Puerto Ricans Were Never a Problem

Puerto Ricans Were Never a Problem

The settlement of Puerto Ricans in New York
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At the end of World War II, many Puerto Ricans made their way to the mainland in search of better economic opportunities. A large recession and a multitude of economic sanctions on the island made it very difficult for it’s native population to prosper. Although Puerto Ricans went to a variety of different locations in the continental United States, a majority of them settled in New York City and it’s surrounding areas. Many in the media portrayed Puerto Ricans in a negative light. Charles Hewitt, who wrote for Scribner’s Commentator, warned New Yorkers about the problems that Puerto Ricans presented to their way of life. He described them as being notorious for using welfare, that they had a variety of diseases including: malaria, tuberculosis, and many sexual transmitted diseased. Most importantly, he noted that Puerto Rican women were willing to take factory jobs making significantly less than their white counterparts. He complained of their concentration in poor neighborhoods in Brooklyn, such as Red Hook and the waterfront. He greatly disapproved of their intermarriage with negroes. He even went as far as to accuse the girls of being prostitutes.

America was also in a period of adjustment. The second world war had just ended and they were rejoicing the victory at home. The economy in America was booming as a result of the war effort. Puerto Ricans didn’t see the same benefits on the island. They were experiencing extreme poverty and were starving. Many Puerto Ricans rejected the claims that they were going to use the Government for assistance and that they were a sickly, diseased people. Puerto Rican organization joined together to insist upon these facts. In response to these accusations, they told many in a letter to a local newspaper that they worked whenever they could and how proud they were of their heritage and work ethic. They tried to appeal to white America in many ways, saying that some of their people even worked for the federal government, occupied prestigious posts in academics, rose from the ashes out of the poverty they experienced in Puerto Rico, and fought alongside other Americans in World War II. The overall sentiment of these writers was that Puerto Ricans were a problem that needed to be solved.

An oral history of a Puerto Rican woman who has since migrated to Staten Island paints a somewhat different picture. Her mother and father came to New York from Puerto Rico just after World War II. Their story generally disproves the common sentiment of the media in the 1940’s. Aida Dasaro tells her family’s story from the beginning:

For a couple of months and then sent for her um...with the two oldest..uh..my two oldest brother and sister. And he basically came here to find a better life because they lived in extreme poverty in Puerto Rico. It was right after World War II, maybe 1945 1946, or maybe even 1947. Um, they basically settled in uh Brooklyn, probably in Bushwick and then my father um began to look for a job.

Her family’s story generally falls in line with what writers of the day had to say in regards to the reasons Puerto Ricans had for coming to the mainland. Her father actually came alone, to generally scope out the city and see what opportunities were afforded to him. Where he originally decided to work once he came to New York wasn’t discussed. However, when her mother came over, she did discuss where she worked.

Aida Dasaro: Mom basically was a housewife. She may have worked for a time in uh, a factory making, um, uh, slipcovers.

Amanda Dasaro: For beds?

Aida Dasaro: For, you know, living room sofas and chairs.

This is an exact echo of what Charles Hewitt wrote about Puerto Rican women in regards to their employment. Her mother worked in a garment factory, making slipcovers for low wages.

Her story also echoed the sentiment of Puerto Ricans at the time when she discussed her family’s reasoning for leaving the island:

Aida Dasaro: Um, it was very difficult for my father to find a job. Basically, the uh, the economy was still very much agrarian, uh poor dirt farmers living in, in run down wooden shacks and there was basically a depression in Puerto Rico that forced millions of people to leave after WWII.

Amanda Dasaro: Did the depression equate with the depression in mainland United States? Or was it after wards?

Aida Dasaro: Uh, I think at the time that the United States was going through the depression I think Puerto Rico was also experiencing it’s own depression. But being that most people lived in poverty, um, and basically ran their own family businesses or there uh just wasn’t enough jobs to go around other than working on the military bases in Puerto Rico. Most people were still very much, um, poor farmers.

Although she states that Puerto Rico experienced economic depression the same way the mainland did, it is important to find out that even though the mainland experienced relief in the form of economic upswing due to the war effort, the island didn’t. The people who lived in Puerto Rico had no choice but to move to places like New York to seek a better economic opportunity.

