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History Of Puerto Ricans In New York Available In New Archive

February 9, 2000
Copyright © 2000 EFE NEWS SERVICES (U.S.) Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Source: World Reporter (TM)

NEW YORK - The history of Puerto Ricans in New York can now be accessed from the Puerto Rican Migration Archive which has opened its doors after more than four years of preparation.

"These documents are part of our cultural and historic heritage because they show the experience of Puerto Ricans in the United States," chief archivist Juan Hernandez told EFE Wednesday.

"The documents offer information about the emigrants their closest relatives. It also gives information about the circumstances under which many people emigrated from Puerto Rico and the current conditions on the island at the time," he added.

The archives contain reports on the four agencies created by the Puerto Rican government until 1993, the activities they held for the community, and an extensive collection of photographs, some of which belong to renowned photographer Jack Delano.

According to the archive, many documents are still unavailable to the public as their cataloging and preparation is a gradual process which can last up to 10 years, at a cost of more than one million dollars.

The Puerto Rican community has been present in New York for decades and has played an important role in its social and economic development, a contribution it made on farms, in factories, restaurants and all kinds of industries.

The history of their migration is documented through 1993, beginning in 1930 when the Puerto Rican government created the Identification and Employment Office in New York, responsible for issuing identification cards to the Puerto Ricans, many of whom used them to prove they were U.S. citizens.

The archives include birth certificates, baptism certificates, letters between relatives in New York and Puerto Rico as well as letters from government officials on the island, among other important documents.

The identification cards included a photograph, a physical description, fingerprints and had a "multiplying effect" as they contained information about the person's family members in terms of their marital status and who they lived with in the city, Hernandez said.

In 1948, the Identification and Employment Office was replaced by the Migration Division of the Puerto Rican Department of Labor, which then extended its services to the Puerto Rican community in New York with several programs, which included farm workers.

In 1989 then-Puerto Rican Gov. Rafael Hernandez Colon made that office part of the executive branch, thus creating the Department of Puerto Rican Community Affairs in the United States, whose first chief, was the current Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.

In 1993, the department was dismantled by Gov. Pedro Rossello and became part of the Administration of Federal Affairs of the Puerto Rican government in Washington.

It was at that moment that a group of Puerto Ricans worried about the future of the valuable documents took steps so that they would be entrusted to an independent organization.

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