Education

Federal Writer's Project Interview, Case #8, with a Male Immigrant from Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, 1939


Historical Context
During the 1930s and 1940s, there was heavy migration from Puerto Rico to the continental U.S. by people in search of better economic conditions. In 1945, there were 13,000 Puerto Ricans living in New York City. By 1955, there were 700,000, and by the mid-1960s, there were over one million.



The Puerto Rican people, or Puerto Ricans, are U.S. citizens originating from Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans are largely the descendants of native Taíno Indians, Spaniards, and African slaves. Other groups that have settled in Puerto Rican are the Lebanese, Scots, Corsican, Irish, French, German, Chinese, and people from other West Indian islands.



This is an interview of a Puerto Rican immigrant by a reporter working for the Federal Writers’ Project during the Great Depression.  It is part of the Spanish Book.
Essential Question
Why do people migrate?

How does migration affect the migrant and the community into which they migrate?
Check for Understanding
Summarize the main idea of this document and evaluate the significance of the information obtained from this interview.
[click to enlarge]
Puerto Rico, Case #8, New York City Municipal Archives, NYCMA_WPA-FWP_B1_05
Document Description
Interview with a man from Puerto Rico, conducted by José Pastrana, reporter for the New York City Unit of the Federal Writers' Project, February 23, 1939. From Spanish Book—Life Histories (Part 1).
Questions
  1. Why is Rio Piedras an important city in Puerto Rico?
  2. Describe this man’s childhood in Puerto Rico.
  3. Why did he decide to come to New York?
  4. How did he get to New York?  How much was his passage?
  5. Where did he settle once he was in New York City? Why?
  6. Why did he have to give up the trade he had in Puerto Rico when he came to the U.S.?
  7. Where did he get a job?  In what type of industry?
  8. List the kinds of hardships he faced during the Great Depression.
  9. How does he manifest a spirit of optimism?
Historical Challenge
Research the history of East Harlem (El Barrio). Focus on twentieth century residents of the neighborhood. Which ethnic group was predominant prior to the wave of Puerto Ricans who settled there? Why did so many Puerto Ricans choose this area of New York City as their home? How is El Barrio changing today?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Art: Draw a sketch of one of the rooms described in this interview.
Math: Movies cost ten cents in 1939. How much do they cost today? Why has the price gone up? How much did it cost to go to a baseball game? Can most people afford to go to one today?