Puerto Rican Diaspora


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My grandmother Luisa Hernandez Terc, migrated to New York City in 1950 from Puerto Rico. She came over at the age of thirty, with hopes of being able to obtain gainful employment, live in favorable condition, and provide a comfortable life for herself and her family. Along with thousands of migrants from Puerto Rico to cities and town on the mainland, my grandmother planted the seed for success for her immediate and future generations to benefit from.

Puerto Ricans have been migrating to the United State mainland since the late 19th century. Under the Spanish colonial rule, many Puerto Rican merchants traveled and settled along the eastern seaboard of the Unites States. .  As early as 1820, merchants had established trade agreements between New York City and the island of Puerto Rico. Cities such as Bridgeport, C.T., Boston, M.A., New Orleans, L.A, and Tampa F.L would soon follow. In addition to merchants, many people left the island in search of work and sometimes as political exiles, struggling for independence from the Spanish thrown.   Under the colonial rule cash crops such as sugar was being produced and sold to the United States.  Cigar makers were prominent among early migrants, mainly because of their political activism.   They settled in big cigar manufacturing cities like New York City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Tampa.

In 1898 the United States acquired Puerto Rico at the end of the Spanish-Cuban-American War.  The U.S. and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris, where the US obtained PR in place of monetary compensation for its costs in prosecuting the war. This Puerto Rico became a territory of the US with out ever involving the actual people of Puerto in any way.  Once under the U.S. rule, Puerto Ricans were limited to participate in running their own government.  Amongst other privileges denied, Puerto Ricans did not have a voting representation in U.S. Congress, and were basically denied their basic rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.  By making Puerto Rico a part of the U.S. monetary system, the Foraker Act of 1900 prohibited Puerto Rico from negotiating treaties with other countries or determining their own tariffs. All goods had to be transported in US owned shipping. This changed Puerto Rico’s economy drastically.  Puerto Rico moved from a selling and trading with other countries to only producing cash crops and selling it to one market, the U.S.  By 1910 they were the twelfth largest consumer of U.S. goods in the world. This change to export led growth and producing cash crops as a main export, to one market, reduced family households the ability to meet their basic needs.   \Where once they were once able to grow food for their own home consumptions, food was now imported.  The U.S. policymakers declared Puerto Rico’s wows on overpopulation rather than it being imposed by new US laws.  In 1901, Governor Charles Allen described negative attitudes towards the “simple peasants” who “prefer to remain in idlessness until someone solicited their services.” (Whalen, pg 7)  In 1915, Governor Arthur Yager stated “ There is much wretchedness and poverty among the masses of the people of Porto Rico” continuing expressing that he does “not hesitate to express my belief that the only really effective remedy is the transfer of large numbers of Porto Ricans to some other regions.” (Whalen, pg 8) In 1917 the Jones-Shafoth Act declared all Puerto Ricans to be U.S. citizens, allowing them to travel freely between the U.S. mainland and the island.


1917 Boston Globe Newpaper Article

This is a screen shot of a Boston Globe article from 1917 describing how Porto Rico is now apart of the United States.  This article came from the ProQuest Historical Newspaper Archive.



Puerto Ricans thus migrated first to Hawaiian sugar plantations where they were being exploited as a way of cheap labor for American corporations. The route to Hawaii took them by ship to New Orleans, and then by train to California, and then by ship to Hawaii.  Many Puerto Ricans did not reach their final destination, choosing to ‘escape’ and settle in other surrounding major cities.  After the initial push for migration, and the 1917 law granting full citizenship to Puerto Ricans, they migrated to many cities.

The first wave of Puerto Ricans left the island in search of a solution to their economic burdens. In between World War 1 and World War 2, the United States closed immigration to Europeans, now making Puerto Ricans a favored source of cheap labor. New York City became a favored haven for many Puerto Rican natives searching for a better life.  Between 1920 and 1940 the Puerto Rican population in the United States grew from 12,000 to 70,000. Companies such as the American Manufacturing Company,  a rope factory in Brooklyn, recruited women and often whole families. They were given contracts to work at the factory where they believed they were achieving economic elevation.

My grandmother, Luisa Terc, was born in Puerto Rico on August 22, 1920. During that time a wave of natural disasters such as major hurricanes hit the island, crippling the already destitute.  She was born to Spanish police chief Joquain Hernandez and Margarita Victoria Salas Turrino from Venezuela.  He was on her his second marriage, with whom they had a total of five children, my grandmother being the eldest. The family was well to do, owning land and ranches.  At the age of eleven, both of her parents died. Being the eldest she suddenly assumed the role of having to take care of her younger siblings. She was forced to drop out of school and domesticate herself quickly.  She moved in with her eldest half sister of her father’s pervious marriage, where she assumed all of the household duties such as cooking and cleaning, and she was made responsible for taking care of her younger newly orphaned siblings. It is unknown exactly what she did before migrating to the mainland, but I can assume it was hard work. She eventually immigrated to New York City during the third wave of immigration to the city.  She arrived to Manhattan in 1950 to work as a seamstress in a Garment District factory.  She rented a room from her sister Cruz when she first arrived and worked in the Garment District until she was married.  She met my grandfather, Juan Terc, at a popular nightclub on the upper West Side of Manhattan.  My grandfather says it was love at first sight, and when he saw her sitting with her family he immediately went over, introduced himself, and sat with them. He was with his brothers and sisters, and they all became life long friends starting that very day.  One of my grandfather’s sisters, Carmen Luisa, later married one of my grandmother’s younger brothers Nito.


