You are here

Federal Writer's Project Interview, Case #6, with a Male Immigrant from San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1939

Puerto Rico, Case #6
New York City Municipal Archives, NYCMA_WPA-FWP_B1_04
Document Description
Interview with a man from San Juan, Puerto Rico, conducted by José Pastrana, reporter for the New York City Unit of the Federal Writers' Project, February 20, 1939. From Spanish Book—Life Histories (Part 1).
Where was this individual born?
What skills did he learn from his brother?
Why did he find it necessary to leave the island of Puerto Rico?
Why did he work as a mess-boy on the S.S. Coamo?
What is a mess-boy? What is the S.S. Coamo?
Harlem was an African-American neighborhood by the 1920s. Why would Hispanics find it easier to settle and live in this area?
What kinds of jobs did he do once he was in New York?
What traits would you say he demonstrated as a person?
How can we tell that he admired President Franklin Delano Roosevelt?
Historical Challenges
Study the life of Luis Munoz Marin and the beginnings of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Analyze the impact on Puerto Rico from: Operation Bootstrap, tourism in the 1960s, the Cuban exile community residing in Puerto Rico, and the referendums on Puerto Rico’s political status. Create a Power Point presentation from this information.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: Many of this man’s family members were ill. Identify the illnesses and explain the symptoms and causes of each. Research the treatment of these conditions today.
English Language Arts: Interview a recent immigrant to the U.S. Find out the reasons he or she came and whether he or she is happy about his/her decision.
Matos-Rodriguez, Felix. Pioneros: Puerto Ricans in New York City 1892-1948. Arcadia Publishing, 2001.

Historical Context
Puerto Rico became a possession of the United States as a result of the Spanish-American War in 1898. In 1917, the Jones Act made Puerto Ricans United States citizens. 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.

During the Great Depression, unemployed artists and writers were given work through a branch of the WPA known as the Federal Writers’ Project. Among the most compelling products of the Writers’ Project are the interviews with former slaves and immigrants.  This is an interview with a Puerto Rican immigrant that describes why he came here and the conditions he lived in.

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.