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Adjustment Challenges: Puerto Ricans in New York City, 1938-1945. The Writings of Patria Aran Gosnell, Lawrence Chenault, and Frances M. Donohue.

Thematic Analysis: Biographies, and Comparisons based on the insights of each author: Lawrence Chenault was a trained sociologist who began his academic career at the University of Puerto Rico. Chenault then moved to New York where he worked at The Hunter College of the City University of New York and Columbia University. Lawrence Chenault's duality of experience with being an Islander and observing the social conditions in Puerto Rico firsthand; then, moving to New York gave him a better ethnographic lens to study Puerto Ricans and their migration patterns to New York. The authors believe that it was this "duality of experience" that provided Chenault with a better conceptual framework to understand the Puerto Rican culture of these migrants and the many hardships that they faced in arriving to New York. In his monumental book, The Puerto Rican Migrant in New York City, Chenault talked about the economic and social factors that prevented the Puerto Rican migrants at first from achieving upward mobility and acceptance from the majority white culture. These factors included lack of employment, poverty, language barriers, and cultural alienation that made these migrants feel more socially isolated and marginalized by the majority culture (Chenault 1938).

Lawrence Chenault's Contribution to Early Puerto Rican Migration History

Chenault in his book, The Puerto Rican Migrant in New York City (1938), sheds light on the migration trends of Puerto Ricans to New York City from the time period of the 1910s to the late 1930s. Chenault is quoted by Aran in her dissertation as saying that "the present significance of the problem lies not so much in the number of Puerto Ricans now residing in this country as in the fact that migration from the Island to New York will be greatly accelerated in the near future." According to Chenault, the past migration from the Island constituted "only a small beginning of the migration which will soon take place" (Chenault 1938, 47, 48). In a cutting-edge assertion stated at the time that he wrote his study, Chenault accurately predicted the future migration trends of Puerto Ricans to New York. He provided an accurate description of the social, family, health, educational, and economic characteristics of this migrant group. Chenault also provided an important statistical and historical narrative that Aran used to support the many arguments that she made in her dissertation. Chenault pointed out that the increased settlement in Harlem, which included "Negroes and other racial groups," made "the study of this Puerto Rican migrant group important historically" (Chenault 1938, 49).

Patria Aran Gosnell, was a doctoral student whose dissertation focused on the maladjustments which Puerto Ricans experienced vis-a-vis their migration experience to New York. Aran Gosnell was not a professionally trained sociologist like Chenault; as a result, Aran's worldview may have been somewhat limited. Hence Aran Gosnell's work focused on primary and secondary sources to explain the adjustment challenges and hardships that these newly arrived Puerto Rican migrants were facing in a cold, harsh, and unwelcoming New York environment (Aran 1938). These maladjustments ranged from problems with poverty, poor physical and mental health, illiteracy, over-crowded living conditions, and other obstacles that made it less likely that these Puerto Ricans would be able to succeed in the mainstream culture. Although Aran provided relevant information on the Puerto Rican migrants access to social services agencies and the results of those interventions, Aran fell short, by failing to publish subsequent work and detailed scholarship regarding the migrants' narratives about what it was like to live in a place like New York. It would have been interesting if Aran would have been able to produce additional scholarly work on these migrants and how they were able to evolve and eventually contribute to the New York Diaspora. Given her lack of academic scholarship and productivity, Patria Aran Gosnell has unfortunately been a mystery. Unlike Lawrence Chenault, and other Latino scholars, Aran has not received enough credit for bringing the topic of Puerto Ricans and their New York migration history into a social, political, and historical landscape. Although she wrote what was considered an excellent doctoral dissertation back in 1945, Aran did not receive any real recognition, not even by her own husband Charles Frances Gosnell, who later published some articles based on Arans' ideas. As authors of this manuscript, we can only speculate on what other scholarly works Patria Aran would have been able to produce had she been provided with the right social supports and mentors at the time. Maybe the impact of her divorce from her husband, who was a well-respected New York University librarian, may have played a role in her inability to produce more relevant scholarship.

Frances Marie Donohue's master's thesis and case study approach provided a detailed record of Puerto Rican migrants in the Brooklyn Colony and the many hardships that they experienced. These Puerto Rican migrants were shunned and heavily discriminated by white immigrants and other ethnic groups in Brooklyn, who did not want them to work or settle in these areas. Donohue's case study approach also provides support for the notion that Black Puerto Rican families were also heavily discriminated by settlement houses, landlords, and other agencies like the Brooklyn Catholic Charities due to lack of access and barriers that were prevalent at the time.

The Melting Pot Assimilation Theory:

As it relates to the works of Chenault, Aran, and Donohue, assimilation theory was the prevailing policy in the United States and this policy helped to shape the world-view regarding the cultural and ethnic identity of most immigrant groups who arrived to the US. Assimilation occurs when an individual makes a choice to abandon their native language and culture of origin and fully immerses him or herself into learning the language and ethnic traditions of their new host culture (Holleran and Jung 2005). Acculturation on the other hand, is experienced by every cultural group, particularly Latino immigrants. Acculturation is defined as the process whereby the migrant group partially adopts the language, values, and cultural beliefs of the new host culture, while maintaining the language and culture of their own native culture (Berry 2009; Falicov 2015).

Based on the evidence provided by Aran, Chenault, Donohue, and others, it was the "melting pot" assimilation strategy that was the dominant acculturation model that most Puerto Rican migrants were pressured to adopt. However, despite the ideals of the melting pot model, the reality was that there were major obstacles that did not allow most Puerto Ricans to assimilate into the economic mainstream. These obstacles had a particularly important impact on the darker complected Puerto Ricans who showed so-called "negroid" features, or other phenotypical differences. It was these individuals who were most victimized by racial prejudice and discrimination. These darker complected Puerto Ricans were marginalized and separated from the American mainstream to a greater degree than the lighter skinned Puerto Ricans and those who could "pass" for white. It was the lighter skinned Puerto Ricans who seemed to have had a somewhat easier time assimilating into the dominant culture. Based on the evidence provided by Aran, Chenault, and Donohue, it appears that the darker complected Puerto Ricans were more reluctant to learn the English language and chose to separate themselves from the majority culture to a greater degree than the lighter complected Puerto Ricans. The reason for this refusal to assimilate may be attributed to the fact that the darker complected Puerto Ricans did not feel welcomed and often felt alienated from the white majority culture (Thomas, 2010). Instead, they chose to maintain their traditional Hispanic Caribbean culture, music, and ethnic traditions. Most important, they decided to keep their ability to speak Spanish as opposed to English. The darker Puerto Ricans were also inclined to congregate in their own lower income ethnic enclaves. This approach reinforced their ability to maintain their island traditions and native language. It also led to the emergence of an acculturation style that was at best bicultural, with a de-emphasis on total assimilation into the American mainstream culture. The failure of the melting pot assimilation model in this case is clear, as it was, and is to this day for African Americans, Afro-West Indians, and other defined racial minorities. Jews, Irish, and Italians were also defined as racial minorities in the early 20th century, and also experienced heavy social discrimination. However, the views toward these groups had changed over time as they became more Americanized and defined as whites and were thus able to assimilate. The same was not true for Puerto Ricans--especially for the darker Puerto Ricans--and it remains untrue until the present day as a result of the establishment of an actual if unofficial Hispanic racial category in the U.S. census that may also impact the lighter Puerto Ricans and other Latinos who may actually pass for white (Haslip-Viera, Falcon, Matos Rodriguez 2004; Thomas 2010; Rodriguez 1997).

