The Swinging 50s


Following the end of the Second World War and the advent of air travel, another wave of Puerto Ricans made their way to New York City signifying the fourth major transnational migration from the island. As more and more returning soldiers took advantage of the GI Bill to go to college, thousands of labor-intensive jobs began to open in cities across the United States. The agricultural economy of the island made many Puerto Rican men and women adept for filling the role - the news that the mainland was hiring didn't stay quiet for long - nearly 75,000 Puerto Ricans came to New York City in 1953 alone ("Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History - Puerto Rican Women").


Noting the drastic change in their population, the Puerto Rican government made an attempt to revitalize their economy in the form of a series of projects coined "Operación Manos a la Obra." The ambitious plan was the work of businessman and politician Teodoro Moscoso. Moscoso set out to increase the minimum wage in Puerto Rico, already 28% of that of New York, by revitalizing and industrializing the island's textile industry. The high-paying jobs that replaced the labor-intensive industry of the agricultural Puerto Rico were few and extremely competitive. The system could not accomodate the rapidly expanding population of Puerto Rico - many decided to pack up and leave the island all together ("Economía: Operación Manos a la Obra (1947)").




New York City, already having a strong Puerto Ricanexpatriate community, eagerly accepted the influx largely in due to the work of then mayor Rober F. Wanger, Jr. Though many Puerto Rican experience immense hardship upon arriving the city, including overt racism and unequal pay, Wagner hoped that they would supply a study supply of "cheap labor" to entice many of the factories to stay in a New York increasingly dominated by White Collar jobs (Palente).

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The 1950s were emblematic in the solidification of Puerto Rican presence in New York City for many reasons. Many local community members came together to combat the rampant racism endured by many of their brothers and sisters on a daily basis. Civil rights leader Antonia Pantoja esbalished organization "ASPIRA" to motivate and elevate Puerto Ricans both in their communities and on a national level. The very first New York Puerto Rican Day Parade was held at the end of the decade on April 12, 1958. For many, the celebration legitimized the presence of the community and ensure that it would remain for many years. It would go on to inspire similar parades in Chicago and Orlando, among other cities ("Aspira Association").

The Swinging 50s