New York City has had Latinos ever since Puerto Ricans changed from “immigrants” to “migrants.” In 1900, the city had 500 Puerto Ricans, but by 1930 that number had bloomed to 45,000 . This number continued to grow through the decades, as Puerto Ricans settled in large part in East Harlem. By the 1950s, they began to be displaced from Manhattan to the outer boroughs, where many came to Sunset Park . Mary Donovan writes about the driving force bringing Puerto Ricans to the city:
Just as the rise of the steamship led to the immigration of Norwegians at the end of the nineteen century, a similar revolution in transportation brought Puerto Ricans to the community fifty years later .
In the 1950s, there were 1,820 Puerto Ricans living in Sunset Park; by 1970, this number had grown to nearly 24,000. As with all new groups coming to Sunset Park, they settled along the waterfront, in residences vacated by their escalating predecessors. where they took up jobs in the industrials center of the neighborhood. Puerto Ricans at first mainly lived along 3rd Avenue, which had been neglected since the construction of the Gowanus Expressway had ruined the commerce along the avenue. As they settled in and became a larger proportion of the population, Puerto Ricans formed various social clubs–such as Moca, Hatillo, and Camuy–based on the town from which they had migrated; also, in 1966 the United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park was formed to help citizens in the community.
Today (as seen in the two graphs), Latinos, in general, are the number one immigrants to Sunset Park, with Puerto Ricans still in the plurality. The neighborhood even celebrates Puerto Rican Day in June.
The majority of immigrants (as opposed to Puerto Rican migrants) come from the Dominican Republic and Mexico. The Dominicans typically come from larger families and with work experience, making them second only to the Chinese in home ownership . Time in the United States has affected the relationship among the Dominicans and Puerto Ricans. While in Latin America they may consider themselves of the same race, the American duality of white and black has created tensions among Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, as the Puerto Ricans use the term morenos (meaning “blacks”) to refer to the Dominicans.
For the remainder of the Latino community in Sunset Park, there exists a difficulty in counting. The Census does not report specifically on population groups for counts under 100 persons. It is known, however, that Sunset Park is home to immigrants from Ecuador, Columbia, Peru, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. In fact, by a 1990 count, almost 5% of the Hispanics in Sunset Park were Ecuadorian .
To read about the influences of these groups on the shops and restaurants of Sunset Park, especially the Mexican influences, click through.
Hum, Tarry. “Asian and Latino Immigration and the Revitalization of Sunset Park, Brooklyn.” Contemporary Asian American Communities: Intersections and Divergences. Ed. Linda Trinh Vo and Rick Bonus. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002. 27-45.