Race and Discrimination against Puerto Ricans in the 1930's and 1940's

On the topic of race, we can speculate that Aran may have taken a liberal centrist position on the subject of race given the fact that she was working on a pioneering study of Puerto Ricans at New York University. Hence Aran may have felt that it was best not to address the issue of race based on the emerging island ideology that there was no race discrimination among Puerto Ricans and that all Puerto Ricans were part of a de-racialized gran familia puertorriquena (the Great Puerto Rican Family) (Haslip-Viera, Falcon and Matos Rodriguez 2004). Further, Aran seemed to be of the mindset that Puerto Ricans on the Island and in New York were an open and friendly group, who were facing serious challenges to their social adjustment on many levels. According to this view, Puerto Ricans either did not have the time or at worst felt that colorism, race, or racial discrimination against the darker complected Puerto Ricans was a distant second to their many other needs. One needs to remember the historical context that was occurring during the time period that Aran was working on her doctoral dissertation. The authors speculate that Aran probably experienced racial discrimination and sexism even though she was most likely a light complected Puerto Rican. Since Aran may also have been the only female Latina/Puerto Rican doctoral student at NYU, she was properly treated as such by her white classmates and professors. The authors also speculate that during the time that Aran was working on her doctoral dissertation, there was a strong discrimination against Puerto Rican scholars who were interested in conducting cutting-edge research on marginalized populations--in this case Puerto Ricans.

The authors will also speculate that Frances Marie Donohue, being a white female, was not afraid to discuss the subject of race. Donohue was a graduate student at Fordham University. She was probably advised by her research mentor to employ a different theoretical framework that was different from that of Chenault (she had no knowledge of Aran). Donohue's theoretical framework focused on the social work case study model that was used by Catholic Charities and other social service agencies who catered to the needs of immigrant families at the time. This model was known as "the case study approach," which is still used in qualitative research today. The case study approach looks at the person or family in their immediate environment. It also examines the problems that the client or family are having, and the negative impact these problems may have on their occupational or social functioning (Zastrow, Kirst-Ashman 2015). A systems perspective is also used to examine how the Micro, Mezzo, Macro context, and other social systems can help to empower that family or individual with immediate resources to alleviate his/her situation. The role that social workers play in this case study approach is to help empower the client by connecting them with social resources, be it financial or concrete (e.g., housing, vocational, employment training), to help the individual client or family to improve their economic situation (Falicov 2015; Gutierrez, Zuniga and Lum 2004).

It is also speculation that Frances Marie Donohue's Master's thesis did not focus exclusively on race, since very little was known back then of race as a social construct and its many dimensions. Moreover, the way of assessing race was problematic given the unreliable methods that were used by census enumerators during this time period. Hence, the race question was worthless because it was based on the U.S. racial binary category of "Negro," "White," and "Other." Miriam Jimenez Roman pointed out in a review of the early US census data that ethnic White enumerators defined Puerto Ricans as "Negro" regardless of their appearance or lighter skinned features, while Puerto Rican and other Latino enumerators defined Puerto Ricans as "White" (Jimenez Roman 2010). The census enumerators of this time period often looked at Puerto Ricans "one dimensionally and in a contradictory manner" (Haslip-Viera 2009). In spite of this, Donohue discussed the issue of race and talked about how having darker features was a major barrier for upward mobility, and language acquisition.

Donohue: Puerto Ricans in the Brooklyn Colony

Donohue does make reference to the fact that having "negroid" or darker skin features made these Puerto Rican migrants invisible to the majority culture (Donohue 1945, 38-9,70-1). The migrants in the Brooklyn colony who were darker had different barriers when compared with the lighter skinned Puerto Rican migrants. Added to this phenomenon of race and colorism were the poor living conditions, poor health, high rates of tuberculosis, illiteracy, poverty, and an unwillingness or fear to step out of their own ethnic enclave. This fear of being judged or ridiculed as being different by the majority culture made the darker Puerto Rican migrants in the Brooklyn Colony less likely to mingle or socialize with members of the majority culture. This is markedly different from the Puerto Ricans in Harlem and discussed by Aran in her study, which mentioned how these Puerto Ricans were more motivated to step out of their ethnic enclaves and socialize with members of the white majority culture.

Donohue (1945) points out that although the opportunities to interact with other ethnic and European groups were available to them, the Puerto Ricans in the Brooklyn colony did not seem to realize the benefits of doing so. Perhaps it was the language barrier, the social cohesion of living among their own cultural group, and the darker complexion that made these migrants less likely to separate themselves from their own ethnic group. This makes sense, since it was among their own ethnic group that the migrants could feel free to express themselves in Spanish or practice their cultural traditions without being judged by the majority culture (Donohue 1945). Hence it is the authors' view that the migrants in the Brooklyn colony were very limited in their ability to succeed or acculturate to the mainstream American culture. Given their marginalized status, low SES, poor health (e.g., tuberculosis, asthma) and poverty, these migrants felt separated from the mainstream culture and only identified and interacted with members of their own ethnic group. Donohue does state in her thesis: "Unlike other migrant groups who come to this country to improve their economic conditions, the Puerto Rican seems reluctant to separate himself from his present environment because of his language difficulties and his natural inclination to be with his own people" (1945, 81). This group was therefore more culturally homogenous and reluctant to embrace the English language and culture of the majority culture. It is important to mention however, that Donohue is ignoring the fact that in spite of the barriers mentioned, these Puerto Rican migrants were still trying to "make it" and find suitable employment. There was also a need for these migrants to feel validated and accepted by the majority culture. It is also interesting to note that the first point of entry for many Puerto Rican were the docks on the Brooklyn waterfront where the Brooklyn colony was situated (Chenault 1938; Donohue 1945). This was the first stop-off or point of arrival for these Puerto Rican migrants who first arrived in Brooklyn and eventually moved to Harlem and other parts of the city. The Brooklyn waterfront provided hope and an escape from the dire economic conditions that prevailed in their native homeland. As a result of social isolation and cultural conflicts, Donohue observed that Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn were not able to take full advantage of the educational, vocational, and job opportunities that would have allowed them to connect better with members of the majority culture.

There was also an unequal access that existed among the darker complected "Negro" Puerto Ricans who applied for assistance with Catholic Charities, when compared with the lighter skinned Puerto Rican migrants. According to Donohue, only four "Negro" Puerto Rican families had applied for assistance in 1938, compared with seventy applications from white Puerto Ricans (Donohue 1945, 70-1). This lack of access was not uncommon since some social services agencies and settlement houses also refused to serve African Americans and other low income immigrants due to a high numbers of applicants and racial discrimination. In 1943, there were twelve applications from Negro Puerto Rican families compared with fifty-two applications from white Puerto Rican families. The highest number of applications from Puerto Rican Negro families were recorded in 1941 with a total of twenty-one applications (Donohue 1945, 70-1). This demonstrates that these negro families were less inclined to apply for services when compared with white Puerto Rican families, or maybe they were excluded from the applications process all together.

It appears that Chenault, Donohue, and Aran's motivations for writing these seminal pieces were to educate a larger audience of White scholars and other intellectuals who were beginning to take notice of this new Puerto Rican migrant group. This Puerto Rican group was seen as truly unique from other groups in the majority culture, raising questions as to whether they could assimilate or remain marginalized in the host New York community. In this sense, the earlier writings of Chenault, Donohue and Aran would have a positive impact on the larger academic literature since their combined narratives helped to place Puerto Ricans on the map. The new migrant group would also provide a new cultural lens and research paradigm that would evolve over time. In this sense, these earlier studies provided a road map that paved the way for future research and scholarly articles by future scholars who came after.

