New England’s Puerto Rican Influence

Florida has the largest Puerto Rican population in the 50 States. The Sunshine State recently supplanted New York in this position.

But political leaders of Puerto Rican heritage are increasingly showing up in New England, where sheer numbers of Puerto Ricans may be smaller, but the proportion of the population is significant.

Joshua Garcia is Mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Marcos Marrero is the Director of Planning and Economic Development for the City of Holyoke. Puerto Ricans now account for 80% of the Hispanic population of Hampden County, which includes Holyoke as well as Springfield.

Juan Vega is the Assistant Secretary of the Massachusetts Office of Housing and Economic Development. Felix Arroyo was a Boston City Councilman. Adam Gomez was the first Puerto Rican elected to the State Senate. Jose Tosado was a State Representative.

Luis Aponte is the City Council President of Providence, Rhode Island and Angel Taveras was Mayor of Providence. Providence is about 45% Hispanic, and roughly 20% — the largest group — of those individuals identify as Puerto Rican. Nellie M. Gorbea is the Rhode Island Secretary of State, L. María Rivera is the Mayor of Central Falls, Glendaliz Colón is a Central Falls Councilwoman; Elizabeth Fuerte is a Newport Councilwoman, Valerie González is a Woonsocket Councilwoman.

In Connecticutt, Puerto Rican political leaders include State reps. Aundre Bumgardner, Evelyn Mantilla, and Hilda Santiago as well as Hartford Mayors Pedro Segarra and Eddie Perez. 8.5% of Connecticutt’s population hails from Puerto Rico, the largest proportion in any of the States.

Puerto Ricans in New England

More than 600,000 Puerto Ricans live in New England, and they are increasingly occupying leadership positions. Since people from Puerto Rico began moving to New England in the 1920s, communities have spring up and grown around the mills and the agricultural areas of the region. While workers from Puerto Rico in the beginning of the 20th century tended to arrive in the spring and return to Puerto Rico for the winter, permanent settlers were in place beginning in the 1950s.

Migrants from Puerto Rico to New York began to relocate to New England at the end of the 20th century and Puerto Rican communities became established. While the newcomers faced discrimination, they also settled in, and New England is now home to many of the most important Puerto Rico Day parades and celebrations.

Like Joshua Garica, many of the new Puerto Rican leaders in New England are native New Englanders.

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