From 1508-1898, Puerto Rico was a colonial region owned by Spain, but after the Spanish-American war, the small island was given to the United States (Jose Lopez). Later, the 1917 Jones Act was introduced, formally making Puerto Ricans U.S. citizens, resulting in a huge immigration to the states, in search for better jobs and ultimately the “American Dream”. According to Jose Lopez, from the Puerto Rican Arts and Cultural Institute, there are approximately 4.6 million Puerto Ricans living in the United States today, which is more than the amount that live in their native land (Lopez).Even though Puerto Ricans are legally U.S. citizens, they have still had a struggle living in the America, because they were people of color, couldn’t speak English, and were considered to be low wage workers with no special talents or skills. On the same note, this gave way to giving the new comers jobs in factories, steel mills, and other industrial jobs to create a life in America. During the 1930s and 1940s, Puerto Ricans migrated from the North Eastern regions to Chicago, in search for more employment opportunities (Sanchez Ruiz, 2006).
Early on, Puerto Rican migrants settled in neighborhoods such as Woodlawn, Lake View, Up Town, the Near North Side, East and West Garfield Park, Lincoln Park, and the Near West Side (Sanchez Ruiz 2006). With manufacturing jobs depleting for Puerto Ricans in the 1980s, they became part of the low-income population of the city, receiving low to moderate education, and becoming a group of people that “didn’t belong,” resulting in “severe economic dislocation” (Sanchez Ruiz, 2006).
The first phase of Puerto Rican gentrification displaced most of the early residents to what is now the home away from home of the Puerto Rican culture, Humboldt Park. When whites, hospitals, and Universities became interested in the Lincoln Park area, of which is where the majority of Puerto Ricans lived by the late 1960s, it gave rise to property taxes and Puerto Ricans were no longer afford to stay there (Jose Lopez). This was also the case in the Near West side, when the University of Illinois at Chicago moved in and began to redevelop the neighborhood along Harrison Street (Sanchez Ruiz, 2006) .This new affordable neighborhood that Puerto Ricans were forced to move to became the “last cultural hub in the city” for Puerto Ricans, and is now the “economic, social, and cultural hub of the Puerto Rican community” (Enrique-Bickerdike Redevelopment).
A key moment in the Puerto Rican community in Humboldt Park was the June 12, 1966 Riots that took place on Division Street during the first down town Puerto Rican parade. It began because of the shooting of a Puerto Rican boy by the police (Division Street Riots- Wikipedia). The riots lasted until June 19, 1966 and “was a key moment in the history of Puerto Ricans in Chicago” (Division Street Riots- Wikipedia). According to Wikipedia, “The underlying cause of the riots was the deteriorating economic conditions facing Puerto Ricans and African Americans, which embodied many aspects of the national urban crisis. Ethnic conflicts, especially those between young Puerto Ricans prevailed during the transition period” (Division Street Riots- Wikipedia).
As of the 2000 census, out of the 65,836 residents that lived in Humboldt Park, 48% are Hispanic and 47.8% were African American (New Communities Program article). From 1960–2000 the population had decreased 5,773 people, and the population below poverty level in 2000 was 31.1%, with households who received public assistance at 2,790 (15.6%) (New Communities Program article). More currently, in the last decade, the Hispanic population of Humboldt Park fell by 4%, dropping from 31,607 to 30,337, according to new Census data, but because of the entire population decline as a whole, this raised the Hispanic population to 52.5%, making them the majority in the community (Askins, 2011).