PR Newpaper article Chicago Defender 1962

This article was printed May 3, 1962 by the Chicago Defender.  It was located in ProQuest Historical Newspapers Archive


The Puerto Rican Diaspora made its peak from the 1950s- 1980s in New York City.  Many came and settled in areas such as Spanish Harlem and the Lower East Side of Manhattan. My grandmother came to New York City and stayed with her sister on the Upper West Side of Manhattan known as Washington Heights.



Here is a google map of some of the places she lived and visited after arriving to New York City in 1950.


As with many newly migrants from Puerto Rico, my grandmother had to make a way for herself and her family. She worked as a seamstress in an industrial factory, as did many Puerto Rican women during those times. Even though the pay was low, the economic elevation from their previous conditions allowed them to experience comforts they were unable to afford on the island. After marrying my grandfather, they conceive their first child, Robert Juan Terc, born in 1955.  My uncle was born with a hole in his heart and was a sickly child growing up. My grandmother stayed home him, caring for his health. My mom, Lourdes Rosa Terc, was born five years later in 1960. My grandparents often visited popular locations such as the Hamilton Theatre. The structure of the building still stands today. Unknown to my mother at the time when she moved there in 1990, she still currently lives in the building adjacent to the Theatre her parents frequently visited.


http://www.historypin.com/map/#!/geo:40.829454,-73.938567/zoom:16/date_from:1840-01-01/date_to:1950-12-31/fs/dialog:6165300/tab:details/ »



This is a picture found on HistoryPin.com of the Hamilton Theatre in 1915.  My grandparents visited this theatre often in the 1950s.



This is a picture of the Hamilton Theatre in 2011. This picture was found on flickr commons.


After my mom entered elementary school, my grandmother decided to pursue her own ambitions. She enrolled in a GED program and upon completion she became a teachers aid the elementary school my mother attended. I too later would attend that elementary school.  My grandmother worked with the NYC Board of Education until 1992 when she officially retired at the age of seventy two.  While working she enrolled in BMCC community college in downtown Manhattan where she received her Associate Degree in Liberal Arts. She graduated at the age of sixty nine.  Luisa Hernandez Terc died on February 2006 of breast cancer. She was seventy five years old.




This Ngram View visualization shows how many times the word Puerto Rico was used in books from 1800-2010.  The chart reaches it peak towards the end of the 1940s, symbolizing their importance and relevance to labor during war eras.

Puerto Ricans migrated into the United States for mainly for economic independence and to be used as cheap labor for major cities such as New York.  With the inaction of the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917 Puerto Ricans were made full citizens of the United States, allowing them to travel freely. My grandmother, Luisa Hernandez Terc, managed to come over during the third major immigration wave to New York City in search of a better life for herself and her family.  I am forever grateful at her strength and perseverance to excel and make sure her linage did the same. As it stands today both of her children earned higher education degrees at Universities and all of her grandchildren are college graduates.


















Scratch is an interactive programming tool that allows you to make program different animations and make them do what you want them to do. As an adult, for myself, I do not see myself using this program much if at all, but for the younger crowd, elementary and middle school age, I can see this being something fun to do while learning how to use programing tools.  With technology being to prevalent, it is important for the youth to be engaged in these types of tools and programs, which can only help them develop their technical minds for later projects.

The Stability of Information Technology and Digital Records

I believe it’s just as important to save and keep digital records of current historical events such as 9/11 and the Virginia Tech tragedies in recent American History.  Just in my lifetime I have witnessed an array of natural disasters and 9/11, with my own stories to tell about the events. Years from now people will look up these events to write papers and research on, and being able to see images from the eyes of regular people who witnessed the events is priceless. First hand source accounts of what happened, from many different sources, can paint the picture of what really happened in such events, not just what was covered by the media and government sources. I thought the Hurricane Katrina and Rita site was very powerful in gathering up and reading actual accounts of what happened to the people who were there.  Along with pictures, maps, and personal accounts, site like this will only serve as tools in persevering the recent past and retrieving it in a timely manner.

Data Mining and Text Mining

This weeks readings included sites which contained information on which words were used in different time periods.   Sites such as the Time Magazine Corpus compare which words used from 1923 to the present and its frequency.  I think it’s cool that there are agencies and corporation gathering data like this, because with tools like this, we are able to see how our language has developed and changed.  Historians and Sociologists can use these tools to track patterns and popular language trends.

