The Great Migration

The "Great Migration" of Puerto Ricans to New York City came to light in the first half of the twentieth century. During this time period, some estimates project that over 200,000 Puerto Ricans made their way to neighborhoods throughout Manhattan, many landing in the heart of Puerto Rican Brooklyn, Los Sures. 


The period, however, is demarcated as some of the darkest days in American history, days plagued by famine, povery, and death. The Second World War and The Great Depression made the American Dream a fallacy for many, but only heightened the allure for many immigrants. During the days following the Second World War and The Great Depressino, emigration from Puerto Rico hit levels never seen before in recorded history (Kehoe, Prescott, 2007).

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Like the vast majority of Americans, many Puerto Ricans were left destitute when the Great Depression hit from 1929 - 1939. As a new territory to the United States, Puerto Rico's economy was largely dependent on that of the mainland. Historically, the island economy was founded upon agriculture, providing sugar, coffee, and tabacco to the continental United States (Espinosa, 2016).


Unlike much of the mainland United States, however, the geography of the island had much of an impact in its fiscal destruction in the first half of the twenieth century. In the thirty years leading up to the Great Depression, Puerto Rico was hit by several natural disasters including four  hurricanes, an earthquake and a tsunami. One of the most powerful was Hurricane San Felipe Segundo which hit on September 13, 1928 with winds over 200 miles per hour. In the year that the hurricane hit, Puerto Rico had a population of 1,500,000. San Felipe Segundo, "killed 300 people, injured another 4,180, and left 700,000 homeless." Destruction on that scale had never been seen in the small island in modern history.  According to scholar Michelle Robes, "The amount of devastation on such a small island, which had very little communication for warning systems and shoddy building construction, left many without the ability to protect their families" (Robles, 2010). For many Puerto Ricans, this meant forced abandonement of their homeland for the United States. 

The Great Migration