Why these studies are still relevant for social workers and scholars today.

At first glance, when scholars, academics, and historians read these earlier seminal works, they are in a better position to understand how poverty, unemployment, dilapidated housing conditions, mental health, and high tuberculosis rates had a negative impact on the social adjustment of Puerto Ricans in New York during the 1930s and 1940s. These earlier works also provide great insight into the cultural milieu of these Puerto Rican migrants and the many hardships they faced. Hence, as scholars and or social work practitioners, we are in a better position to examine the major barriers that affected the Puerto Rican migrants' ability to succeed in the economic mainstream during the periods of these early migrations. We are also able to look at the effective role that social work and charitable agencies played in helping these Puerto Rican migrants to eventually succeed and acculturate to life in New York and the United States. Young and new scholars who wish to understand the history, trends, culture, and migration patterns of these early Puerto Ricans to New York would benefit greatly by reading the pioneering works of Chenault, Donohue, and Patria Aran. Many of these barriers, such as language, acculturation issues, and poverty are still prevalent in the migration patterns of recent Puerto Rican migrants who are arriving in massive numbers to states such as Florida, Texas, Georgia, and the southern states in general. The influx is a result of the current economic and political crisis in Puerto Rico. Moreover, it also appears that the "New South" is providing new homes and safe havens for the newer and more educated Puerto Ricans who can potentially achieve upward mobility and succeed in today's economic mainstream. It is also interesting to see how New York is no longer seen as a potential economic haven for Puerto Rican migrants of every status due to the decline in factory, textile, and clerical work, as well as the loss of jobs for the better educated.

Social Work Models and Their effectiveness in helping the Newly Arrived Puerto Rican Migrants

It is noteworthy to point out that all three of the authors--Chenault, Aran, and Donohue--do mention and give credit to the effectiveness of the social work models that arose as a result of the Progressive era and the Rooseveltian politics of that time (Segal 2010). For example, the Jane Addam's Settlement House model, the Catholic Charities model, and other social services agencies developed these social work interventions to address the massive poverty, housing, and language needs of newly arrived immigrants. These earlier models later gave rise to culturally specific agencies like the Puerto Rican Association of Community Affairs (PRACA) and the Puerto Rican Family Institute (PRFI), which were designed to work with Puerto Rican migrants. All of these social work models were designed to help the urban poor and Puerto Rican migrants rise above poverty and improve their economic situation. Moreover, these models emphasized casework, a focus on the person in the environment, social reforms, group work, as well as research and data collection (Segal 2010). A vital piece of these frameworks was the social worker involvement and advocacy approach. Based on the evidence provided by Chenault, Aran, and Donohue, the social worker case study approach proved effective in helping these Puerto Rican migrants with problems such as help with acculturation issues, recreation, employment, housing, language classes, parenting, vocational training, physical health (e.g., tuberculosis), and other multiple problems that were likely to affect the new migrating group.

As far as the data collection methods were concerned, all three of the authors were able to collect vital sources of data from Catholic charities, St. Peter's Church, the YMCA, social clubs, and other social services agencies that catered to the Puerto Rican migrants. For instance, in Donohue's thesis, she mentions how Catholic charities in Brooklyn had a big caseload of Puerto Rican migrants in the Brooklyn community who were actively engaged in services. These migrants who were interviewed provided good feedback on what was required to make a healthy transition to U.S. culture. Moreover, St. Peter's Church in Brooklyn also played a major role in helping Puerto Rican migrants to acculturate better. For example, the church provided a Lyceum that served as a recreational center used by the migrants to play various sports and participate in other creative hobbies, such as basketball, gymnastics, singing, dancing, drama, clay work, music therapy (e.g., guaracha and rumba), socialization gatherings, and even English language classes (Donohue 1945).

Such recreational activities and interventions, used during Aran's and Donohue's generation, can provide some insight for current social work practitioners in the field today, who are working with recent arrivals. For instance, in addition to providing standard casework and mental health treatment, current social work professionals should also make use of holistic, client centered, bilingual/bicultural services, and other forms of therapy that can help current migrants to connect with their own native culture and blend these approaches with U.S. models of therapy such as "assessment" and "self-reflection." The use of effective recreational activities that were used during Aran's and Donohue's time period will allow new incoming groups to feel more empowered and accepted into the host culture. Such recreational and cultural activities can also help incoming immigrants with the socialization process and help them to become more engaged with current social service agencies. Moreover, by using the standard casework approaches (Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman 2015) that were effective in the past, the new incoming groups are more likely to have a voice in the treatment process.

The East and South Central Harlem Community

In the years after the U.S. takeover in 1898, Puerto Ricans began to settle in certain sections of the city--mostly in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Puerto Rican community that emerged in East and Central Harlem in Manhattan stretched from 96th Street in the south to about 118th Street and from Lexington Avenue in the East to Madison Avenue in the west, south of 110th Street, with a further western extension from Madison Avenue to Eighth Avenue, from 110th Street again north to about 118th Street. This was the South Central Harlem section of the Harlem community, which has not been studied but is briefly referenced in maps by Chenault (1938, 95) and Thomas (2009, 16). According to Aran, there was an overflow of the South Central section of the community that stretched from roughly west of Central Park West to Manhattan and Columbus Avenues from 106th to 110th Streets. Aran also notes that the Puerto Rican population of East Harlem alone may have reached 10,000 people by the early 1940s--a number based on a demographic survey by an East Harlem group that was included in data by New York's Committee on City Planning, which may have been an undercount of the actual population (Mayor's Committee on City Planning 1937, 17)--see Figure 1 above.

The Puerto Rican community of East and South Central Harlem was situated in the midst of other neighboring communities populated by other ethnic groups. These included, most notably, the Italian immigrants and their descendants in East Harlem east of Lexington Avenue and also the mostly German and German Jewish population that lived in Yorkville to the south of East Harlem. There were also, in the earlier period, Jewish people who lived on either side of the Grand Central Railroad viaduct on Park Avenue until the early 1930s. In the northern part of East Harlem and to the west above 110th Street, there were larger numbers of working class African Americans, Afro-West Indians, and other ethnic groups. In Washington Heights, there were the mostly Irish Americans and a concentration of Russian Jews with some Latinos, who were mostly Cuban.

Aran also notes that the Puerto Rican community in East and Central Harlem was the largest in the city by the 1930s with the culture and the economic problems that resulted from the migration and settlement process. There were of course other Puerto Rican communities which duplicated, in part, the conditions that prevailed in Harlem. However, there were also observable differences in the cultural adaptation that took place in communities such as those that emerged in South Brooklyn (also called Red Hook), the Brooklyn Navy Yard district and later; and in the South Bronx, the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and further north. Donohue makes specific note of these differences in her study of the Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn (Aran 1945, 293; Chenault 1938: Donohue 1945).

Puerto Rican Migrants on the West Side of Manhattan and Other Areas in Harlem

Aran also emphasizes an important point that is usually not acknowledged in the current literature, and that is that many Puerto Ricans also lived among the middle and upper middle classes in the Columbia University area on the Upper West Side of Manhattan around 116th street and Broadway. These Puerto Rican migrants also lived further north in the Washington Heights section, where Cubans were the first Latinos to settle. Puerto Ricans lived on either side of St. Nicholas Avenue and down the hill from the Columbia University area all the way up to the old Polo Grounds on 155th Street and, initially, across the Harlem River to the Yankee Stadium area around 161st Street in the Bronx and the South Bronx (limited to Mott Haven at this time). There was also an emerging concentration of lower working class Puerto Ricans in the Lower East Side of Manhattan who were similar to the Bronx group and represented a more recent group of migrants who arrived in the decades of the late 1920s and the middle and late 1930s.