The Visual Communication of Information

In Edward Tufte’s article “PowerPoint Is Evil”, he makes several points about Microsoft PowerPoint slides shows, exclaiming that “… PowerPoint presentations elevates formats over content, betraying an attitude of commercialism that turns everything into a sales pitch.”  He believes that because there is a limited space where words and charts can be displayed, the information is basically ‘dumbed’ down and overly simplified in order to grab the attention of its audience.  I can personally relate to the skepticism of using PowerPoint slides in certain arenas, such as church. I remember visiting a church in the early 2000’s that were using PowerPoint slides during the sermon.  Coming from a traditional Roman Catholic background, I found this to be very impersonal and at first had a hard time taking this particular institution religiously serious. I remember feeling like I was in a seminar vice Sunday congregation.  Since then I have come accustom to some churches using PowerPoint slides, understanding that times have changed and this is a way to get the key points out to the people, but it still doesn’t feel “right.”


Databases and Statistics

I reviewed the two Feltron reports, the 2010 Annual Report and the 2010/2011 Bicentennial Report. I found the statistical reporting on daily events to be so cool, putting a visualization on everyday events.  The 2010 Annual Report was about paternal biography/genealogy of his father, listed with pictures and places and events he attended throughout his life. It was cool seeing a picture of his dad every 10 years or so until now, and what’s he’s done throughout that certain time period.

While reading through the different reports I couldn’t help but think of Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare, and the statistical data you can get from those sites. For me, a person who is always making random “list” of things, I find reports like these very interesting and fascinating.

Maps, Spatial Analysis & History

I find it exciting that history can be learned through different methods and media’s today. What stuck out to me the most is how precise and advance history and research can be today with GIS mapping and analysis. The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities project is a histography of two counties, and the impact slavery had on them. The site, created and managed by college professors, contains  a lot of information on each city, located north and south of the Mason Dixon line in Pennsylvania and Virginia.  I found it the site to be informative and easy to navigate with tons of links to other related subject, maps and locations, and synopsis for each topic.  The fact that they incorporated a page where you can search for citations, this site is a one-stop shop to learning about these two cities

PhilaPlace was also a cool site that contains a more interactive view to a present day city in Los Angeles, while also presenting historical information. The site contains oral histories and many images, also with pin point locations of old and present day sites. The difference with this site and the Two Cities site is that this one allows regular people to make a log in and submit their own stories.  I think using GIS and other mapping tools in historical projects is exciting and can be challenge older historical facts that may not have been as accurate as we may have thought.  I believe that there is much to still uncover and expose, and using satellite images, and tracking locations, has given average aspiring historians access not available to many before.

Tools and Services

Before this class I did not know Google had so many free applications and tools for regular consumers. With the help of funding with advertisements, Google has made it easier for scholars to document their writings and display them in neat charts. Though I am still unsure on how to use all of these tools, I am excited to learn how to. I like the idea of being able to create your own maps with your own data and share it with others.  I can see modern day Historians using these tools to track locations linked with documents on to track a specific journey or assignment.  Before this class I thought Google was good for mainly emails and internet searching but I am now aware that there is much more, and it’s free!


Securing Information

Securing information is the topic for this weeks’ focus. In the day that our systems and programs and often linked together, the importance of password security and storing data should be people’s top IT priority.  The article How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking, is of Mat Honan, an IT journalist who was hacked into several social media and email accounts by a hacker by the name of Phobia.  Phobia whose purpose, as he said, was to expose the security flaws made by Apple and Amazon.  In the process of this, an entire library of sentimental photographs were forever lost.  Honan resents not backing up his data/photos regularly and not having different user names and passwords for multiple accounts.  He exposes the dangers of using iCloud or other programs like it, which link up several devices, which can be conveniently useful or disastrous.

My mother has lost her iphone twice now in the previous years, each time losing tons of data messages, pictures, contacts, and other vital information to her. She did not regular backup her phone and had to start over each time. From her experience I make sure I password protect my phone, in case I lose it, I hope regular people cannot break in and access my data. This article and other readings this week have reminded me of the importance of internet security and have changed my long term passwords.


Owning the Past

Chapter 7 discusses the history of copyrighting original works. Dating back to the eighteenth century in our country, authors and inventors set the precedence for present day copy right laws. i agree with the plight of the original artist or writer.  I cannot imagine the feeling of having someone’s life’s work or passion being credited to another as their own original thought. But with the emergence of the internet and new forms of media, the laws in place are constantly being challenged. The court systems are not equipped to keep up but there have been cases where the FBI have come after people for violating file sharing laws.

With the emergence of new and constant changing technology, significant culture change has occurred. With the invention of a popular music tool called iTunes, people who wanted to use iPods and now later iPads, are required to pay for music  and video downloads. If you want to be up-to-date in the “Apple community”  you must pay, which I do not have a problem doing (now).