There is a total disconnect between the modern day Puerto Rican American woman and the previous generations. While there seems to be some sort of similarity between the two, these groups of women are whole-heartedly different when it comes to interpretations of traditional practice as well as the way they adapt to the so-called “American” way of life. When women from Puerto Rico migrated to the states, they kept many of their traditions while still adapting to American culture and customs. Their children, however, didn’t find the transition so simple. It didn’t matter whether or not they were born in the states on the island. The disconnect caused friction, especially between Puerto Rican mothers and daughters. The daughters found it increasingly hard to maintain their Puerto Rican identity while still remaining in mainstream American culture. There are many factors that contributed to this divide, including: economic status, the concept of machismo, and education in America.
Puerto Rican women tried to assimilate into American society in three distinct ways: the classic pattern of assimilation into the white middle class, downward assimilation into a lower class, or choosing to stick with your Puerto Rican comrades and fit into the niche community, using their insight for personal economic advancement. Geographic location usually helped, especially with the third type of assimilation. This is why Puerto Ricans usually opted to settle in cities, especially in New York. Yet, this can also lead to an economic downturn due to the saturation of the job market. It is interesting to note that most families from Puerto Rico were matriarchal, putting high importance on the mother as the head of the household. As of 1990, 39% of Puerto Rican families in New York were headed by women. This actually helped when it came to the family’s economic status. Three out of four of these families were above the poverty line. It is starkly different when it comes to male headed households, as three out of four families were below the poverty line.
As a result of these statistics, many Puerto Rican daughters in America felt the need to fill their mother’s shoes. . The daughters were also expected to carry on the family line, by getting married as early as possible and having multiple children. Taking care of the family and leading the household were very prominent and important roles for them to take on. Many of them were not willing to do so. They saw the American dream as a way out of this situation. Scholars have argued that the reason for female head of Puerto Rican households in America actually has to do with this divide. Increasing resistance of tradition by Puerto Rican daughters has led to dissolution of marital unions as well as the births of many children out of wedlock. This further increased stereotypes of Puerto Rican women as being regarded differently than white women. Scholars explain that this shift in family life has largely to do with how Puerto Ricans positioned themselves as they immigrated; they mostly stayed in their own social groups and didn’t integrate much with other ethnic groups in the cities.
These statistics on marriage and family show a very different picture when it comes to women born on the island and women born and/or settled on the mainland. Second generation Puerto Rican women were more likely to either become married later in life or marry due to pre-marital pregnancy than those women who were born on the island. It is also important to note that migrants, be they first generation or second generation, had a propensity to work before getting married and having children. This can also lead to a rift between husband and wife, for reasons that will be discussed later on in this essay. Some of the statistics on this issue are pretty shocking: education or lack thereof has no bearing on these relationships or marital unions, and second generation women who have formal marital unions are more likely to divorce than those who just have domestic partnerships.
One concept may be the cause of many types of disconnect; be they economic, social, or simply even just the relationships between mothers and daughters and husbands and wife: The concept of machismo. In a nutshell, machismo is simply cultural expectations for men in Hispanic or Latin American societies. It typically describes and/or identifies gender roles for men and women, while pressuring men and women to fill certain social demands. This didn’t generate well in The United States, as women were increasingly challenging their typically defined gender roles. Men weren’t accustomed to women emasculating them, which therefore led to dissolved unions or high rates of divorce. Women are taught to repress their sexuality while men were taught the opposite. Men are thought to control women. Machismo can also lead to a lack of conversation or consistent dialogue between partners. This affects many aspects of the lives of Puerto Ricans, including marriages, domestic partnerships, overall health due to possible sexually transmitted diseases, and most importantly, childbearing tends.