Lower Manhattan

The Lower East Side of Manhattan was typically populated by Jews, Italians ("Little Italy"), the Chinese ("Chinatown") and, in earlier decades, by the Irish when a small Puerto Rican community emerged in the area in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Aran states that a comparison between this population, the emerging Bronx group, and the older Puerto Rican colonies in Harlem and downtown Brooklyn could provide an interesting study on variations in their assimilation levels and how they would be able to acclimate or assimilate to U.S. culture. Aran states that this type of comparison would have made an interesting study to determine if Puerto Rican migrants in lower Manhattan and the other neighborhoods would indeed be able to equally assimilate based on the prevailing melting pot theory popular at that time and also noted by Chenault (Aran 1945; Chenault 1938)


In Brooklyn, as noted above, Puerto Ricans were found mostly in the Navy Yard district and also in South Brooklyn or "Red Hook," which was larger by definition at that time than at present and included the currently defined Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens sections of the borough. The Navy Yard district was situated to the northeast on the other side of downtown Brooklyn, where relatively affordable low rental apartments were also found. Puerto Ricans lived alongside other cultural and nationality groups in Brooklyn, such as the Italians and also the Syrians, Lebanese, and other Middle Easterners, who appear to have been mostly Christians and who were found in concentrations around lower Atlantic Avenue. It should be noted again that the Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn were a unique group and differed significantly when compared to the Puerto Ricans of East and South Central Harlem and other parts of the city. Chenault and Donohue observed that the migrants differed in terms of their overall racial composition, social isolation, limits on their upward mobility, and English language proficiency. The authors also observed that the migrants generally had negative feelings about the need to go outside of their own ethnic enclave (Chenault 1938; Donohue 1945).

Recent Arrivals from the early 1920s to the early 1940s

Aran points out that Puerto Ricans, along with a wave of African Americans from the South, had become a visible presence in the city during this period (also noted by Bernardo Vega in his memoir--Vega 1984). In general, Puerto Rican migrants faced the same language barriers, psychological difficulties, racial discrimination, and economic and social pressures that are associated with the acculturation process that the earlier European immigrants experienced when they first arrived in New York City (Berry 2005; Perez-Foster 2001; Thomas 2010). In addition, Puerto Rican migrants were negatively affected by the lateness of their arrival during the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s. Hence the Puerto Rican migrants were subject to many indignities such as racism, housing segregation, and discrimination, which were no longer experienced to the same degree, if at all, by many of the other mostly European groups such as the Jews, Irish, and Italians. However, as a "racially mixed" group, many Puerto Ricans also experienced some of prejudice and discrimination faced by African Americans and the Afro West Indians from the Caribbean, who had also come to the city during this period. As a result, there was racial discrimination along with competition for housing, and jobs with other ethnic groups. It was these other ethnic groups who resented the arrival of this new Puerto Rican group since resources were limited and jobs were hard to obtain (Aran 1945, 299; Thomas 2010).

In terms of who these migrants arrived with, one-third of the men, while one-half of the women arrived in the company of relatives (Aran 1945, 324). Ninety cases or 14.4 percent of the Puerto Ricans, came and settled as boarders. The type of travel, be it by small boat, or steamship, was related to socio-economic status (Chenault 1938). Four hundred and thirty-seven of the Puerto Ricans, or 70 percent, paid fares of between $40 and $60 dollars on these ships when they came to New York. Not surprisingly, the darker Puerto Ricans arrived in second class or in smaller boats when compared with the lighter Puerto Ricans (Aran 1945).

Advances in Subway and Transportation

A development that impacted all groups in the city during the 1920s and 1930s was the expansion of public transportation. There was the expanded subway construction that resulted in more subway tracks and the replacement of some of the older elevated trains like those that ran along the Second, Sixth and Ninth Avenues in Manhattan, and also in the Bronx and Brooklyn. The new underground, government-built Independent Line (IND, or today's A, B, C, D, and E lines, etc.), built in the 1930s, extended the subway system and connected Manhattan to previously unconnected sections of the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn (e.g., the Rockaways). This allowed Puerto Rican workers and others to travel back-and-forth between Manhattan and the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn with greater ease. These extensions and the advances in the subway system also helped to facilitate the migration and settlement of Puerto Ricans and other cultural groups in other parts of the city previously inaccessible or of limited access. The subway expansion also facilitated the integration of newly arrived Puerto Ricans into the New York and U.S. labor force.

Migration to The Bronx

As noted earlier, Aran states that migration to the Bronx actually began in the post-World War I period, as opposed to the post-World War II period, which is the time of conclusion usually made in scholarly studies. Apartment buildings, row houses, and generally the better housing stock in the southwestern section of Bronx attracted Puerto Ricans from East Harlem, the Lower East Side, and other parts of the city. It was during this period that Puerto Ricans slowly began to displace the mostly Jewish, Irish, and Italian residents of the neighborhoods in the southern part of the borough in Mott Haven, the Grand Concourse, and Morrisania sections of the Bronx before the population explosion took hold in this area after 1945.

Aran and Chenault also point out that the concentration of Puerto Rican migrants in the Bronx was the result of an overflow from east and central Harlem, and in part also represented a direct migration from the Island. Puerto Ricans settled along the following streets of the South Bronx, such as Jackson and Prospect Avenues, Intervale Avenue, and Southern Boulevard. Other migrants settled around Simpson Street and on other blocks around Fox and Beck. These Puerto Ricans lived only a few blocks from the elevated subway stations on Westchester and Third Avenues, which made commuting back and forth to work a lot easier. Puerto Ricans were also found around 138th Street at the corner of Brook Avenue in the center of the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. Also established a few years later (in 1948), on 138th street at the corner of Brook Avenue, was the famous Teatro Puerto Rico. This theatre served as a mecca for Puerto Rican entertainment and cultural pride. Many famous Puerto Rican actors, singers, and musicians performed here and were deeply appreciated by the Puerto Rican migrants, who felt the need to connect with their music, culture, and Puerto Rican roots.

Socio economic status of Puerto Ricans in New York City, 1930-1945

According to both Aran and Chenault, the percentage of elementary and high school graduates was lower for Puerto Ricans in New York than for the city's population as a whole (Aran 1945; Chenault 1938, 61, 144-6). Donohue also commented on the lower educational attainment of Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn and the illiteracy that she also saw. Only 11 percent of Puerto Ricans were college graduates in the early 1940s according, to Aran; however, it is important to examine the kind of vocational training that was available, commercial, trade, professional, or semi-professional, that Puerto Ricans took advantage of (this is not clearly discussed in Aran's analysis). Construction and other forms of heavy labor were significant for the men, according to Aran, Chenault, and Donohue, along with a lower level of employment in commercial and clerical positions. In the case of women, sewing, needlework, and other related work were the major trades, along with domestic work. In the Aran study, only 27 of 90 cases provided sufficient information on both salary and type of employment. In terms of gender, income, occupation, and socio-economic status in general, females were relegated to mostly menial, sewing, and factory jobs (Aran 1945, 307; also see Tables 1 and 2). Chenault also provided similar useful information but only in the area of employment. Also, see the discussion of these issues in Sanchez-Korrol (1994) and Thomas (2010).

