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Presentation Immigration and Relocation in U.S. History

Puerto Rican/Cuban

Puerto Rican festival, Lowell, Mass.

The islands of Puerto Rico and Cuba have a great deal in common. As near-neighbors in the Greater Antilles island chain, both lie in the Caribbean between Florida and Venezuela. Both share Spanish origins, and both islands have played key roles in the history of the Americas.

The immigrant experience of each island's people, however, could not have been more dramatically different. In the latter half of the 20th century, the people of Cuba found themselves cut off from the United States, forced to overcome great dangers and obstacles to leave their homeland. In contrast, the people of Puerto Rico found themselves annexed by the U.S., and had to discover what it meant to immigrate to a country that already claimed them as citizens.

However different their political circumstances, the immigrants of both islands had to face the challenges of 20th-century migration, and to find new ways to establish lasting communities in a strange—if not so distant—land.

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