Although the family didn’t technically gain support from Puerto Rican associations, according to Aida, the neighborhood was everything. When asked about her family’s reception into the community, Aida replied: “Well basically they, they tended to keep to themselves but, um, they basically moved into an area that predominantly was black and Puerto Rican.” The family settled in an area that had people of familiar skin color and familiar languages, who they could communicate easily with and who were well versed in Puerto Rican cultural traditions.

Eventually, Aida’s mother stopped working in order to raise her children. Her father began to work for a city agency, the Parks Department of New York City. It was easier for her father to gain employments for two reasons. The first had to do with language: “My father already had, um, had, was capable or knew how to speak English already.” The second had to do with a specific opportunity.

Well, I believe that he had taken, um, the Parks Department was hiring, uh, workers to work in the Parks Department which was a subdivision of the Sanitation Department. And uh, I believe he told me that there was a massive uh, employment drive and he managed to land a position within the Parks Department. So it became he worked for the city and it became a steady job and they were offered a large uh, increase in salary and he was capable of then uh, supporting his family.

What the author’s from the previous articles mentioned fail to discuss is the unwavering support of city agencies in response to the so-called “crisis” of Puerto Ricans. Community agencies helped those in need, offering language classes and job opportunities. Although there is specific discussion of a government funded committee to weed out welfare abusers from the system, it is clear from Aida’s experience that her parents were very hard working individuals, who placed strict importance on family values, and values in general, especially American ones. They made sure that their children were educated, even if they weren’t:

Amanda Dasaro: So there was no issue with language barrier or anything like that? With like neighbors.

Aida Dasaro: My mother at first there was. My father already had, um, had, was capable or knew how to speak English already.

Amanda Dasaro: And um, your brother and sister, were school age, or no, they were still young?

Aida Dasaro: Um, I think they were school age. I think they were school age.

Amanda Dasaro: What year are we talking? Are we talking like 1950 something? Or before that?

Aida Dasaro: Uh, my brother and sister may not have been of school age yet, but eventually they did enter into the public school system of New York City.

Aida also mentions that her parents were adamant about her learning English. Spanish was hardly spoken in her childhood home. She explains:

Amanda Dasaro: Now, did you always know how to speak Spanish? Was that something that…

Aida Dasaro: No, not really. I was raised speaking English because my parents believed that, um, we should learn the primary language of the uh country and uh would speak to us in English in the house.

Amanda Dasaro: So how did you learn how to speak Spanish?

Aida Dasaro: Well they would speak it among themselves and at school uh starting in the 6th grade we starting taking elementary Spanish and with the help of my parents and the fact that most of the people in the neighborhood spoke Spanish um I had a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish and continued to study it throughout junior high school, high school, and college.

Puerto Ricans are also different in a sense from other immigrant groups that settled in New York. Although many were searching for better economic opportunities, some left New York and went back to their homeland, or moved on to settle in different places. This was not the case with most Puerto Ricans who settled in the New York City area. Aida equates their feelings with common feelings felt today all throughout Puerto Rico:

Amanda Dasaro: When grandma and grandpa left Puerto Rico were they really upset to leave their family? Or did their family come with them?

Aida Dasaro: Well, there were members already here, uh, from both families. But they knew that once they moved from Puerto Rico that they were never going to return that they were going to make their future in the United States and particularly in New York City because that’s where most of uh Puerto Ricans from the island settled.

Amanda Dasaro: Why did they never wanna go back?

Aida Dasaro: Because they felt that there was no future there for themselves or their children.

Amanda Dasaro: It’s funny, because people feel like that now. And we’re talking like almost like 70 years later. People still feel like that.

Aida Dasaro: Well you have to understand that Puerto Rico now is going through a very very difficult economic downturn, and most of the professionals cannot afford to live there anymore because their jobs are not paying adequate enough money for them to even subsist on.

Amanda Dasaro: Well where, couldn’t that be said for when your parents lived there?

Aida Dasaro: Exactly.

Amanda Dasaro: So it’s pretty much the same, they’re pretty much going through the problem for the past 70 years.