It is no surprise that women consistently earned the lowest salaries when compared to men in all of parts of the city. Commercial and clerical positions occupied the first and second place among both men and women, although only three females are listed in Aran's table on salary distribution. Professional and semiprofessional jobs had the lowest representation for both sexes. Trade and unskilled positions ranked third and fourth for both groups. Men were more highly represented in artistic endeavors, carpentry, barbering, and grocery store work, while women continued the tradition of sewing and working as seamstresses. A small difference existed in weekly salaries in the various geographical locations, with Queens and lower Manhattan receiving the highest average salaries, while persons in Brooklyn earned the lowest salaries. Puerto Ricans in Harlem, and the Columbia University and Washington Heights sections of Manhattan earned about the same average salary. But extra income was also reported for 21.5 percent of the respondents, and of these, 44 were men and 27 were women. (See Tables 3 and 4)

When it came to business, there was also a strong tendency by the migrants to use distinctive Spanish names for their stores and other ventures. We can infer that this was a way of maintaining their native culture and also enticing fellow Puerto Rican and other Latino customers to buy goods and services in their enterprises, which were not sold in mainstream businesses. Hijos de Borinquen, and Bodega-Poncena among others were names given to various stores and businesses in Harlem. The number of businesses and industries seems to have been fairly constant from 1933 up to early 1940s (Aran 1945, 375). This was also a sign that despite the maladjustments and personal discrimination that these migrants faced in Harlem and in other Puerto Rican enclaves in the city, some of them were able to experience success in the business world that would allow them to improve their economic and social status.

Early Problems and Maladjustments among the Puerto Rican Migrants

By problems, Aran, Chenault, and Donohue had in mind the sociological, economic, and psychological issues arising from the settlement of Puerto Ricans in the city. The problems that these writers discussed back in 1938 and 1945 can be related to the current acculturation difficulties that most migration groups experience in the present--once they come in contact with a new host culture. In this regard, the authors believe that insights from current sociological theory and acculturation models will need to be examined to provide a better understanding that was not available for scholars in the 1930s and 1940s. According to acculturation theory (Williams and Berry 1991), the new host culture is usually not receptive to the ethnic culture that is usually seen as invading their community. Oftentimes, there are cultural conflicts, discrimination imposed by the majority culture, and mistrust between the host and ethnic cultures. Furthermore, language barriers, cultural differences, and group conflicts are seen as threatening by members of the majority culture (Berry 2005; Gomberg-Munoz 2011; Takaki 2008). While Aran, Chenault, and Donohue discuss the physical, racial, economic, and cultural maladjustments that resulted from the acculturation process to a new culture, the authors assessed additional problems that can occur as a result of the immigration experience revealed in Aran's, Chenault's, and Donohue's data. Perez Foster (2001) points out that migration for most immigrant groups can result in trauma--especially when these immigrants arrive not knowing the language and are forced to acculturate quickly to the cultural mores of the dominant culture (Perez-Foster 1998). Forced assimilation or abandoning your native language too quickly can have harmful consequences for a newly arrived Puerto Rican migrant who is not able to learn or master the language of the host culture at a suitable pace (Perez-Foster, 1998). Thus, current sociological scholarship and clinical social work theory will need to be utilized in this analysis, since they provide a conceptual framework to explain the culture shock and overwhelming stress that these Puerto Rican migrants must have suffered. Furthermore, since migration trends to the United States have historically been a cultural phenomenon that will continue, scholars need to be equipped with the appropriate methodology to assist newly arrived immigrants (Balgopal 2000; Berry 2005). Current sociological research and clinical social work theory posits that forced migration, along with forced assimilation, can actually result in higher levels of acculturative stress, depression, and loss of cultural identity that can result in mental trauma (Comas-Diaz 1994; Perez-Foster 1998, 2001).

Theoretical Models for Examining Acculturation and Acculturative Stress

Based on the writings of Aran, Chenault, and Donohue, the authors believe that it is necessary to examine recent models that are effective in looking at acculturation and acculturative stress. We felt the need to utilize these acculturation models to make important connections to the narratives of the Puerto Rican migrants during this time. Acculturation models have been revised over the years as a result of research that has been done with specific immigrant groups. For instance, Williams and Berry (1991) have focused mainly on European, Hispanic, Chinese, Korean, and other immigrant groups. Anderson (1991) has studied acculturative stress among African Americans. Smart and Smart (1995) have looked at White, Protestant, Northern European and Mexican immigrants, while Gomez (1990) and Szapocznick, and colleagues (1980) have studied Cuban, Mexican, Latino, and certain European immigrants. One of the most popular models in acculturation research is the one proposed by Berry (2005). Berry's acculturation model lists five factors that regulate the relationship between an individual's level of acculturation and acculturative stress. These are:

1) The mode of acculturation/acculturation strategy (e.g., biculturalism, assimilation, separation, and marginalization).

2) The stages in the acculturation process (contact, conflict, loss, crisis, and adaptation).

3) The nature of the larger society (multicultural vs. assimilationist).

4) Characteristics of the adapting group (e.g., age, status, and social supports).

5) Characteristics of the acculturating individual (e.g., coping attitudes and contact).

The authors have tried to apply some of these strategies based on our discussion of the writings of Aran, Chenault, and Donohue to explain the acculturation difficulties that many Puerto Rican migrants experienced during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Acculturation style often played a major role in determining whether Puerto Ricans and other immigrants were able to succeed in the economic mainstream during this period. The literature supports the notion that those individuals who are bicultural and maintain aspects of both their ethnic and host culture are able to acculturate well to the mainstream culture (Berry 2005). In reference to the Puerto Rican migrants discussed by Aran, it is clear that many of these individuals--especially the darker Puerto Ricans--had a difficult time with assimilation and acculturation in light of the fact that the darker Puerto Ricans in particular were often rejected by the majority culture, and equated with African Americans and Afro-West Indians in their "blackness." Thus they were made to feel like they were second-class citizens in the new society (Chenault 1938; also Mills 1950; Thomas 2010). Even the lighter skinned Puerto Ricans had to struggle in an environment that was hostile and degrading in regard to their cultural lifestyles. Oppression, negative labeling, and other discriminatory practices were common during this period as they continue to be to this day. As previously noted, it also appears that young children and adolescent youth also had a difficult time with acculturation as they were misdiagnosed by White clinicians and medical doctors who presumptuously saw them as having low IQs, preventing them from being able to compete with other immigrant children in the public school system. Rarely was poverty, language barriers, anxiety, and trauma associated as the reasons for these symptoms. These misdiagnoses and negative cultural labels, seems to have been worse in the late 1930s and early 1940s than at present. Moreover, you also had "savage inequalities" in areas like Harlem, Brooklyn, the Lower East Side, and the South Bronx, where public schools lacked the necessary resources to implement successful immersion programs that would help these Puerto Rican children and youth to achieve better educational outcomes as noted later in the 1990s by Jonathan Kozol (1995). The high rates of high school and even elementary school dropouts, and the emerging gang activity of the mid- to late 1940s served as signs of the overall urban and political neglect by school officials and by many of the politicians in office during this time.

