Unlike the other “American Latinos,” Puerto Ricans are not considered immigrants to the United States, but instead are considered American citizens by birth, thanks to the Spanish-American war, the annexation of Puerto Rico, and its subsequent status as a U.S. Commonwealth. Puerto Ricans began coming to the United States over a century and a half ago. In some years, as many as 5 million Puerto Ricans travel between the island of Puerto Rico and the continental U.S. As of the year 2000, New York had the largest Puerto Rican population (1,050,293) followed in second by Florida as 482,027. Today an estimated 650,000 Puerto Ricans live in the state of Florida, mostly in Central Florida. (30)
Although not defined as immigrants, Puerto Ricans decision to move the US resembles those of immigrants: the pursuit of the “American Dream.” Upon United States' occupation of Puerto Rico the island went from a diversified economy with four basic crops for export (tobacco, cattle, coffee, and sugar) to a sugarcane economy. The 1920s witnessed a decline in the cane-based industry that led to high unemployment and the first wave of migration to the U.S. (31) Twenty years later the effects of World War II did not evade the small Caribbean island. In the 1940s and 1960s the labor force participation rate of Puerto Ricans was among the highest of any group in the United States.
Puerto Ricans consistently find themselves in the lowest median income level and highest poverty levels of all Latino groups not only in Miami, but throughout the US. This leads to high dropout rates among students, drug addictions, and crime. During the 1970's many radical organizations developed in the fight against racism and poverty among Puerto Rican workers. Perhaps the most famous of these organizations were the Young Lords Party, El Comite MPI, and the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. These unions were short lived but together helped to create a stronger bond between Puerto Ricans and other minority groups in the fight against racial injustice. (32) Today Puerto Ricans continue to join other Latinos in the fight for better education, employment, and healthcare throughout the nation.