One of the outstanding phenomena of post-World War II America has been a new and quite unusual wave of immigration of some...


SPANISH HARLEM: The Journey to New York

One of the outstanding phenomena of post-World War II America has been a new and quite unusual wave of immigration of some 120,000 men, women and children from Puerto Rico. These people have settled mainly in the Barrio (section or neighborhood) of East or Spanish Harlem. Theirs has been an immigration like none other--these people are citizens--though in great part non-English speaking--theirs is an immigration with the highest percentage of Negro and mixed blood, creating additional problems and burdens to the already high number faced by any newcomer to a strange land. But, in other ways, these immigrants resemble earlier ones--almost all are industrious, hard-working people, ambitious--almost more so for their children than for themselves, and in the main part they are clean and decent citizens and by island standards above average in intelligence and education (though this latter unfortunately does not hold true when compared to continental U.S. standards). Most are from the urban areas of Puerto Rico. Between January and May, 1948, after more than a year of preliminary research and study, Columbia University personnel interviewed, in their homes, representatives or members of 1,113 households comprising some 5,000 Puerto Ricans. They found a shy, bewildered people, eager and willing but beset by grave problems ranging from hopelessly decaying rat and roach infested tenements where scrupulous housewives waged eternal battle with the ""wild"" life to strong prejudices that hemmed them in residentially, socially and as far as job opportunities were concerned. All were somewhat stunned by the colder atmosphere of the big city. In an age of increasing specialization, these people's lack of education opportunities and knowledge of English has not worked them in good stead. Though sometimes bitter and often discouraged, the interviewees repeated again and again the eternal hope of all ""new"" Americans--that the future could and would be better--for their children if not for themselves. The volume opens with a fairly long and through history and background of Puerto Rico as well as a comprehensive description of modern conditions on the island. Fully annotated and documented, this is a scholarly and well-written report on a grievous problem. A long and prominently placed illustrated article in the June 12th issue of TIME Magazine ought to help sales.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 1950


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1950