Puerto Rican Children, Misdiagnosis by Mental Health Professionals

Similarly, Puerto Rican children were misdiagnosed and labeled as inferior during these years due to culturally biased IQ tests that failed to measure the emotional and intellectual intelligence of Puerto Rican children. Aran (1945) points out that such negative evaluations of young Puerto Rican children by agencies, schools, and hospitals were culturally insensitive and biased toward Puerto Rican children. The White majority culture simply labeled Puerto Rican children as "stupid or inferior," without taking into account the language barrier, poor health, acculturation stress, and anxiety that these children may have felt as they were pressured to assimilate to the dominant culture (Aran 1945). Aran mentions in her narrative that Dr. Leonard Covello, a principal at Benjamin Franklin High School in East Harlem, pointed out that most studies done on Puerto Rican children and youth in New York City public schools were psychologically harmful and lacked empirical or scientific value (Aran 1945). These studies were said to lack proper measuring instruments, culturally sensitive guidelines, and scientific validity. American doctors and psychologists who evaluated Puerto Rican children again failed to take into account the fear, shame, culture shock, and related acculturation trauma that young children experienced when coming into contact with American doctors and or school psychologists from the majority culture (Perez-Foster 2001). These professionals used what we would call Eurocentric assessment models that negatively labeled and stereotyped Puerto Rican children and youth (Comas-Diaz 2013; Falicov 2015). The school counselors or mental health professionals during this time did not engage in culturally competent research and lacked the necessary training to provide an accurate assessment or diagnosis (Aran 1945: 398; Falicov 2015). Moreover, according to community leaders like Dr. Leonard Covello, the emotional harm done to Puerto Rican children as a result of biased IQ tests would be irreparable (Aran 1945, 394). Many years later mental health professionals and social workers developed the use of "cuento therapy," as a culturally appropriate intervention to help traumatized Puerto Rican children to cope with the harmful effects of their migration experience (Falicov 2015).

Cuento Therapy as a Viable Treatment Strategy for Puerto Rican Children

"Cuento therapy" or story telling with young Puerto Rican and other Latino children who have recently migrated to the US, is a culturally sensitive treatment modality designed to help them deal with their depression and or trauma as a result of coming into contact with a new culture (Constantino, Malgady and Rogler 1986). These folktales usually have a moral message that helps the child to develop better coping skills in their new environment (Santiago, Rivera, Arredondo and Gallardo-Cooper 2002). The stories and play therapy approaches are used by therapists to provide a safe environment for the child. This safe environment allows the child to talk openly about their feelings, and it also helps the child to reflect on what is currently happening in their adaptation to a new culture (Santiago, Rivera, Arredondo and Gallardo-Cooper 2002). The cuento or stories also focus on what are the acceptable and unacceptable behaviors for the child as they interact with their teachers or individuals from the majority culture. These culturally sensitive treatments are effective in helping to reduce anxiety, depression, and or acculturation stress.

Socio-demographic Characteristics and "Race" of Spanish speaking Nationalities in New York City, 1938-1945

According to Aran (1945), the majority of the Spanish-speaking individuals in lower Manhattan, East Harlem, and South Central Harlem came from Puerto Rico and Spain. However, Aran did not have an accurate breakdown of all the Spanish-speaking groups that lived in New York at the time, which also included some other groups that came from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Central and South America. However, the following tables will compare figures for racial identity by Aran and Chenault, and also present Aran's figures for Manhattan and by borough (see Tables 5 and 6).

Complexion, Race, Colorism and the Afro-Puerto Ricans

Aran makes reference to the difficulty of determining the racial ancestry of Puerto Ricans in both the Island and New York despite available census data and other records. There was often a wish for, or an emphasis on "Whiteness" or racial purity on the Island, especially for those Puerto Ricans who supposedly belonged to, or were members of, the local aristocracy who were very proud to call themselves "White," "blanco" or even "Spanish," especially through the maternal line (Aran 1945, 310). According to Aran, the absorption of the mixed race group into the white group, which was referred to as part of a "whitening" process, might have been better categorized as a "browning process," which Aran points out was occurring at a rapid pace on the Island, even though this was not being acknowledged. There were terms like mestizo or mulatto that were still used in the popular culture of Puerto Ricans, however, these terms were not officially used by the United States government. However, there was also an emphasis in Island society and among Puerto Ricans on the mainland, in which whiteness was seen as superior to blackness. This was especially true of the Island's middle and upper classes, in their outlook and cultural mores. The notion of blackness or the African, was minimized or even erased, while whiteness was seen as culturally and socially superior for those persons having a lighter skin complexion. The rigidly imposed U.S. racial binary of White as opposed to Black (Negro) was not generally accepted on the Island, but it was imposed in the census enumerations and applied to Puerto Ricans in New York and elsewhere on the U.S. mainland (Loveman 2007; Loveman and Muniz 2007; Thomas 2010). Moreover, there were also some interesting views articulated by Puerto Ricans on how race and colorism actually operated. A Federal Writers' Project field worker who commented on the racial binary in the 1940s edition of the American Guide to Puerto Rico described the practice of racial classification as follows: "on the U.S. mainland, a drop of Negro blood makes a White man a negro, while in Puerto Rico a drop of white blood makes a Negro a White man" (Thomas 2010, 70). There was also the practice of judging persons of somewhat darker complexion with straight "European" or "Indian" hair to be superior to persons who could pass for white but had tightly curled hair (pelo malo/bad hair), an attribute denoting sub-Saharan African ancestry (these persons were referred to as grifos or jabaos (Haslip-Viera 2009).

The assessment of race or racial categories was problematic when measuring the racial identity of the new Puerto Rican migrants who were arriving in New York in the early 1900s. Aran in her thesis attempted to remedy this problem by applying a multi-racial classification for Puerto Ricans, such as white (blanco), "trigueno" (referring to trigo, the color of wheat or darker), pardo, mulato, negro, and or indio which were terms used during the Spanish colonial period and unofficially still used and present in the Island's popular culture in the 1940s, along with other terms (Aran 1945, 311). In the Columbia University neighborhood, 43 out of 44 of the respondents considered themselves to be white. This area was primarily white, and this group was probably able to pass as white as a result of their skin complexion, appearance and the segregation that excluded the darker Puerto Ricans from renting apartments in this area among other factors. It was very common for landlords to deny rentals to the darker Puerto Ricans who possessed "Negroid" features and/or darker skin complexions despite their claims for a white classification. In the Columbia and Washington Heights area, as in other parts of the city, segregation was very common, and, by law, landlords could deny housing to non-whites during this period (Aran 1945).

In lower Manhattan, 11 of 12 cases identified themselves as white, and one identified himself as "trigueno." Table 6 for Harlem shows that 161 out of 173, or 93 percent of respondents, classified themselves as white. This percentage was much higher than the 76.2 percent who were labelled as white by the census on the Island at that time and reflected efforts by Puerto Ricans to distance themselves as much as possible from the African American and Afro-West Indian populations of the city (see Thomas 2009, 2010). In the emerging Puerto Rican section of the Bronx, 135 out of 160 cases (84 percent) identified as white, and twenty-five of them classified themselves as trigueno which could have been defined as black if the U.S. racial binary had been applied. In Brooklyn, 119 out of 150 Puerto Ricans classified themselves as white (79 percent), 30 said they were either "negro," "trigueno" or "colored." One person identified as "indio." The small number of cases in Queens, 11 to be exact, who identified as white was not surprising since Queens was considered to be a predominantly white borough of the city (Aran 1945, 316). These figures for whiteness are not unusual, given the more intense and prevalent racial prejudice that characterized this period (Thomas 2009, 2010). Most Puerto Ricans identified as white because they felt it would allow them to succeed economically and assimilate better with members of the majority culture. This thinking is apparently still the case today and results in the overwhelming number of Puerto Rican islanders who self-identified as white (75.8 percent) in the 2010 census. However, we also have an interesting anomaly for mainland Puerto Ricans in the same census who identified as 53.1 percent white, with 27.8 percent identifying as "some other race."

