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Federal Writer's Project Interview, Case of "A.B.," with a Male Immigrant from Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, 1939

Puerto Rico, Case of A.B.
New York City Municipal Archives, NYCMA_WPA-FWP_B1_10
Document Description
Interview with a man from Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, conducted by Walt Anderson, reporter for the New York City Unit of the Federal Writers' Project, March 1, 1939. From Spanish Book—Life Histories (Part 1).
How old was this man at the time of the interview?
What were his career goals?
What amount of schooling did he finish?
What amount of schooling did he finish?
What events changed his plan?
When did he come to New York?
What kind of work was he able to find?
Did any of his jobs make use of his university education?
What is a fraternal club?
What kind of work do you suppose he has done “for his people”?
Why would he do these things for strangers?
Would you characterize this man as an immigrant? Why or why not?
Was his life improved by coming to the mainland? Why or why not?
How do you think his life might have been different had he stayed on the island?
Historical Challenges
Research a number of Hispanics who came to the U.S. mainland from Puerto Rico in the same time period as this man. Were his experiences typical or not? Explain.
Interview a recent immigrant using some of the questions asked during this interview.
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Write a letter to your family back home telling them how things have changed for you, having come from being the child of a wealthy family and pre-med student you were to the postal worker you are now.
English as a Second Language/Foreign Language: Use key phrases to describe the progression of this man’s life.
Art: Make a collage that includes images that represent this man’s experiences as an immigrant.
Math: Using the inflation calculator listed under Resources below, determine what this man’s wages in the 1920s and 1930s would be today. Would you say he made a lot of money or not? Explain.
Music: Write a ballad about this man’s life. Set it to music that fits with the emotion of the story.
Matos-Rodriguez, Felix. Pioneros: Puerto Ricans in New York City 1892-1948. Arcadia Publishing, 2001.

Historical Context
On May 6, 1935, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created to help provide economic relief to the citizens of the United States who were suffering through the Great Depression. Though some 90% of WPA projects were directed at unskilled blue-collar workers, the WPA also employed many previously unemployed white-collar artists, musicians, actors, and writers in such projects as the Federal Theater Project and the Federal Writers’ Project.    

Over 8.5 million Americans were hired through the WPA, mostly to work in manual labor and at building roads and constructing parks. 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 interviews with former slaves and immigrants.

This interview was part of the Spanish Book. Puerto Rico was owned by the U.S. at the time.

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.