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«DOCUMENT RESUME ED 355 029 PS 021 216 AUTHOR Hidalgo, Nitza M. TITLE i saw puerto rico once: A Review of the Literature on Puerto Rican Families and ...»

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ED 355 029 PS 021 216

AUTHOR Hidalgo, Nitza M.

TITLE "i saw puerto rico once": A Review of the Literature

on Puerto Rican Families and School Achievement in

the United States. Report No. 12.

INSTITUTION Center on Families, Communities, Schools, and

Children's Learning.; Wheelock Coll., Boston,


SPONS AGENCY Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C.; Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.

PUB DATE Oct 92 CONTRACT R117Q00031 NOTE 64p.

AVAILABLE FROM Center on Families, Communities, Schools and Children's Learning, Johns Hopkins University, 3505 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21215 ($7.40).

PUB TYPE Historical Materials (060) Information Analyses Reports Descriptive (141) (070) EDRS PRICE MF01/PC03 Plus Postage.

DESCRIPTORS *Academic Achievement; Acculturation; Community Organizations; Cultural Background; Cultural Traits;

Elementary Secondary Education; *Ethnicity;

Ethnography; Family Characteristics; *Fmily Influence; *Family School Relationship; *Puerto Rican Culture; *Puerto Ricans IDENTIFIERS Cultural Values; Hispanic American Students; *Puerto Rican History


Representing part of the first phase of a 5-year ethnographic research project, this report investigates the ways in which Puerto Rican families influence their children's school achievement. The report examines the history of Puerto Rico and the migration of Puerto Ricans to the United States. Puerto Rican community organizations, both local and national, and conditions faced by Puerto Ricans in the United States, and particularly in New York City, are described. A review of research provides a detailed examination of Puerto Rican school achievement, noting that Puerto Rican achievement in the Urited States has generally been considered poor when measured by standardized tests. Research on Puerto Rican cultural values, family patterns and role socialization, and acculturation is also discussed, and the ways in which these areas relate to school achievement are considered. The report concludes that the Puerto Rican sense of identity must be maintained by parents and educators. It is recommended that educators and parents work together to challerib, schools to address the needs of Puerto Rican students. A list of 140 references is included. (MM) *********************************************************************** * Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made

–  –  –

James Corner, Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry, Yale Child Study Center, New Haven CT Sanford M. Dombuszb, Director, Family Study Center, Stanford University, Stanford CA Susan Freedman, Director, Office of Community Education, Massachusetts Department of Education, Quincy MA

–  –  –

Robert Witherspoon, Director, National Parent Center, National Coalition of Title I Chapter 1 Parents. Washington DC "i saw puerto rico once"

–  –  –

Published by the Center on Families, Communities, Schools and Children's Learning. The Center is supported by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Research and Improvement (R117Q 00031) in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The opinions expressed are the author's own and do not represent OERI or HHS position on policies.




The nation's schools must do more to improve the education of all children, but schools cannot do this alone. More will be accomplished if families and co nmunities work with children, with each other, and with schools to promote successful students.

The mission of this Center is to conduct research, evaluations, policy analyses, and dissemination to produce new and useful knowledge about how families, schools, and communities influence student motivation, learning, and development. A second important goal is to improve the connections between and among these major social institutions.

Two research programs guide the Center's work: the Program on the Early Years of Childhood, covering children aged 0-10 through the elementary grades; and the Program on the Years of Early and Late Adolescence, covering youngsters aged 11-19 through the middle and high school grades.

Research on family, school, and community connections must be conducted to understand more about all children and all families, not just those who are economically and educationally advantaged or already connected to school and community resources. The Center's projects pay particular attention to the diversity of family cultures and backgrounds and to the diversity in family, school, and community practices that support families in helping children succeed across the years of childhood and adolescence.

Projects also examine policies at the federal, state, and local levels that produce effective partnerships.

A third program of Institutional Activities includes a wide range of dissemination projects to extend the Center's national leadership. The Center's work will yield new information, practices, and policies to promote partnerships among families, communities, and schools to benefit children's learning.

–  –  –

History Migration In Nueva York Community Organizations Puerto Rican School Achievement Puerto Rican Cultural Values Puerto Rican Family Patterns and Role Socialization Acculturation Puerto Ricanness Conclusions Endnotes Bibliography

–  –  –

This work would not have been possible without the care and assistance of my colleague and research assistant, Ms. Aida Ramos. She spent many days searching for literature, reading drafts and helping me clarify the issues. I am most grateful to her.

I am most grateful to my colleagues at the Center on Families, Communities, Schools and Children's Learning for taking the time to read and comment on this work.

I wish to thank Ms. Terry Heide for her thoughtful editorial work.

–  –  –

The experiences of Puerto Rican families in the United States have been widely described in literature on a broad range of topics including history, migration, employment, acculturation, and school achievement (Herrera, 1979). One can derive exhaustive statistical portraits comparing Puertorriquerios2 to other groups in U.S.

society, none of which accurately portray the struggle for survival in an often hostile social environment. Puerto Rican children make up an increasing proportion of the school population in the United States, especially in urban areas. Yet their educational progress has been blocked by economic and structural obstacles. The question of how Puerto Rican families influence their children's school achievement is tied to the historical experiences faced by Puerto Ricans in this country. In order to understand the experience of Puerto Rican families in the United States and its influence on the school achievement of its youth, this paper reviews the Island background, migration to the United States, conditions faced here, family values, and acculturation.

This paper represents part of the first phase of a five-year research project on families' influences on school achievement. Our ethnographic study will investigate how African-American, Chinese-American, Irish-American and Puerto Rican families support their children's school success during the primary grades.