Based on Aran's figures, it appears that the Navy Yard section of Brooklyn had a higher concentration of "colored" or darker complected Puerto Ricans in comparison to other neighborhoods where Puerto Ricans settled (also see Donohue 1945). To a lesser degree, the same was also true of Puerto Ricans who had settled in other sections of Brooklyn. Based on the evidence provided by Aran, Chenault, and Donohue, it appears that Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn were generally more bicultural, less educated, and had lower socio-economic status than Puerto Ricans in other sections of the city--in part because of the reported higher proportion of the darker Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn. As a result, the Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn faced higher levels of marginalization and racial discrimination, and they were not able to assimilate as successfully with members of the majority culture. This lends support to the conclusion that the darker Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn were more limited in their ability to successfully assimilate into the mainstream culture unlike some of the other lighter complected Puerto Ricans in Manhattan, Washington Heights, and other sections of the city as noted by Aran and Donohue.

Machismo vs. Marianismo, Gender Role Issues

Aran and Donohue both mention the gender role issues between the stricter Spanish cultural mores for young Puerto Rican girls in relation to obedience, dating, and the more relaxed ways and freedoms that the new American culture offered. Donohue mentions in her study that "the Puerto Rican woman does not have the freedom which the modern American woman has today, but rather she is subject to her husband's" wishes" (Donohue 1945, 50). While young boys could be "macho" aggressive and were allowed to date and "conquer" women, the young girls were expected to remain submissive and virginal so as to emulate the "Virgin Mary," which is referred to as Marianismo (Comas-Diaz 2013; Falicov 2015). Aran also mentioned certain pathological conditions that needed further examination. We speculate that these conditions can be related to mental health and culturally bound syndromes such as "ataque de nervios" (acts of hysteria) among Puerto Rican women, a set of behaviors that became known as "the Puerto Rican syndrome" by mental health professionals years later (Comas-Diaz and Greene 1994). Puerto Rican women who had these emotional outbursts would be diagnosed as "hysterical and irrational" by doctors and Western mental health clinicians. However, future research in mental health studies later revealed that these women were simply rebelling against cultural norms by acting out and failing to obey the traditional gender role expectations for Puerto Rican women (Falicov 2015; Comas-Diaz and Greene 1994). These gender role expectations were sexist toward young Puerto Rican women since they were required to be meek and subservient to their parents and spouses (Comas-Diaz 2013).

Health Issues

We are often told that a healthy diet affects the intellectual development of children. Good nutrition and healthy exercise habits are also considered important. Nevertheless, the Puerto Ricans who came to live in New York often suffered from an unhealthy diet. Much of the Puerto Rican diet relied on "cuchifritos" and other greasy foods that promoted obesity and cardiovascular diseases (Aran 1945). As far as physical defects were concerned, only 37 individuals, or 5.8 percent of the group, reported physical defects in the Aran study. Of these, 18 were men and 19 were women (Aran 1945, 402). Eye defects and vision problems were the primary problems reported in 20 out of 37 cases, but it is not clear what this actually meant. It could have just been a need for corrective glasses. Over a fourth of the group (28.3 percent) enjoyed good health, stating that they had never been sick in New York City. About 278 cases, or 44.5 percent of the group, reported some type of illness from respiratory diseases, fevers, rheumatism, anemia, and infections. A large percentage of the women, or 87 percent of the cases, received professional medical care. Medical care was provided by either private physicians or hospitals and clinics. Twice as many of the women in the group, or 51.9 percent, sought treatment at local hospitals, while only 28.4 percent of the men received treatment. According to Aran, higher female utilization of healthcare suggested that women suffered from medical illnesses more often than men; additionally, these women had more leisure time to take care of their medical needs than men (Aran 1945, 402). Men were less likely to see a doctor for their regular physical exam, or to receive medical care from a clinic or hospital. Chenault also emphasized that the health status of Puerto Ricans during this time period was considered to be exceptionally poor by the media and government. (see Chenault 1938, 110-26; Morales Garrido 1935).

There were also major problems in health disparities; bilingual doctors, clinicians, and social workers who could communicate with these groups in their own language were lacking (Aran 1945, 420).

Dependency on Welfare

Chenault talks about the dependency of Puerto Ricans on the relief rolls and how this may have been a strategy that had more to do with a temporary maladjustment rather than a permanent reliance on this kind of support. In other words, Puerto Ricans who could not find employment or a means of subsistence for themselves or their families often relied on the new welfare system of the late 1930s. This reliance on welfare served as a temporary means of coping with financial difficulties in a hostile and cold environment, and not as a path to permanent dependency, which was a criticism articulated by the opponents of relief programs during this time (Chenault 1938, 83-7; also Thomas 2010). Chenault also notes: "With discrimination and the lack of employment opportunities, it might be considered unfair to point to statistics of dependency in 1932 and 1933 and attempt to judge the success or failure" of Puerto Ricans in the city based on these figures. All of Harlem, according to Chenault, "suffered the severest hardship, and unemployment in the area in general." Chenault also notes "that prior to the great depression of 1929, the problem of the Puerto Rican family was becoming a serious concern" for social workers and philanthropists who were involved in the Charity Organization Societies and other similar movements during this period. According to Chenault, "For the fiscal years of 1927-1928 ... about 5 percent of the entire caseload of one of the largest private charity organizations in New York was made up of Puerto Ricans" despite the fact that this was a small population in comparison to others. "Other private charity organizations showed a similar proportion of their case loads to be Puerto Ricans" (Chenault 1938, 85). Since Chenault was a professionally trained sociologist who was affiliated with the Works Public Administration (WPA), the authors speculate that his motivation for focusing more on welfare was based on the need to paint an accurate account of the Puerto Rican migrant's struggles in New York and how welfare was seen as a temporary path that would later lead to economic self-sufficiency.

Welfare Dependency Aran's views compared with Chenault and Donohue

Patria Aran does address the subject of welfare and dependency among the Puerto Rican migrants by providing tables and charts on employment, salaries and government aid. However, Aran mostly focused on the types of jobs that these Puerto Rican migrants were able to obtain when they arrived in New York. Aran also divided the employment categories in terms of gender. Not surprisingly, given the social patriarchy and gender discrimination that existed at the time, men were more likely to be employed than women. Males were also more likely to develop friendships with North Americans when compared with women who may have stayed at home to take care of their children (Aran 1945). The jobs that these early migrants were able to obtain were in such occupations as artistic, commercial, clerical, and factory work. Only a small percentage of these migrants, or 3.6 percent, owned their own businesses--usually a grocery store, barber shop, retail store, or other small business enterprise. This is not surprising given the limited economic opportunities available to recent arrivals. While Aran does address the issue of welfare, Donohue and Chenault were perhaps more thorough in their analysis of this issue. For instance, Chenault looked at the role of the WPA at the time in providing jobs and welfare supports to this relatively new Puerto Rican group. Donohue, who conducted her analysis from a social work and case study perspective, also looked at the lack of access to welfare services, since there were limitations in receiving welfare services, especially among the darker complected Puerto Ricans who were not adequately served (Donohue 1945).


