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Puerto Ricans in the United States: A Contemporary Portrait

Edna Acosta-Belén and Carlos E. Santiago
Puerto Ricans in the United States: A Contemporary Portrait
ISBN: 978-1-58826-399-5
ISBN: 978-1-58826-400-8
2006/273 pages/LC: 2006002396
Latinos: Exploring Diversity and Change
"An excellent panoramic view of Puerto Ricans in the United States.... Puerto Ricans in the United States: A Contemporary Portrait will become the reader on Puerto Rican Studies and a prominent complement to the ethnic studies literature, and well it should."—Carlos Vargas-Ramos, Contemporary Sociology

"Arguably the deans of Puerto Rican studies, Acosta-Belén and Santiago provide a comprehensive, contemporary portrait of the nearly 8 million Puerto Ricans almost evenly divided between the island itself and across the US mainland and Hawai'i.... A valuable reference work and ... an accessible one-volume introduction to US Puerto Ricans.... Essential."—Choice

"Written in elegant and accessible prose, and grounded in a thoroughly interdisciplinary approach, this book provides a coherent and well-documented overview of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States…. [It] is a must for scholars, students, and all who want to understand the anomaly of Puerto Rico's history and status in the US context."—Suzanne Oboler, University of Illinois, Chicago

"Finally!  a one-volume study of Puerto Ricans in the United States that provides a full account of migration patterns and weaves a fascinating interdisciplinary narrative of the development of mainland communities. Up to date, written in simple yet elegant prose, and balanced in its disciplinary emphases, this book will be of significant value not only to students, but also to the general public.”"—Francisco A. Scarano, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"Weaving together the story of Puerto Ricans on the island with an account of their compatriots on the mainland, Acosta-Belén and Santiago offer an insightful and nuanced assessment of the possibilities, as well as the problems, facing this dynamic, mobile, and ever-changing population."—Douglas S. Massey, Princeton University

"This outstanding book captures the historical, cultural, demographic, and socioeconomic realities of Puerto Ricans. Very well written and argued, it is invaluable—and destined to become required reading."—William Vélez, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

"An essential contribution. Carefully conceived, well written, and thorough, it will become a staple in Latino, Puerto Rican, and race and ethnic studies classes."—Pedro Cabán, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


Though their presence in the United States is long standing, knowledge about Puerto Ricans—their culture, history, socioeconomic status, and contributions—has been decidedly inadequate. Edna Acosta-Belén and Carlos Santiago change this status quo, presenting a nuanced portrait of both the contemporary community and the trajectory of its development.

The authors move from Puerto Rico's colonial experience, through a series of waves of migration, to the emergence of the commuter patterns seen today. Not least, they draw on extensive data to dispel widespread myths and stereotypes. Their work is a critical corrective to conventional wisdom about the role of the Puerto Rican community within US society.


Edna Acosta-Belén is Distinguished Professor of Latin American, Caribbean, and wome's studies at the University at Albany, SUNY. She serves as coeditor of the Latino(a) Research Review, which she founded with Carlos Santiago. Carlos E. Santiago is senior deputy commissioner of academic affairs with the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. He has published extensively on the Puerto Rican diaspora.


  • Introduction: Portrait of a Commuter Nation.
  • The Colonial Experience.
  • Migrations Before World War II.
  • Postwar Migration Patterns.
  • A Demographic Portrait.
  • Social and Civil Rights Struggles.
  • Voices and Images of the Diaspora.
  • Overcoming the Colonial Experience: Future Challenges.
  • Brief Chronology of Puerto Rican History.