The Second Wave

 The Approach From The Brooklyn End.

The Early Twentieth Century 

The Spanish-American War errupted in the final moments of the nineneeth century. After the sinking of the US Maine in Havana, the United States of American launched an offensive attack on the remainder of Spain's presence in the Americas, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Assisting in the Cuba Libre movement, the United States solidified Spain's role as a deteriorating empire. For Puerto Rico, this meant independence, if only from Spain. 

As a result of the doctrines set forth in the Treaty of Paris, Spain ceded Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Phillipines to the United States for $20 million. For many Puerto Ricans, this meant freedom to move north to the gleaming metropolis of New York City ("The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War").


In the midst of the post-war fervor in Puerto Rico, the United States Treasury Department issued a new immigration policy making it more difficult for Puerto Ricans to migrate to cities like New York. The introduction of the label “aliens” for Puerto Ricans was a blow to many hopeful immigrants (Rodriguez, 2014). 


The anger and frustration reached its height, when in 1904, Isabel Gonzalez, a Puerto Rican immigrant, sought entry to the United States. When she and several hundred Puerto Ricans arrived, they were detained and denied entry to the country. Gonzalez, a single mother expecting her second child, was told that she was a preeminent burden on the US welfare system.

Gonzalez went on to challenge the United States Government in what she felt was an act of discrimination. The case “Gonzales. V. Williams” (an official misspelling of Gonzalez’ surname) eventually made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States. The court, ruling in her favor, stated that,  “citizens of Porto Rico are not "aliens," and upon arrival by water at the ports of our mainland, are not "alien immigrants" within the intent and meaning of the act (1904). Further, the Court ruled that Puerto Ricans were not necessarily citizens of the United States, however, they were to be regarded as “noncitizen nationals.” Gonzalez played an often-understated role for Puerto Ricans not only in New York, but across the United States eventually paving the way for the Jones-Shafroth act of 1917.

The Act was revolutionary in its definition of Puerto Ricans as citizens of the United States. From then on, Puerto Ricans would not need a passport to travel to the United States and were able to seek any elected position in the United States Government.

Still, the act did not keep the dream of migrating to New York out of the hearts and minds of many divided families. In the same year as the passage of the Jones-Shafroth Act, the United States joined the First World War. For the small island, this, in combination with several hurricanes that destroyed much of its infrastrucuture, meant economic downturn. For many, New York City was the epitome of success and traveling there just became significantly easier (1899).

The Second Wave