The study of Puerto Rican families in the United States must be placed within the context of migration to and from the Island, the level of acculturation that has occurred within each family, and the colonial heritage families share. My thesis is that one cannot understand Puerto Rican school achievement without examining the historical experience of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. and on the Island, and how that experience has impacted Puerto Rican identity.


Puerto Rico is the easternmost island of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean Its land mass of 3,423 square miles consists of 40 percent mountains, 35 Sea.

percent hills, and 25 percent plains. Puerto Rico was colonized by the Spaniards after Columbus landed in 1493 in Borinquen, as it was called by its indigenous people, during his second voyage to the western continents (Lopez & Petras, 1974).

The indigenous Taino3 society had developed a social structure of yucayeque (autonomous villages) with caciques (chiefs and military leaders), bohiques (priests and medicine healers), nitaynos (aristocracy and military elite) and nabortas (laborers, workers, and hunters) (Lopez & Petras, 1974). Taino society was communal in nature. The ceremonial ritual, areyto, held for all types of occasions, was a means of cultural transmission and education.

The Taino population at the time of colonization was estimated at 15,000 to 30,000, but some believe there may have been as many as 70,000 Tainos. Their decline and eventual extinction is linked to five major causes: intermarriage with Spaniards'', migration to the Lesser Antilles after their defeat by the Spaniards, epidemics brought by the Spanish soldiers and African slaves, slavery and the cruelties associated with slavery, and rebellious outbreaks against the Spaniards (Lopez, 1980).

The Spaniards ruled Puerto Rico for four centuries. Their colonial administration was characterized by centralization and the fusion of church and state.

The centralized power structure meant all decisions were made in Spain with little knowledge of what was occurring in the colonies. There was little room for policy making at the local level. Christianity at the time had tremendous political influence;

for example, one justification for coming to the new world was to convert the Tainos to Christianity. The religious argument was used to justify economic exploitation of the colonies. During Spanish rule the economy was based on the agricultural system of the hacienda (plantation), a semi-feudal organization with large land owners and dependent peasant workers (Quintero-Alfaro, 1987).

12, By the mid-1500's, the dwindling number of Tainos resulted in the introduction in Puerto Rico of African people enslaved by the Spaniards (Cordasco & Bucchioni, 1973; Mapp, 1974). Slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico in 1873 (Lopez & Petras, 1974). Thus, the racial roots of Puerto Rican people are a mixture of Taino, Spanish, and African blood. Later immigrations of Corsican, Venezuelan, Cuban, and Dominican people have added to the racial and cultural roots of Puerto Ricans.

Throughout the four hundred years of Spanish rule, a strong Puerto Rican

culture developed. Elements of this culture, which will be defined further, include:

"male dominance, division of labor and family roles, sex roles, a virginity cult, racial tolerance, and such concepts as respect and dignity" (Salgado, 1985).

El Grito de Lares,5 an unsuccessful revolt by Puerto Rican people of all classes against Spain in 1868, symbolized the birth of Puerto Rican nationalism. The predominant movement against Spain, however, was reformist in nature. Puerto Ricans opted for reform rather than revolution as in other Latin American countries, because they were not strong enough to fight Spain. The Puerto Rican elite needed Spain's credit and land rights; they were also afraid of joining forces with the peasant masses because they feared losing control over them. The elite wanted to share power with Spain. If they could riot, they had the most to lose. The Autonomous Charter of 1897 was a reform measure and an attempt on Spain's part to retain her colonies in Cuba and Puerto Rico. The Autonomous Charter allowed more political power at the local level, gave Puerto Rico tariff autonomy and, most importantly, granted Puerto Ricans decision-making power on economic issues such as commercial treaties.

The new powers were short-lived. In 1898, the United States took possession of Puerto Rico as a war prize under the Treaty of Paris after the defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American War. U.S. troops entered Puerto Rico at Guanica that same year. The U.S. government established military rule under the powers granted by the Foraker Act of 1900. That law prescribed U.S. authority over Puerto Rican trade, commerce, and the monetary system and judicial systen Silen, 1971). In 1917, Congress passed the Jones Act, giving the inhabitants of erto Rico U.S. citizenship.

Of the action, Hilda Hidalgo states: "The United States Congress, unilaterally without consulting the Puerto Rican people, made Puerto Ricans U.S. citizens just in time to be able to conscript them into the army in World War I" (1975:38).

In 1950, Public Law 600 was enacted, establishing the current status of Puerto Rico, that of a free associated state (Si len, 1971). The title of free associated state, It is or commonwealth, obscures the political status of the Island (Betances, 1971).

not free to define its future; it is not a state with full privileges; it is an associate, a junior partner in its own affairs. Puerto Rico is allotted U.S. Congressional representation in the form of a resident commissioner who has no voting power.

Puerto Ricans cannot vote in presidential elections. Local government is composed of a bicameral legislature and an elected governor (Si len, 1971). U.S. Federal government agencies implement Federal laws and Federal assistance programs in Puerto Rico.

Since 1970, the Puerto Rican economy has been sluggish and dependency on Federal aid programs has grown. Federal aid programs, which have become widespread on the Island to help the high number of unemployed people, also keep wages low and create dependency on U.S. funds. "These forms of aid maintain an economy without a real basis" (Quintero-Alfaro, 1987:202). Julian Rivera compares Puerto Ricans to Native Americans as people whose land has been taken away from them, rendering them a "trapped minority without power or final control over their existence" (1974:87).

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