Hola amigos: The eMagazine Voices from the Center for Puerto Rican Studies of the Hunter College gives us the Barrios, this time Florida Barrios: by email@example.com.
This section of Voices: Barrios will focus on Florida — home to about ¾ million Puerto Ricans. Since 1990, Florida’s Puerto Rican population has grown to become the second-largest in the diaspora. The most dramatic increase has been in Central Florida, where the percentage of Puerto Ricans to total population in the Orlando-Kissimmee area is now larger than that of New York.
Florida Barrio Image
Barrios – La Florida stretches the definition of the barrio. Florida is a big place with many Puerto Rican communities spread from Tampa through Orlando to the Space Coast and from Miami to Jacksonville. We want to use this space to explore all of them. The spring 2010 issue of CENTRO Journal reports on some of the earliest research on Puerto Rican Florida. The “La Florida” section of the Barrios series is intended to augment the work begun in CENTRO Journalby offering a space for scholars and artists to tell the stories of “La Florida.” This section is about the history and actuality of Puerto Rican Florida. We invite submissions of oral histories, photo essays, interview excerpts, brief analyses of qualitative or quantitative research, and other pieces that together will make a mosaic of the Puerto Rican barrios of La Florida. Submissions may be in English or Spanish.
In this issue, we have included a statistical presentation of Puerto Rican Florida demographics (Demographic Overview), an excerpt from an oral history about Puerto Rican experience in Florida in the 1950s (Oral Histories), a photo essay about one community in Central Florida (Barrios of La Florida), and an archival document from the 1930s that invites further investigation (En los Baúles). In the future, we hope to see Barrios – La Florida grow with information on art and culture, education, history, health, housing, politics, economics, and other topics that you might propose to us. For more information, or to submit materials, contact Patricia Silver, section editor Voices: Barrios – La Florida firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reflections from the Field:
A Photo Essay of Buenaventura Lakes, FL
In June of 2010, I relocated from East Harlem, New York toKissimmee, Florida to begin my ethnographic fieldwork in theBuenaventura Lakes (BVL) Subdivision. BVL is situated in the Orlando-Kissimmee Metropolitan Area, located within a 20-mile radius of several international tourist destinations, most notably Disney World. According to the 2006-2008 American Community Survey, BVL has a total population of 25,343. At the time of the survey there were 10,514 Puerto Ricans, 615 Cubans, 210 Mexicans, and 5,278 individuals that identified as “other Hispanic or Latino.” Buenaventura Lakes was incorrectly labeled as Yeehaw Junction in the 2000 Census and the 2006-2008 American Community Survey.
Given the large number of Puerto Ricans, I was surprised to observe the following street names within the vicinity of my home: Mexicali Way, Oaxaca Lane, Toluca Drive, Guadalajara Drive, Merida Drive, Campeche Lane, Vera Cruz Avenue, and Acapulco Drive. These street names are derived from place-names in Mexico. I later learned about the Mexican millionaires who were responsible for the BVL project. In the 1970s there was growing fear that Mexico would nationalize, therefore Mexican land developers decided to invest in the United States. Their initial intention was to sell plots of land, but they transitioned to home sales after swampland scandals affected Florida land sales operations. The land developers initially created the Real Estate Corporation of Florida to sell plots of land, but they later created the Landstar Homes Corporation when they went into home sales.
In 1978, Landstar Homes constructed their first home in rural Osceola County. Long-time residents mentioned that BVL was all farmland back then and described the cows and ducks that would obstruct the area’s one road, Boggy Creek. Landstar opened sales offices in New York, Chicago, and New Jersey offering “Affordable Luxury” and “Country Club Living.” Sales offices were also opened in Mexico, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico, which contributed to the influx of Puerto Ricans in the 1980s.
Fast forward to 2010, where the Puerto Rican and Hispanic presence demands attention. Numerous supermarkets (Publix Sabor, Bravo, El Aguila) restaurants (Pioco’s Chicken, La Carreta, Delicias, Sebastian Café, Churro Mania, Tropico, La Caribeña) and other small businesses cater to the Hispanic residents of BVL, and dominate the commercial landscape.
Upon first glance, it is not always obvious that the residential spaces of this suburban subdivision house such a large concentration of Puerto Ricans. However, a Puerto Rican flaghanging in a garage, window, or as an insignia on a car serves as a reminder.
At the same time, I have observed space being used differently than what I have been accustomed to in other suburbs where I have lived or visited. In suburban developments, social life often occurs within the house or in the rear of the home, within private backyards that are equipped with pools and grills. In BVL it is not uncommon to observe residents sitting on lawn chairs in front of their homes, socializing in garages that have been converted to common areas with tables, chairs, and couches, or performing mechanical work in their driveways and garages.
The weekends bring a plethora of garage sales, yard sales, and the occasional poster board advertising alcapurrias (meat fritters) or pinchos (shish kebab) available from a grill that has been set up on the front lawn or in a garage. These practices, the concentration of Puerto Ricans, the presence of Hispanic and Puerto Rican businesses, and the absence of a regulatory Home Owners Association have earned BVL the nickname Boricuas Viven Libre.
