The Beginnings

The 19th Century


The early parts of the 19th century played host to the first waves of migrants from Puerto Rico to the United States. A ready commercial industry exhisted between Puerto Rico (and Cuba) with the cities on the East Coast of the United States, namely New York City. During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Spain felt its once powerful grip weakening, Puerto Rico and Cuba being its only reamining presenece in the New World. 

As such, the idea of independence was largely castigated by the Spanish Crown. Any mention of rebellion was dealt with swifty. For many, any mention of independence resulted in inprisonment or banishment (Whalen, Vázquez-Hernández, 2005). 


Two exiles of this policy, Ramon Emeterio Betances "El Padre de la Patria" and Segundo Ruiz Belvis, fled to New York City. The two had solidified themselves as enemies of the crown in their failed revolutionary efforts in 1868 known as "El Grito de Lares."  

Already influential figures in the fight for island's independence, Betance and Belvis quickly established prominence for themselves and their people upon arrival to New York City. Together, with abolitionist leader Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, they established The Revolutionary Committee of Puerto Rico (History). 


The committee quickly gained momentum as more and more Puerto Ricans, exiled or not, began to support the fight for independence. The group provided monetary and artilarily support to insurgents still on the island. Just two years after the groups convergence, Puerto Rico gained its independence on December 10, 1898. Years earlier in 1892, the New York City-based group had collectively adopted a flag for their motherland similar to that of Cuba with inverted colors. The same flag is still used today (Scheina, 2003). 

The Beginnings