Puerto Ricans Making Hartford Home
An exhibit by the Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library
Originally displayed at the Hartford Stage during their production of Pike Street by Nilaja Sun (January 9 - February 2, 2020)
Although the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico was officially established in 1898, with the U.S. acquiring the island as its territory for military and economic purposes, Puerto Ricans were only trickling into U.S. cities like New York and Hartford in the early 20th century. In the 1940s, Puerto Ricans came to U.S. cities in larger waves for war-related, agricultural and manufacturing efforts. By the mid-1950s, an estimated 3,000 Puerto Ricans were beginning to settle in Hartford, with a concentration of the community in the Clay Hill neighborhood of Hartford, nestled in the fork between Albany Avenue and Main Street. Many had been heavily recruited into the shade tobacco industry and made choices to stay beyond seasonal work.
This early group of Puerto Rican settlers made enough of an impact to push for the first Spanish-speaking priest at Sacred Heart Church and began to establish small businesses in the neighborhood. It is estimated that Hartford’s Puerto Rican resident population jumped from 9,000 in 1965 to more than 30,000 by the end of the 1970s. Puerto Ricans on the island followed their relatives to live in Hartford’s Clay Hill and later South Green and Park Street/Frog Hollow neighborhoods. With strong leaders, communities took on discrimination and challenges around housing, education, employment and political power, finding ways to make significant cultural and social impacts in the city so that they could create the support they needed to survive and make Hartford home. Today, Hartford has a diverse and growing Latinx community, which represents more than 45% of the city’s population.
The following photographs are a selection from the Hartford Times photograph collection at the Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library. In addition to the following images, please view footage from the Hartford History Center’s Butch Lewis 1969 Video Collection. More information on the links.
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