The migration of Puerto Ricans to the United States that took place after the Second World War was one of the most significant phenomena in the history of Puerto Rico. Even though there was some Puerto Rican emigration from the beginning of the 20th century, by 1944 a little more than 70,000 people had left our shores, on average some 2,000 per year. Between 1945 and 1949, however, 135,000 persons emigrated, for an average rate of 27,000 per year. In 1952 and 1953, 60,000 and 70,000 Puerto Ricans emigrated, the highest figures registered in Puerto Rico up to that time. During the period from 1950 to 1954, more than 237,000 Puerto Ricans moved to the United States, which comes to approximately 47,000 per year. The rate lessened a little during the next five-year period (1955-59), even though 193,000 people emigrated. In all, between 1945 and 1959, more than half a million Puerto Ricans had left our shores.
If we add the total number of emigrants to the number of children that they would have produced in Puerto Rico if they had stayed, we reach the conclusion that between 1940 and 1960, Puerto Rico lost about a million people as a result of this mass emigration. As a consequence, the rate of population growth experienced a considerable reduction between 1940 and 1960.
It is estimated that between 1950 and 1970, some 700,000 Puerto Ricans left Puerto Rico, the great majority of them to live in the United States. According to the census of 1970, there were 1,391,000 persons of Puerto Rican stock, of whom 810,000 were emigrants and 581,000 children of emigrants born in the United States. Taking these numbers into account, Puerto Rican emigration to the United States was responsible for reducing the population of Puerto Rico by 34 percent between 1950 and 1970.
However, since 1957, there has been a radical reduction in the emigration numbers. In 1961, for example, for the first time since the depression era, the records indicate that the number of immigrants to Puerto Rico was 2,000 greater than the number of emigrants. In other words, 2,000 more people entered Puerto Rico than left.
During the 1960s, the emigration of Puerto Ricans born on the island continued to grow while the overall numbers regarding emigration dropped drastically. This was due to a consistent increase in immigration of persons born outside of Puerto Rico. Of this immigration of persons born abroad, approximately 30 per cent were of Puerto Rican stock; that is, one or both of the parents were Puerto Rican. However, the great majority were of foreign ancestry and birth. One might suppose, since the data does not provide this detail, that part of those foreigners were Cubans, especially around the year 1961. The size of the figures indicates that the great majority must have been from the United States. In other words, at the beginning of the 1960s, Puerto Rico apparently experienced an exchange of population rather than a decrease in the emigration of Puerto Ricans.
(Adapted by Jorge Duany)
José L. Vázquez Calzada, “La emigración puertorriqueña: ¿Solución o problema?” Revista de Ciencias Sociales 7, no. 4 (1963): 323-332.
Author: José L Vázquez Calzada
Published: September 12, 2014.
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