Urban Puerto Rican Identity

Urban Puerto Rican Identity - T he Formation of Puerto...

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The Formation of Puerto Rican Identity in Philadelphia: Institution Building and Cultural Expression Organized social networks and outlets for cultural expression were elemental in forming Puerto Rican identity in Philadelphia. The first social networks found in Philadelphia were informal ones. In the late 19 th and early 20 th century, the concentration of Puerto Ricans in the city was not very high, so immigrants turned to other already established Spanish-speaking groups for aid. These informal groups provided the initial tools for survival- they were able to direct new migrants to work, affordable housing, and, most importantly, spoke the same language. The shared language was perhaps the most basic and essential element in establishing pan- Latino enclaves within the city. Without a heavy Puerto Rican presence in the city, immigrants depended heavily on thr advice and influence of Cubans, Spaniards, and other Latinos. These Latinos gave Puerto Ricans their first semblance of an identity in their new city. Los tabaqueros, or the cigar makers, were instrumental in establishing not only Puerto Rican, but Latino identity in the city. Many of los tabaqueros came from latin American and the Caribbean in search of work. In general, los tabaqueros were educated individuals. They had a particular set of skills, were informed and well versed in literature even if they were illiterate, were politically involved, and thought to be organizationally savvy. The cigar rollers were among the first to form mutual aid groups and also formed one of the first established community groups, called the Cigar Makers International Union. These small but pivotal labor groups played an important role in giving Puerto Ricans a voice in Philadelphia. As the city moved into the 20 th century, it saw an immense increase in migration of working middle-class Puerto Ricans. These Puerto Ricans settled into the already largely Latino areas, until Spring Garden, Southwark, and Northern Liberties came to be pan- Latino enclaves. During this time, four social groups formed which were pivotal in establishing Puerto Rican voice and identity in Philadelphia. The first two, La Milagrosa and La Fraternal, share an important connection. Both were built within a year and only a few blocks from each other, and acted as the thread that stitched the three pan-Latina enclaves tightly together. La Milagrosa was a church which
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offered mass in Spanish, and eventually became a cornerstone in community activity. The importance that church services held in the native language had on the development of Puerto Rican identity cannot be overestimated. The Catholic Church is hugely significant in Puerto Rico, and Spanish services not only acknowledged, but catered to, this fundamental element of culture. La Fraternal, or the Hispanic American Fraternal Society of Philadelphia was a mutual aid group that brought Latinos together in a cohesive atmosphere. The third social organization that proved pivotal in establishing Puerto Rican
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Urban Puerto Rican Identity - T he Formation of Puerto...

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