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Puerto Rican CitizenHistory and Political Identity in Twentieth-Century New York City$
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Lorrin Thomas

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226796086

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226796109.001.0001

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How to Represent the Postwar Migration

How to Represent the Postwar Migration

The Liberal Establishment, the Puerto Rican Left, and the “Puerto Rican Problem”

(p.133) Chapter Four How to Represent the Postwar Migration
Puerto Rican Citizen
University of Chicago Press

The comments about the Puerto Rican migration in the 1930s reflected the range of deficits by which Puerto Ricans were alleged to threaten white American society: biological and intellectual inferiority, incapacity as workers, dependency on relief, susceptibility to disease, and political gullibility. By 1947, when the postwar boom inspired a migration that nearly doubled New York's Puerto Rican population in two years, the “Puerto Rican problem” was once again popularly understood to be one created by the island's people rather than its unresolved political status. By 1957, Puerto Ricans appeared to other New Yorkers, still, to be a dangerous addition to the citizenry of the metropolis, expanding slums, exacerbating crime, overburdening the schools, flocking to the welfare office, and also, potentially, posing a continuing threat as an anti-American political force. That year, the representation of New York Puerto Ricans in West Side Story captured their identity as problematic strangers, presenting it in a political vacuum that made the colonial context of Puerto Rico disappear completely.

Keywords:   Puerto Rican migrants, political participation, citizenship status, New York City, political status

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