I'm currently reading Run Baby Run, an autobiography by Nicky Cruz. Mr Cruz is a former New York City gang leader who became a Christian minister.

In the first chapter, in which he describes how he got from Puerto Rico to New York, he writes:

It is the practice of many Puerto Rican families to send their children to New York when they are old enough to take care of themselves. Six of my older brothers already had left the island and moved to New York. All were married and trying to make a new life for themselves.

Nicky was 15 in 1955 when he was sent to New York to live with one of his brothers.

My question is: Why were Puerto Rican families sending their children off the island, and why New York?

  • 3
    Because it's richer, more developed, more prestigious? Do you suppose there might be some other motivation for some reason?
    – o0'.
    Jun 22, 2015 at 13:40
  • 2
    You forgot "because it still has the largest Puerto Rican population outside of the island of the entire US"
    – CGCampbell
    Jun 22, 2015 at 15:05
  • 1
    For those who don't know, Nicky Cruz was one of the prominant teenage gang members in the book The Cross and the Switchblade.
    – Mike
    Feb 14, 2018 at 3:32

1 Answer 1


Because if they can make it there they can make it anywhere. Saying "because there were already a lot of Puerto Ricans" there doesn't answer the question. That said, New York was and is the great city on the east coast, it's what anyone would choose, even the first Puerto Rican. Then it would snowball because of perhaps relatives or at least fellow Puerto Ricans being there to help in the relocation. But the main thing is New York being the place to be, and an international city (yes I know PR is part of the US). Washington DC and Atlanta, sure they're great now, but then not so much.

  • 3
    Sources would improve this answer.
    – MCW
    Feb 14, 2018 at 0:43
  • Here is a detailed study of Puerto Rican migration patters up to 1965. There is a section on the high mobility of school-aged children. I didn't find anything so far that directly relates to motivations, but there is a lot of general data there.
    – Brian Z
    May 22, 2020 at 17:48

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