Population and Society / Puerto Rican Emigration to Florida
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Table percentage growth of migration toward Florida
It was in the decade of the 1940s that the first movement of Puerto Ricans to the State of Florida took place. A handful of owners of agricultural land began to emigrate to the Miami area at that time. Several prominent families, such as the Serrallés, Roig, Ramírez de Arellano, García Méndez, and Ferré families, bought large expanses of land in the Everglades region, to the south of Lake Okeechobee. There they established Fellsmore Mill, the first sugar refinery in Florida funded with Puerto Rican capital. Later, they brought in technical personnel, including engineers, mechanics, and electricians, to work in the mill. In 1947, the Miami Herald praised the Puerto Rican contribution to the economic progress of the city, pointing out that many of the immigrants were retired millionaires, business people, doctors, dentists, educators, and artists.

The first large scale movement of Puerto Ricans to Florida took place under the agricultural workers program sponsored by the Puerto Rico Department of Labor’s Migrationmigration: People moving from one place to another, or expanding their original place. Division. From the 1940s through the 1960s, the program recruited thousands of workers, who were contracted by agribusinesses, mostly in the northeast of the United States. Hundreds of migrants settled in the south of Florida, especially in Dade, Broward, and West Palm Beach Counties. Most were seasonal workers specialized in harvesting vegetables such as potatoes, beans, avocados, corn, tomatoes, and lettuce. During the summer, many of them traveled north to work on farms and then returned to the south in the winter. In the 1950s, most Puerto Rican immigrants in Florida were working class.

The emigrationemigration: The departure of persons from their place of origin to settle elsewhere. to Central Florida intensified toward the end of the decade of the 1960s, when hundreds of island residents acquired properties near Orlando, particularly in Deltona, in Volusia County. In 1971, the opening of the first of the Walt Disney entertainment parks in Orlando increased real estate speculation, and many middle-class Puerto Ricans made lucrative investments in the region. According to reports in the press, the first wave of immigrants was made up primarily of retired persons who were looking for a quieter and safer style of life in Central Florida. Later, the migration to Florida expanded to include other Puerto Rican communities in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. In 1980, the census found some 6,796 residents of Puerto Rican origin in Orange County, which includes the city of Orlando.

The Puerto Rican exodusExodus: Departure of a large number of people from their place of origin. to Central Florida, both from the island and from other parts of the United States, began in the mid 1980s. By that time, there were small enclaves of Puerto Ricans in several counties, including Volusia, Osceola, and Orange. Later on, thousands moved to new suburban communities such as Meadow Parks in Orange County and Buenaventura Lakes in Osceola, both developed by Landstar Homes.

Between 1990 and 2000, the Puerto Rican population of the City of Orlando grew faster than in any other part of the United States. In that decade, Orange and Osceola Counties displaced the Bronx as the principal destination for Puerto Rican immigrants. And by 2004, with almost 200,000 Puerto Rican residents, Orlando was the second largest metropolitan area for Puerto Ricans in all of the United States, after New York.

Autor: Dr. Jorge Duany
Published: September 16, 2014.

Version: 06081503 Rev. 1
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