Aida Dasaro: Well there was a time that people were returning to the island and the tourism industry was at it’s peak. But now with the economic situation going on with the junk bonds and uh the persistent bankruptcy of in Puerto Rico many professionals are leaving the island and heading back, heading to the United States to seek better job positions.

Aida’s family about her story truly puts the experience of Puerto Ricans into perspective. Colonized and forgotten about by the United States government, economic downturn before and after the war forced many Puerto Rican families to emigrate to the mainland. There was a large concentration of Puerto Ricans in New York, where Aida’s family ultimately settled. After fighting on the American side of the war, they were thanked with high taxes and low wages, leaving them no choice but to leave their beloved little island.

Once they came, they settled as best as they could. Relying on organizations and churches, they tried to integrate themselves into society. They learned as much english as they could and made sure their children learned it as well, even as a primary language. Puerto Ricans may be different in the sense that they had been citizens since 1918, but they were still treated as if they had no social standing. They were hardworking and diligent. They weren’t diseased, and most of them worked for what little they had, not using welfare to make ends meet. As you can see, Puerto Ricans were never the problem. White columnists and media honchos portrayed them in a negative light, as they feared what they did not understand.

Racial nativism was alive and well in the late 1940’s, but families like Aida’s did not let that break their spirit. Through her parents hard work, Aida was educated in the New York City public education system and went on to receive a full scholarship to Fordham University. She completed a degree in sociology, eventually taking a government job at the Postal Service for a short time. There she met her husband whom she has three wonderful children with. She now prospers, living in a three bedroom home in a nice neighborhood in Staten Island, teaching young boys and girls the skills they need to survive in this world. Because of her parents perseverance and determination in the fact of racism and adversity, she was able to succeed.

Cover Image Credit: Name Day Shirts

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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I Am Pro-Life, And I Am Tired Of Being Attacked For My Opinion

I am pro-life from a secular and logical standpoint.

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We live in a country based on free speech, so why are pro-lifers verbally and physically attacked for merely their stance on a controversial topic? Why is Instagram censoring pro-life voices? Social media users should be given both sides of the argument, then allowed to make an informed decision, but by showing them only pro-choice content, their opinion will be biased.

Harmless pro-life posts are being shadow-banned from popular hashtags, lowering reach and engagement. There is a problem when non-violent, non-hateful posts showcasing people holding up signs that say, "Voices for the Voiceless", are censored.

Why are pro-choicers allowed to share their opinions on social media and be praised, while pro-lifers lose followers for sharing a pro-life post? It is vital that people have different opinions, and shunning pro-lifers encourages homogeneity of political opinions. Pro-lifers should not lose friends. Pro-lifers should not be attacked. Pro-lifers should not be scared of speaking up for what they believe is right.

I am pro-life, but I respect everyone's opinion. Instead of shunning the opposite side, I try to hear them out and understand where they are coming from.

Instead of dismissing pro-lifers as being old white men trying to control women's bodies, why not hear them out and try to understand the reasoning behind their opinions?

I used to be neutral on the topic of abortion, until a month ago, when I saw something that completely changed my perspective. It was around the time Governor Kemp signed the fetal heartbeat bill in Georgia, and it was a hot topic, so I decided to do some research. I came across a sight called "Priests For Life". "Oh great", I thought, "This site is going to impose its Christian views of abortion on everyone." Once on the site, I clicked on a tab titled, "America Will Not Reject Abortion Until America Sees Abortion."

I clicked on the gallery, and was confronted with the cold hard truth. View the gallery with extreme caution, because the images/videos are VERY graphic.

From this site, I also discovered that planned parenthood harvests and sells the body parts of aborted babies. Keep in mind, Planned Parenthood, providing 1/3 of abortions in America, receives $500 million dollars yearly from taxpayers. Having taxpayers' money going toward reforming foster care would be a better idea in my opinion.

The Declaration of Independence states, "Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". The difference in opinion on whether the law should protect unborn children is a major factor that divides the pro-life and pro-choice movements.

In my humble opinion, I believe an unborn child should be protected by the law once a heartbeat is detected. We cannot dehumanize unborn children with euphemisms such as "clump of cells" or "potential life". We were all once "a clump of cells", and we still are. Can you name one non-living thing with a heartbeat? There is none.

