The Puerto Rican Diaspora: From the Island of Enchantment to the United States – FamilySearch December 18, 2020

I saw this on FamilySearch today – The Puerto Rican Diaspora: From the Island of Enchantment to the United States: Much longer article, shortened it some to list key points. Definitely worth a read.

December 18, 2020 by Sally Odekirk

Throughout history, large groups of people have migrated from their homelands and settled in new areas. This movement is called a diaspora. If you have Puerto Rican ancestors, it’s likely that your ancestors moved during the Puerto Rican diaspora. This movement of Puerto Ricans largely occurred during the 20th century and was mostly caused by economic factors.

When we learn about when, where, and why people moved, we can learn more about our ancestors and how they arrived at their new homes. Learning these things about the Puerto Rican diaspora can help you find your ancestors.

A Brief History of Puerto Rico, the Island of Enchantment

To understand more about the Puerto Rican diaspora, it helps to know some of Puerto Rico’s history.

After Christopher Columbus claimed Puerto Rico for Spain in 1493, the island was a Spanish colony for 400 years. Although it was called Borikén by the native Taino population, Columbus named it San Juan Bautista. In 1521, the island’s name was changed to Puerto Rico.


During Puerto Rico’s years as a colony, its economy was largely based on sugar plantations using slave labor. The first enslaved group was the native Taino people; as time went on, however, enslaved Africans were also brought to the island and forced into servitude.

Though the situation was far from ideal, the interactions of these various peoples made Puerto Rican culture a vibrant mix of native, African, and Spanish influences.

At the end of the Spanish–American War in 1898, Spain ceded the island to the United States. Today, Puerto Rico remains a United States territory. Since 1917, Puerto Ricans have had United States citizenship, allowing them to travel to the United States without passports.

Puerto Ricans in New York and Beyond: The Great Migration to the United States

Although the Puerto Rican diaspora mainly took place during the decades of the 1940s to the 1970s, small groups of Puerto Ricans lived in the New York City area during the 1920s. These immigrants mostly worked in the cigar industry.

Like the rest of the world, Puerto Rico was greatly affected by the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II.

To help modernize the Puerto Rican economy following the war, a program called “Operation Bootstrap,” based loosely on the New Deal of the 1930s, was put into place. The idea was to shift from a sugar-based economy to manufacturing. Unfortunately, even with factories on the island, this shift led to fewer jobs as people moved from the countryside to the cities looking for work.


About Wichita Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's
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