Population and Society / Foreign Migration to Puerto Rico
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Puerto Rico has received hundreds of immigrants, principally return migrants and their descendents, as well as citizens of other countries, especially the Dominican Republic and Cuba. From the end of the 19th century to the end of the 20th, two basic tendencies have characterized the immigrant population of Puerto Rico (see Table 1) . As a consequence of the decline in Spanish immigrationimmigration: Population movement consisting of the arrival of people to a country or region other than their homeland in order to establish themselves there., the number of foreign residents in Puerto Rico declined greatly between 1899 and 1940. This change can be attributed to the impact of the change of sovereignty from Spain to the United States, under which Spanish immigrants had to submit to US laws, as did other foreigners. Besides this, Puerto Rico ceased to be an attractive destination for immigrants during the first few decades of the twentieth century.

After 1940, especially between 1960 and 1970, the foreign population increased rapidly, primarily as a consequence of immigration from Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Other, smaller groups have come from Spain, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, China, and other countries. The 2000 census found that there were 109,581 residents in Puerto Rico who had been born outside of Puerto Rico and the United States. Of these, 99,409 were from Latin America; 6,605 were from Europe; 3,094 were from Asia; and 473 were from other parts of the world.

The rapid economic growth of Puerto Rico during the 1970s, together with the political turbulence and material difficulties in the countries of origin, attracted many foreigners to Puerto Rico. The growing demand for cheap labor in some economic sectors, such as domestic service, construction, and coffee cultivation continued to attract many Dominicans and other foreigners to Puerto Rico. Between 1960 and 2002, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) recorded the arrival of 118,999 Dominicans, 33,970 Cubans, and 51,339 immigrants from other countries, for a grand total of 204,308 people admitted in this period. This was a considerable number, given Puerto Rico’s population of less than 4 million inhabitants in 2000.

The statistics that are available reveal three fundamental patterns in foreign migration to Puerto Rico. First, the majority of the immigrants settled on the island after 1960, though the stream of Cubans was predominant in the 1960s and the stream of Dominicans most prominent from the 1980s. The influx of Cubans peaked in 1977, while that of the Dominicans reached its greatest numbers in 1994. Second, both movements were small in comparison with the great number of Puerto Ricans who have left for the United States since the 1940s. Demographically, the population movement between Puerto Rico and the mainland is much greater than foreign immigration. Third, the numbers for Cuban migrants are more dependable than for Dominicans, since the latter includes a high proportion of undocumented persons –one third according to an ethnographic study of a Santurce neighborhood.

According to the 2000 census, 9 percent of the residents of Puerto Rico were born abroad, including those born in the United States of Puerto Rican parents. About 3 percent were foreign born, in particular those from the Dominican Republic and Cuba. The Puerto Rican situation presents the apparent paradox of a growing immigrant population –one of the largest in the Caribbean– along with persistent emigrationemigration: The departure of persons from their place of origin to settle elsewhere. to the United States. This combination of a prolonged exodusExodus: Departure of a large number of people from their place of origin. and a substantial influx of return migrants and foreign migrants makes Puerto Rico an exemplary case of contemporary transnational migration.

Autor: Dr. Jorge Duany
Published: September 16, 2014.

Version: 06082105 Rev. 1
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Puerto Rican Diaspora in the United States
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Inmigración y multiculturalismo educativo: El caso de los estudiantes dominicanos en las escuelas puertorriqueñas
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