Puerto Ricans

Merida M Maria Rua, Carmen T Whalen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


This article focuses on the study of Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States and Hawaii, providing an overview of history and contemporary issues as well as of the emergence and current vibrancy of the field of Puerto Rican studies. During the 1800s, many Puerto Ricans arrived as political exiles struggling for Puerto Rico’s independence from Spain and as cigar makers, contributing to the formation of pan-Latino communities. As an outcome of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States acquired Puerto Rico as a colony and has retained political sovereignty since that time. These political ties facilitated the recruitment of Puerto Ricans to work on sugar plantations in Hawaii in 1900 as well as the transformation of Puerto Rico’s economy, which displaced many workers. In 1917, the US Congress unilaterally declared all Puerto Ricans to be US citizens. With US citizenship in hand, with workers displaced from Puerto Rico’s economy, and with US employers recruiting low-wage workers, migration increased after World War I and again after World War II. Although migration has ebbed and flowed, it has continued. More Puerto Ricans now live in the United States than in Puerto Rico, with communities throughout the continental United States and Hawaii. Despite this long history of migration, scholarship on Puerto Ricans began fairly recently, in the post–World War II era. At that time, social scientists turned their attention to Puerto Ricans, who were arriving in dramatically increasing numbers. Their writings reflected many of the dominant perceptions of their time. This scholarship was then challenged by the “new” fields of study that emerged in tandem with the political and social movements of the late 1960s and 1970s. The interdisciplinary field of Puerto Rican Studies emerged as scholars, activists, and artists worked to recover earlier writings of fiction and autobiographical accounts, studied the causes and consequences of migration, explored the emergence of working-class and transnational communities, and produced and studied the full range of creative writings and production. Increasingly, scholars explored the nuances created within Puerto Rican communities based on differences, including gender, sexuality, race, class, religion, politics, and region. More recently, the field has evolved with analysis of interethnic and interracial relations, and a start has been made on comparative analysis of what Puerto Ricans do and do not share with other Latina/o groups as well as with other racial/ethnic groups.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOxford Bibliographies Online
Subtitle of host publicationLatino Studies
EditorsIlan Stavan
PublisherOxford University Press
StatePublished - 2016


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