The authors of these studies identified relevant themes for other Latino scholars to follow in future generations. Lawrence Chenault focused on welfare dependency among the Puerto Rican migrants. Chenault (1938) emphasized that Puerto Rican migrants relied mostly on welfare as a temporary adjustment in a hostile environment. Thus, as a result of the unemployment, language barriers, poor health, and illiteracy, many of these migrants at first were unable to find suitable employment and housing. Hence, welfare became a means of economic survival. Moreover, while Chenault's focus on high rates of asthma and tuberculosis among this Puerto Rican migrant group was socially relevant during this time--it was considered controversial by Western-based doctors and the government. It was controversial and disturbing for most medical doctors and mental health providers during this time due to the lack of advances in medicine and the lack of a culturally competent model to treat these individuals. Doctors simply did not know how to treat these individuals and their symptoms given the acculturation conflicts and health problems that this cultural group were experiencing during this time. Medical doctors did not have the cultural empathy or understanding necessary to better serve these individuals. Hence doctors were overwhelmed with the huge caseloads and the higher than average levels of respiratory illnesses such as asthma and tuberculosis (Aran 1945). Most important, Chenault made a relevant prediction that would later be proven correct. Chenault predicted that once these Puerto Rican migrants were provided with the appropriate social supports and access to medical care, they were going to change the cultural landscape of New York and make healthy contributions in society (Chenault 1938).

Aran's contribution was that she focused on the cultural and socioeconomic aspects of the Puerto Rican migrants in the city that would become the template for future scholars to use in future studies (Haslip-Viera, Falcon and Matos-Rodriguez 2004). Donohue in her master's thesis used a social case study research design, which some would consider simplistic by today's research standards. Nevertheless, Donohue did use interesting case studies that were able to capture relevant themes regarding culture, race, and the personal feelings of the participants as they were trying to make it in the economic mainstream.

It was noted earlier that some categories of race or ethnic identity were misleading since many individuals were identified by census enumerators as simply "white," "colored" (as a substitute for Negro) or "non-white" when the real identifiers should have been based on one of the racial categories popularly used on the Island and among Puerto Ricans. The available census data of that time were therefore not coded with the more sophisticated methods used by modern-day researchers and the current US census. How Puerto Ricans were defined as white as opposed to "colored" and "nonwhite" was not clear in the 1930s and early 1940s, and these problems still persist to this day when it comes Puerto Ricans and other Latinos.

Despite these limitations, the narratives provided by Aran, Chenault, and Donohue are historically relevant. The studies are seminal, since they provide a good lens that examines the economic hardships, cultural maladjustments, and acculturation challenges of Puerto Rican migrants who arrived during a very difficult era. We hope that a larger audience will also appreciate these studies since they still provide a valuable conceptual framework regarding the current migration patterns among Puerto Ricans and other immigrants--especially from Latin America--who arrive in the U.S. in search of better lives.


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Zastrow, C. and K. K. Kirst-Ashman. 2015. Understanding Human Behavior and the Social Environment. Australia: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.

David Luciano ( is currently an Assistant Professor of Research Methods at the Johnson C. Smith University Masters of Social Work Program, in Charlotte, NC.

Gabriel Halip-Viera ( is Professor Emeritus at the Sociology Department at the City College of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is also a Former Director of the Center For Puerto Rican Studies at The Hunter College of the City University of New York.

Caption: Figure 1
Table 1: Puerto Rican Employment, New York City 1930/36-1945

                                       ARAN               CHENAULT

MALES                             Num.        %       Num.        %

Labor/Construction                 20       36.3       402      35.3
Laundry Workers                    16       29.1       321      28.3
Porters/Domestics/Errand Boys       8       14.5       157      13.9
Hotel Workers                       8       14.5       126      11.1
Clerical/Other                      3        5.5       130      11.4
Total                              55       100.0     1136      100.0

                                       ARAN               CHENAULT

FEMALES                           Num.        %       Num.        %

Domestics                          42       52.0       537      52.4
Needle/Hand Sewer                  20       24.0       699      23.9
Garment Industry                   20       24.0       699      23.9
Total                              82       100.0     2930      100.0

Source: Aran (1945); Chenault (1938, 74).

Table 2: Puerto Rican Employment, New York City by Sector According
to Patria Aran, 1945

Type of Employment      Subdivisions   Male   Females   Total

Artistic                     11         35      25       60
Professional                 6          8        7       15
Semi-Professional            4          6        0        6
Commercial/Clerical          4          26      28       54
Trade                        17         18      24       42
Unskilled                    12         21       6       27
Total                        54        114      90       204

Source: Aran (1945).

Table 3: Average Salaries for Puerto Ricans: Males and Females
According to Patria Aran, 1945

                       No. of    Male Average      Average Salary
Section                Cases    Salary Received   and Extra Income

Harlem                   6           33.66              47.60
Columbia                 3           50.0               63.60
Lower Manhattan          1           25.00              34.00
Washington Heights       8           41.00              68.50
Bronx                    9           24.40              39.60
Brooklyn                 15          24.00              50.40
Queens                   2          102.00             180.00

                       No. of   Female Average    Female Salary and
Section                Cases    Salary Received     Extra Income

Harlem                   10          20.82              34.42
Columbia                 2           15.00              35.00
Lower Manhattan          1           15.00              35.00
Washington Heights       3           25.00              53.66
Bronx                    8           22.75              44.12
Queens                   3           31.50              71.00

Source: Aran (1945).

Table 4: Average Weekly Salaries Based on Gender and Geographic
Location According to Patria Aran, 1945

                         Male      Female    General
Area                    Salary     Salary    Average

Harlem                  $24.74     $26.72     $25.78
Columbia University     27.64      23.00      25.32
Lower Manhattan         50.00      45.00      47.50
Washington Heights      27.14      22.76      25.14
Bronx                   40.61      15.40      28.00
Brooklyn                20.06      21.13      20.58
Queens                  114.00     53.60      83.80

Source: Aran (1945).

Table 5: Puerto Rican Defined by "Color" or Race

                        ARAN                   CHENAULT

MANHATTAN         Num.          %         Num.          %

White              286        94.3       27,255       78.5
Colored            17          5.6        7,460       21.5
Total              303        100.0      34,715       100.0

BROOKLYN          Num.          %         Num.          %

White              119        79.3        5,446       68.2
Colored            31         20.7        2,539       31.8
Total              150        100.0       7,985       100.0

BRONX             Num.          %         Num.          %

White              135        84.3        1,190       93.5
Colored            25         15.7         83          6.6
Total              160        100.0       1,273       100.0

QUEENS            Num.          %         Num.          %

White              11         100.0        696        93.0
Colored             0          0.0         49          7.0
Total              11         100.0        749        100.0

NEW YORK          Num.          %         Num.          %

White              551        88.3       34,587       77.0
Colored            73         11.7       10,000       23.0
Total              624        100.0      44,718       100.0

Source: Aran (1945); Chenault (1938, 63).

Table 6: Race and Color Composition in the Different Boroughs in New
York City 1930-1940

Borough              White  Trigueno  Colored  Negro  Indio  Total

Manhattan             286      3        11       3      0     303
Bronx                 135      12       12       1      0     160
Brooklyn              119      19        8       3      1     150
Queens                11       0         0       0      0     11
Total                 551      34       31       7      1     624

Manhattan            White  Trigueno  Colored  Negro  Indio  Total

Harlem                161      1         8       3      0     173
Columbia              44       0         0       0      0     44
Lower Manhattan       11       1         0       0      0     12
Washington Heights    70       1         3       0      0     74
Total                 286      3        11       3      0     303

Source: Aran (1945).
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Author:Luciano, David; Haslip-Viera, Gabriel
Publication:CENTRO: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Mar 22, 2019
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