discussion about this might be good to see what the students are visualizing and what they believe the Puerto Rican impact to be.
- Students might draft short essays on key political figures that would provide insight for classmates to learn more about certain individuals that advanced through political power.
- Students might direct conversations based on challenging topics, such as the non-Hispanic push back on bilingual education and certain moments of racism against the Latino/a community like the events of the Comanchero Riot where Puerto Ricans, both workers and the typical citizen, were harassed and abused due. This was due to racial tensions regarding the growing Puerto Rican community
Activities for engaging students:
- Class Field Trip
- Plan a Class field trip to the Puerto Rican Heritage Trail in Hartford, Connecticut in order to help students connect with one another.
- Visit the tobacco museum to learn about the history of the work many early PR settlers took up.
Companion Pieces to Puerto Rican Impact in Connecticut:
“A Puerto Rican in New York, and Other Sketches” By Jesús Colón.
- A collection of essays and newspaper articles written over a lifetime between Puerto Rico and New York. The pieces deal with everything from daily life in cigar factories to government repression of the Puerto Rican worker’s movement.
“When I Was Puerto Rican: A Memoir (A Merloyd Lawrence Book) By Esmeralda Santiago.
- The first part of an amazing trilogy, this memoir offers insight to the personal childhood story of the author. It depicts her family’s emigration from Puerto Rico to New York, the transitions, hardships and great accomplishments that came with it, a true life’s story.
“Colonial Migrants at the Heart of Empire: Puerto Rican Workers on U.S. Farms” By Ismael García-Colón
- Deeply explores the Farm Labor Program established by the government of Puerto Rico in 1947. This placed vast amounts of migrant workers on United States farms setting the infrastructure for the emergence of many Puerto Rican populations on the mainland. Analyzes the relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico and why certain areas became Puerto Rican hotspots.