Still, the community faces a number of challenges. Residents have mentioned the need for increased code enforcement, infrastructural improvements, beautification projects, the debate over incorporation, and the lack of social spaces and social activities. The closure of both BVL golf courses, and the country club was a disappointment to the residents who bought into the country club lifestyle. While there is a great deal of “crime talk” about drugs, gangs, and graffiti, the mortgage crisis is what I find most visible. It is hard to go down a street without passing a “For Sale” sign or a vacant property (oftentimes a foreclosure) that has been neglected.
Since 2008, Florida has ranked amongst the top states in the country for foreclosure filings. In 2009, the Orlando Sentinel reported that a majority of foreclosed homes in Central Florida were located in two predominately Puerto Rican communities, one of which was BVL. During the next two years I will be investigating Puerto Rican migration to Osceola County, social class formation, the homeownership experience, and the effects of the mortgage crisis. Social class can be an ambiguous, fluid, and complex category when used to describe populations that have been traditionally homogenized as “underclassed” and racialized as non-white, as has been the case of Puerto Ricans. My research will address the fragility and ambiguity of social class identities by examining how Puerto Ricans articulate, perform, and protect their class identities, particularly in light of an economic crisis in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland.
Puerto Rican Florida: Demographic Overview
“Puerto Rican Florida: Demographic Overview” is taken from a power point presentation prepared by Lucas Pedraza and Patricia Silver and presented at the “Summit on Puerto Rican Affairs: A Vision for the Future” in Kissimmee, Florida, on May 21, 2010.  Maps included in each of the entries give visual representations of population density for Puerto Rican populations living in each of these metropolitan areas as well as in the state of Florida by county and by census tract. The data tables presented here include economic, occupational, educational, and demographic data for four metropolitan areas of Florida. For each of these metro areas, there are tables for age and population, housing tenure, educational attainment, income, employment, and poverty rates. The tables for “Florida in the Diaspora” include comparative data on each of these for the state of Florida and the U.S., as well as data on occupation, industry, and class of worker for Florida and the U.S.
The entry called “Florida and the Diaspora” compares these data described above for Puerto Ricans and for the total population in the state of Florida and in the U.S. as a whole. “Florida and the Diaspora” also includes graphs. The first compares population figures for each of the above metropolitan areas of Florida to New York City and the statewide population of Puerto Rican Florida. The other four give a comparative view of the following data categories across each of the four Florida metropolitan areas, New York City, statewide Florida, and all of the U.S.: (1) the percent of Puerto Rican population to the total population and to all Hispanics; (2) median age and percent of Puerto Rican population over age 18; (3) median household income; and (4) education levels for over age 25.
The data tables organized by data category rather than by metropolitan area allow a comparative view across the Orlando-Kissimmee, Tampa – St. Petersburg, Miami, and Jacksonville areas. To access the data tables organized by category and a PDF of the original power point presentation, click here. Florida data project ppt 2010 / Puerto Ricans in Florida Data Tables
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Selected Population Profile; U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates, Selected Population Profile; U.S. Census Bureau 2000, Summary File 1.
- Florida in the Diaspora
Digging Los baules
Days of digging through archival collections in all kinds of places will usually turn up one or two documents that give a glimpse of Puerto Rican experiences in Florida at a time when social research attention given to Puerto Ricans in the U.S. was largely focused on northern U.S. communities. In this section, we will from time to time present one such document together with a brief account of its historical context. We invite you pursue the research lines you find in the document and help us to make this a collaborative effort at unearthing Florida Puerto Rican histories. We also invite you to submit your own intriguing discovery that you may have run across in your research.
As an example, here is a document from the Archivo General de Puerto Rico in San Juan (Fondo: Oficina del Gobernador; Tarea: 96-20; Caja 269: Correspondencia General, Emigración, 1932-47). When Robert Gore was inaugurated as Governor of Puerto Rico in 1933, he came to Puerto Rico from Florida and brought a wreath for Ponce de León’s tomb. Although originally from Kentucky, Gore spent his winters in Florida, where he had acquired newspapers. In his inaugural speech, he suggested that bringing Puerto Ricans to Florida was a possible path to resolving both Florida’s need to populate its vast lands and Puerto Rico’s “population problem.” The archives in San Juan have a small collection of letters to Governor Gore from several people of all kinds of backgrounds, each with their own plan for making good on the Governor’s idea.
Uploaded – 2010.
July 5, 1933
Mr. Robert H. Gore
Our Dear Governor:
We every one here signed is head of a big family. Each one of us has a family compound from five to ten kids in each family.
We are ten good American citizen families. Our occupation is agriculture laborers. All catholics and belong to the white people race.
We are sure you are going to send us soon to Florida. We have not property in Porto Rico. We hope to be in Florida in a pretty soon.
God bless your project of prosperity in our country and let you realize the emigration project to Florida. We hope to be the first ten families enlist to emigrate to Florida. We will start to help you in your emigration project. In God we trust that everything will be right.
Yours very truly and fellow citizen.