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11.05 Puerto Rican Voters

Citron for Congress campaign wagon in East Harlem, New York City, 1956.

A colony of Spain for centuries, Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. Puerto Rican nationalists, like Eugenio Maria de Hostos, had fought for independence, but now found their nation a colony of the United States. Not until the passage of the Jones Act in 1917 would the United States allow Puerto Ricans to elect their own bicameral legislature.

The Jones Act also made all Puerto Ricans citizens of the United States, allowing them to migrate to the mainland when other immigrant groups found the doors barred by the Immigration Act of 1924. This migration grew in the 1950s and 60s, especially to New York City, as islanders came to the United States in search of greater opportunity and flights to New York became more affordable. By 1973, 40 percent of Puerto Ricans were living in the United States.

Nydia Velazquez: the first Latina appointed to the New York City Council. In 1992, she became the first Puerto Rican women elected to Congress where she currently serves.

Unlike other immigrant groups, Puerto Ricans, because of their U.S. citizenship, were able to vote upon arrival in the mainland. In East Harlem, Oscar Garcia-Rivera, elected to the New York State Assembly in 1936, became the first Puerto Rican elected to political office in the continental United States. Herman Badillo was elected Bronx Borough President in 1965 and would be elected to Congress in 1970, a first in both cases. In New York City, Puerto Ricans would become the dominant ethnic group in the Bronx and in many other neighborhoods in other boroughs. Their growing political strength would help to elect Nydia Velazquez, the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress; former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer; Olga Mendez, the first Puerto Rican elected to a state senate in the United States; and Carmen Arroyo, the first Latina elected to the New York State Assembly.



Campaign poster for New York State Assembly Member Oscar Garcia-Rivera, the first Puerto Rican elected to office in the continental United States.
Eugenio Maria de Hostos: born in Puerto Rico in 1839, Hostos was an advocate for freedom thoughout Latin America.
Felipe Torres, Assembly Member from 1952 to 1961. The first Puerto Rican elected to public office in the Bronx.

























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