The level of development of a human does not detract from his/her rights. All lives matter!

The most common pro-choice argument is "My body my choice." Yes, your body your choice, but when it's not your body, it's not your choice. The baby has its own unique set of DNA, its own organs, its own limbs, brain activity and a heartbeat. Just because a woman carries a baby does not give her a right to end his/her life.

Some may say the fetus cannot survive on its own, but a 1 month infant cannot either. A one month old infant depends on the care of a mother or guardian, and if it were to be left without food or water, it would not be able to fend for itself. Someone on life support cannot survive without the incubator. Elderly people with dementia depend on the care of staff in senior centers for survival.

The parasite argument is also a common one. Basic biology can refute this one. An unborn child in the womb is not a parasite, because for it to be a parasite it would have to be a different species than the mother, which would cause an adverse immune response.

"Everyone has the right to choose," is found on almost every pro-choice protest sign, and yes I agree. You have the right to choose to do whatever you want, but the second your actions harm another human's rights, a line must be drawn.

A women's right to choose ends when her baby's right to life begins.

Another common argument that is condescending towards pro-lifers is that they are pro-birth but not pro-life. Tell that to the thousands of pro-lifers adopting multiple children, giving them the best possible life. Tell that to the people outside of planned parenthood with signs that say "I will take your baby." Tell that to the numerous churches helping pregnant women. Tell that to the government who is giving single mothers tax breaks, food stamps and countless other resources.

The foster system may be flawed, but that is not justify ending the life of a child. More than 18,000 American families successfully adopt newborn babies in the United States every year.

Regardless, suffering is inevitable; you cannot end a child's life because he/she will live a difficult life. Instead, legislation should be passed to improve the foster care system and the adoption process. When a child is not aborted there is always hope, a chance, a possibility.

Some "pro-lifers" say, "I am pro-life for my body, but pro-choice for everyone else". This reasoning fails in many ways. You never hear anyone say, "I would never abuse my child, but I would never take away a parent's choice of if they want to abuse their child or not". Being pro-life means advocating for the defenseless, which means every single child, not just your own.

Women can do whatever they want with their lives, as long as their actions do not end the heartbeat of another human being.

All over social media, you see people sharing posts that say the women will be sentenced to 99 years of jail for having an abortion and 30 years for a miscarriage, but this is false. Often celebrities are the ones using their platforms to share these false statements. People should also fact-check the things they see on Instagram before believing them.

One line all pro-choicers say is "No uterus, no opinion". Let's not forget the people who made abortion legal were old, white men. This line is hypocrisy at its finest. If the line was "No prostate, no opinion", World War III would break out.

Most people are outraged by the fact that majority of the politicians who signed the heartbeat bill in Georgia were men, but let us not forget that Georgia residents vote for these representatives knowing the policies they advocate for. Around 40% of Americans are pro-life, and around 40% of women are pro-life, but these percentages are significantly greater in Conservative states, which explains the election of conservative representatives in Georgia and Alabama.

Pro-choicers often paint an image of pro-lifers as men who want to control the bodies of women, but that could not be any further from the truth. Abortion allows men to use women and not be held responsible for the consequences. Banning abortion teaches men responsibility and loyalty.

The purpose of the pro-life movement is not to control a woman's body but rather grant an innocent, unborn child the fundamental right to life.

Regardless of my pro-life stance, I do believe abortion should be allowed in RARE cases; for example, when the mother's health is in danger.

I agree these anti-abortion bills put a lot of stress on the mother, so I am all for increasing the involvement of the father. Whether it be increasing the amount and frequency of child support payments or making the father co-parent, it takes two to create a child, so the father should pull his weight.

Dr. Martin Luther King Sr. once said, "Every aborted baby is like a slave in the womb of his or her mother. The mother decides his or her fate."

This article is not meant to shun anyone who has had an abortion or is pro-choice. I respect your stance 100 percent. The purpose of this article is to address the social media bias towards liberal views of abortion and the stigma of leaning toward the right on abortion. There is no one right answer to this debate. It is not always black and white; that is why the abortion debate has been going on for decades.

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