A Commentary Report: The Puerto Ricans
IF SOMEONE twenty-five years ago had looked around at the potential sources of new immigration to New York City, his eye might well have fallen on Puerto Rico, but he would probably also have concluded that the Puerto Ricans, if they came to New York, would have a very hard time adapting. Puerto Rico in the middle 30′s-after thirty-five years of American administration-was a scene of almost unrelieved misery. It was overcrowded and disease-ridden, almost without industry, suffering from the collapse of its major cash crop (sugar), its population undereducated and underemployed. Puerto Rico was also unsure in its cultural traditions and without a powerful faith. Nor was there much strength in the Puerto Rican family. In some ways, it was a family similar to the type we find in peasant Europe-patriarchal and authoritarian, the man reigning as absolute despot, demanding obedience and respect from wife and children. However, this was not the family of the Polish or South Italian peasant. The major difference was the wide extent of unstable consensual or common-law marriage; more than one-quarter of the marriages were of this kind, and as a result about one-third of the births were formally illegitimate. In both legal and consensual marriage, moreover, concubinage and sexual adventurism on the part of the men were widely accepted, which meant that children often grew up in confused family settings and that great strain existed between husbands and wives. Children were loved in Puerto Rico-this was fortunate since there were so many. And yet it has frequently been said that their mothers perhaps loved them as much as they did in order to make up for neglect by their husbands.
About the Author