Examine The Puertorican Experience Of Settlement In

The USA Essay, Research Paper

Thernstrom and Orlov in The Harvard Encyclopaedia of American Ethnic Groups define the term Hispanic as “an easy way to collectively refer to a growing number of Spanish origin or Spanish -speaking people in the United States”. The main component groups of the Hispanic population of the United States are Cubans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and to a lesser extent Dominicans, and other Central and South Americans. This umbrella term is therefore used to describe dissimilar peoples from different countries, with different ethnic backgrounds, physical characteristics, cultures and socioeconomic status. This diversity manifests itself in the diversity of their settlement. In this essay I hope to discuss the differences and similarities between the three main Hispanic groups, the Mexicans, Cubans and Puerto Ricans and in light of this, work towards an understanding of why the Puerto Rican experience of settlement in the USA has been so markedly unique. The history of Mexican immigration started with the invasion and annexation of Mexico during the 1845-55 war. But since then immigration has continued almost continuously. In 1990 there were 13 million or 5.47% of the population, Mexicans resident legally in the USA. Ninety percent of the Mexican American population lived in the south west, the remainder have moved in search of employment in the Midwest. A number of important factors can now be recognised. The Mexican population is now a national as opposed to a regional minority, urban rather than rural and industrial rather than agricultural. The average Mexican is bi-lingual in Spanish and English, and was born in the US of US born parents. That is to say a third generation immigrant. Furthermore the average Mexican is Catholic although he attends mass less frequently than other Catholics. Generally the average Mexican is less well educated than average in the US and racially is a mixture of white Spanish and Indian, although some black ancestry may be present. Cubans are a far more recent immigrant group. In 1990 there were just over a million Cubans in the USA. Ever since the 1959 revolution in Cuba there has been a steady flow of exiles. This flow has increased considerably with the Cuban Missile crisis and the classification of Cubans as political refugees. By the 1970¹s they were beginning to become established in southern cities, being 99% urban , and in Miami, which now has approximately 40% of Cubans in the USA. Those Cubans who first emigrated were those wealthier Cubans who stood to lose from the revolution. This has now steadily become less the case and now the average Cuban is on average likely to be less wealthy than the average American and more likely to be unemployed. A crucial difference is that Cuban migration to the USA was driven by a socialist state. As a result the Cuban migrants are effectively in exile. As a result of this involuntary migration the desire to maintain their native culture is very strong. This is most obviously reflected in the common use of Spanish. The size of the Cuban population in Miami is now so great that Cubans need little interaction with other cultural groups. There are Cuban television and radio stations, shop and newspapers, and Miami is now virtually a bi-lingual city. Traditional the Cuban family unit is extended and although this has declined in frequency, the family unit is usually larger than the average nuclear family. The Cuban culture also has resulted in little marriage across cultural barriers. This has resulted in the maintenance of a strong Cuban culture. Importantly, according to the 1970 US census 95% of Cuban Americans are white, with the remainder having some African ancestry. Puerto Ricans have had citizenship of the USA since 1917 and therefore immigration to the mainland has been occurring since then. Mass migration occurred in the late 1960¹s and 1970¹s as unemployment in Puerto Rica, population pressures, ease of transport to the US and an already established Puerto Rican community in the US provided a very tempting stimulus for migration. The Puerto Rican population in 1990 was a little under three million, approximately one percent of the total population. 69% of Puerto Ricans are located in the North East, mainly in New York but also now in Detroit sand Chicago. Puerto Ricans have generally not sought to maintain their culture in the ways that other European migrants did in the earlier half of this century. Significantly there is a sizable element of African ancestry in the Puerto Rican population. 7% of Puerto Ricans in New York classified themselves as black. It is evident that these three Hispanic groups differ culturally and in the history of their migration to the USA. Another crucial difference is in their socio-economic status. The Statistical Abstract of the USA (1993) gives a detailed breakdown of varying socio-economic indicators according to ethnic grouping. These indicators include educational attainment, levels of unemployment, family status and owner occupied housing. The Statistical Abstract gives data based upon the 1990 US census. A measure of Educational attainment is given in terms of the percentage of people, older than twenty five, who have completed high school education. 46.2% of Mexicans, 59.8% of Puerto Ricans, and 62.1% of Cubans had completed their high school education or higher. In terms of unemployment, 10.7% of Mexicans, 7.8% of Cubans and 12.8% of Puerto Ricans were unemployed (Total unemployment as a percentage of the civilian labour force). Cubans were on average wealthier having a median income of $31 015, compared to $23 714 of the Mexicans and only $20 301 of the Puerto Ricans. Then finally in terms of owner occupied housing, only 23.4% of Puerto Ricans were owner occupiers, compared to 44.1% of Mexicans and 53.1% of Cubans. All these data reflect the average lower socio-economic status of the Puerto Rican population of the USA. This is central to the explanation of their unique settlement patterns. Hispanics throughout the USA have had very different and very peculiar settlement experiences. However even within the Hispanic settlement experience, Puerto Ricans have shown some unique patterns. A few general observations can be made. Hispanics are in general more segregated than whites but less segregated than blacks. This holds for all groups however Puerto Ricans in New York are less segregated from blacks than they are from whites. Furthermore, Hispanics are more concentrated in city center than whites but less concentrated than blacks. Kantrowitz (1969) noted that Puerto Ricans in New York surrounded black ghettos, and that black Puerto Ricans were closest to the black ghetto, whilst white Puerto Ricans were closest to the edge and the white neighbourhoods. This lead Kantrowitz to suggest that the Puerto Ricans formed the “foothills to the black mountains”. Finally, Hispanics are all equally segregated from each other as they are from other groups, which is surprising considering their cultural similarity. The