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The Puerto Rican Diaspora in the Region

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This is a post about Puerto Ricans living outside of Puerto Rico but with in the places covered in this forum. Puerto Ricans have a long history of migration to places like New York, Florida, Illinois, California, etc and even to South and Central America but did you know that up until 1910, Hawaii held the title for having the largest Puerto Rican born and ethnic population outside of Puerto Rico?

I don't know much about the Puerto Rican history that places like the U.S. Virgin Islands or Alaska may have although both have Puerto Ricans living there but i do know quite a bit their history in Hawaii and have done some research about it and found it to be quite interesting. Puerto Ricans are and have been the largest Hispanic/Latino group in Hawaii since probably the first wave of 5,203 between 1900-1901, the second wave of 686 following the opening of the Panama Canal in 1921 and many others that moved there for non-plantation related reasons like reuniting with family members and so on. Spaniards were the second largest group with a couple thousand and Mexicans. However, it seems that the Mexican population will probably become the largest Hispanic/Latino group by 2010 or shortly after. The current estimates depending on the source put the Puerto Rican population at approx. 36,000-40,000 in 2005 although a report done by the Lewis Mumford Center estimated the population to be at 45,000 back in 2000. The Mexican population 30,000-33,000 althought the Mexican consulate estimated the population to be at 40,000 back in 2002. In any even they are both very close in population now.

In Alaska the population ranges from 2,600-3,000

In the US Virgin Islands from 8,500-10,000

Anyhow, the Puerto Rican culture is still the most familiar to me of all the other Hispanic/Latino groups because there were many in my hood growing up, some of which would go door to door selling Pasteles, my younger step-sister is half-Puerto Rican and many of my best friends back home were/are Puerto Rican.

The History of immigration to Hawaii started following two hurricanes...

Devastation caused by Hurricane San Ciriaco


On August 8, 1899, Hurricane San Ciriaco, with winds of over 100 miles per hour, struck Puerto Rico and, on August 22, another hurricane followed. The floods caused by 28 days of continuous rain damaged the agricultural industry and left 3,400 dead and thousands of people without shelter, food or work. As a result, there was a shortage of sugar from the caribbean in the world market and a huge demand for the product from Hawaii and other sugar producing countries. To meet the demand, plantation owners began a campaign to recruit the jobless laborers in Puerto Rico.

The trip was unpleasant, they were promised a better life but it was a hard life and they were often racially discriminated by the European/American bosses. To make matters worse following the passage of the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917, granted American citizenship to the Puerto Rican resident in Puerto Rico and excluded those who resided in Hawaii. Plantation owners, like those that comprised the so-called Big Five, found territorial status convenient, enabling them to continue importing cheap foreign labor; such immigration was prohibited in various other states of the Union.

Manuel Oliveri Sanchez, a court interpreter at the time, led a legal battle for the recognition of the Hawaiian Puerto Ricans as citizens of the United States. It resulted in the territory's high court granting the Puerto Ricans their citizenship. The power of the plantation owners was finally broken by the activist descendants of the original immigrant laborers. Because they were born in a United States territory and they were legal American citizens, they gained full local voting rights and actively campaigned for statehood for the Hawaiian Islands.

Descendents of Puerto Rican plantation workers in Hawaii


Some of the Hawaiian-Puerto Ricans who have distinguished themselves are:

* Manuel Oliveri Sanchez - Led the battle for U.S. citizenship

* Hilda Ortiz - In 1924, became the first Puerto Rican teacher in Hawaii

* Faith Evans - A former state legislator and the first woman in the United States to serve as a U.S. Marshal.

* Alex Santiago - Former Hawaii State Representative

* Nancy Ortiz - Excecutive director of the Hispanic Center of Hawaii and host of "Alma Latina", a radio show of Latin-American music.

* Tony Castanha - active member in the Taino heritage movement








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Yup,puerto ricans are everywhere,I remember that not one day passed in Hawaii that I didn't see a car with stickers or flags of PR.

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I wish i knew what the history of Puerto Ricans in places like Alaska and especially the USVI. :(

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