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Teaching Guide: Exploring Puerto Rican Migration to the US

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, Puerto Rican Migration to the US, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. Based on the map of Puerto Rico and information in the atlas, what were the primary economic activities in Puerto Rico in the 1950s?
  2. What does the airline map reveal about the most popular destinations from San Juan in 1965? What do these places have in common?
  3. Based on the Puerto Rican Farm Workers in Florida report and the statement on “The Puerto Rican Farm Labor Program,” explain in what ways farm labor migration programs were successful. In what ways did this practice make Puerto Rican works vulnerable to economic exploitation? Using the sources, compare the motivations and experiences of urban and rural migrants.
  4. Lolita Lebrón is sometimes remembered as a freedom fighter, a revolutionary, or as a terrorist. In what ways does she fit (or not fit) each definition? Based on the design and wording on the postcard and the poster, how do you think the creator of each would label her?
  5. Based on the schools report and the Memphis World article about colleges, explain how Puerto Rican migration impacted New York’s education system.
  6. Based on Governor Muñoz Marîn’s quotation in the description for the photo and the resources about Lolita Lebrón, compare each of their worldviews about Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States.
  7. Using the article about Roberto Clemente, explain the significance of Clemente and his success for Puerto Rican communities in the US.

Classroom activities

West Side Story is one of the most widely known representations of Puerto Rican culture and identity during the 1950s and 1960s. Watch the film and research its reception within Puerto Rican communities. Using the photograph of Rita Moreno and others from DPLA, consider the ways in which the film created or reinforced stereotypes about Puerto Rican culture and gender roles. Ask students to consider/write a reflection: How might West Side Story have been different if it was written and produced by Puerto Ricans?

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