experience of Anglo and African American settlement in the USA has been very different, yet earlier theories of assimilation were based upon this Anglo experience, and suggested that a group would become more integrated with the host community and that desegregation would occur with time and with socio-economic development. Taeuber and Taeuber (1965) were the first to recognise that this theory was not universally applicable to all ethnic groups. They showed that despite socio-economic advancement and a long duration of settlement, blacks remained highly segregated. Kantrowitz further discredited this theory in noting that even culturally similar groups, such as white Protestant Norwegians and Swedes, had remained segregated from one another. The invasion and succession model was developed to explain the high levels of black segregation. This model proposed that a group which was highly segregated would move into other areas and as it did so the original group would move out. Massey and Bitterman realised that neither of the two conventional theories fitted the experience of the Puerto Rican group in the USA. Massey recognised thatb there were some unique aspects of the Puerto Rican experience. Puerto Rican settlement was characterized by high segregation form non-Hispanic whites and low segregation from blacks. Added to this was the fact that there appeared to be no link between levels of segregation and socio economic status. Peter Jackson noted perhaps the greatest oddity, the paradox that despite being highly segregated from native whites, Puerto Ricans are still less segregated from them than are blacks, even though blacks out rank them in every socio-economic aspect. Massey and Bitterman put forward three hypothesis in order to explain these anomalies. The first hypothesis was the ethnic solidarity hypothesis, in other words that the Puerto Rican group actively sought to segregate themselves. The second hypothesis is that of the Anglo prejudice hypothesis. This states that Puerto Ricans wish to assimilated but white prejudice prevents them from doing so. The final hypothesis is the racial heritage hypothesis. This suggests that because many Puerto Ricans have strong black ancestry, they do not see any stigma in locating near blacks. In doing so they become the bystander victims of white racial tension towards blacks. Massey and Bitterman used both the index of dissimilarity (id) and the P* index, which is a measure of possible contact, to investigate the first hypothesis. According to the solidarity hypothesis there should be a pattern of invasion and succession, but this invasion should only be occuring as overflow from established areas and therefore should not in any way be correlated to socio-economic status. There is substantial evidence to prove that this is not the case. Firstly invasion is occurring at twice the rate of sucession and only appears to be triggered in those census tracts which contain blacks. In these cases it is difficult to tell whether it is the blacks or the Puerto Ricans which trigger the succession. Secondly, using any of the measures of socio-econmic status, the Puerto Ricans loced in the invasion tracts are always of a higher socio-economic status than that of those to be found in the established areas. Finaly, invasion areas are not located adjacent to the established areas but are usually at some distance, suggesting that they are not spill overs from the Barrio. This evidence therefore undermines the hypothesis that Puerto Rican settlement patterns are brought about by ethnic solidarity. Evidence supporting the Anglo Predjudice model is however stronger. Firstly, if Puerto Ricans in New York are comared to Mexicans in Los Angeles it can be seen that the Puerto Ricans, it is evident that Puerto Ricans occupy only 25% of New York census tracts, whereas Mexicans occupy 77% of census tracts in Los Angeles. Even more convincing evidence is seen when considering whether invasion of an are is followed by a loss or gain in the white population of an area. When Mexicans invaded an area there was a 50/50 chance that whites would flee. In the case of Puerto Ricans, when blacks are present they only had an 11% chance of gaining anglos and a 93% chance of anglo loss without blacks present. This suggests that anglos view Puerto Ricans in the same way as they view blacks. Using discriminate function analysis Massey and Bitterman were able to highlight those features which caused Anglos to avoid Puerto Rican areas. The percentage of the Hispanic group which were black, the proximity of the nearest established Puerto Rican area and the percentage of native stock all appeared to have only the most minimal influence upon the actions of Anglos. The most important factors were proximity to the nearest black area and the socio-economic status of the Puerto Ricans. Anglos clearly avoid settlement near Puerto Ricans. However this is not due to any antipathy towards them as Puerto Ricans, their African ancestry, nor from their recent immigration. It would appear that “Anglo avoidance of Puerto Rican invasion areas stems from the relatively low social status of Puerto Ricans, and their common location near existing black neighbourhoods”. According to Massey and Bitterman therefore, it is not “Puerto Ricans that Anglos avoid, but blacks; and the fact that needs explaining is not why Anglos avoid Puerto Ricans, but why Puerto Ricans are so likely to live near blacks.” The final hypothesis is the Racial Heritage Hypothesis. One of the main elements of the ecological theory is that minority groups try convert social and status attainments into spatial distance from the ethnic enclave, and into greater assimilation into the host society. Massey and Bitterman, in their comparison of the ability of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans to convert attainments of social status into desegregation, were able to show that Mexicans were far more able to make the conversion than were Puerto Ricans. The reason for this, they believed was the negative influence of the blacks within the Puerto Rican community. They were able to show that if one were able to control the negative impact of racial heritage, the Puerto Ricans would conform to the expected pattern of desegregation with higher socio-economic status. It is therefore evident that the Hispanic population of the USA is far from homogenous. Indeed one group in particular stands out. The Puerto Ricans are substantially different to both Mexicans and Cubans and this is reflected in their unique settlement experience. The key to this difference in their spatial situation lies in two fundamental characteristics: they are poorer and they are blacker. Their low socio-economic status prevents them from being able to dra away from predominantly black areas and their racial heritage draws them strongly towards residence near and among blacks. It might therefore be concluded that the paradox of Puerto Rican segregation might have something to do with the “ambiguities of Puerto Rican ethnicity”(Jackson).


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