New York State Archives
Throughout the Ages
A Visual Document Resource

History | Buffalo | Latino Communities

Image. Photo of the de Castro brother standing in front of their cigar shop, 1886.
From left, brothers Jose Marcelino de Castro, Julio de Castro, and Eduardo de Castro in front of their cigar shop at 3 & 5 Coenties Slip, NYC, circa 1886. Julio later migrated to Buffalo and became one of the earliest Puerto Ricans to make his home in the city. Courtesy of J. Edmund de Castro, Jr.

During the 1950s, significant numbers of Puerto Ricans began arriving in the Buffalo area. A 1953 Courier Express news article stated that at least 1,500 Puerto Ricans had settled in the area. Most of them first arrived as migrant farm laborers during the late 1940s and early 1950s, however, a small number of Puerto Ricans had made their home in Buffalo much earlier. Julio de Castro was one of the first Puerto Ricans to arrive in the city. He worked for the Foster McClellan Company (later known as Foster Milburn) in the early 1900s and eventually became the company's General Manager. He was able to send his son, Julian Edmond, to a prestigious private school. Julian served in the Navy During World War I aboard the warship Arizona, and later became a valued reporter for the Buffalo Evening News.

The number of Puerto Ricans who migrated to the area increased greatly during the 1950's as they escaped the poor socioeconomic conditions of the island. Most of them arrived as migrant labor at first, traveling back and forth from their home on the island to the Buffalo area during growing season. The story of Eugenio Fuentes was typical. He was recruited by a labor boss in Puerto Rico to work on the farms of North Collins, NY around 1953. Once he decided to make his home in the area in the 1960s, he moved his family to the city of Buffalo and got a job with New York Central Railroad. Puerto Ricans also found jobs at Bethlehem Steel, Pillsbury flour mills, and other factories including Ford and Chevy, but many found only menial jobs because of language difficulties and their lack of a good educational background. At first, Puerto Ricans settled on the East Side of the city but when the city began tearing down houses for urban renewal in the 1960s, large numbers of them moved to the Lower West Side.

Vocabulary

Prestigious: Describing a reputation based on high achievement, character, wealth or power.
Socioeconomic: Involving factors that are both economic and social.
Labor boss: In this case, someone in Puerto Rico who recruited migrant labor for U.S. farms and businesses.
Menial: Work requiring little skill, usually paying very little.

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