Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dominicans in Puerto Rico

While thousands of Puerto Ricans have emigrated to the mainland U.S the past few years, the Dominican population in the island quite possibly remained the same or increased slightly during the same time period. The exact number of Dominicans living in Puerto Rico is not known, as many are undocumented immigrants. However, some have estimated the Dominican population of legal immigrants to be at 82,344, while some put it at 300,000. The Dominican Republic is only 80 miles East of Puerto Rico on the Mona Passage. Dominican immigrants, both legal and illegal, play a crucial role in the local economy. Dominicans constitute the largest foreign-born population in Puerto Rico.

In Puerto Rico, just like in the mainland U.S, most of the low-paying, labor-intensive work is performed by illegal immigrants. Many work at restaurants, construction, housekeeping, amongst others. On the other hand, there are also many Dominican-owned colmados (small convenience stores) and small cafeterias. Most of these small businesses are located in the larger cities, such as San Juan. Dominicans have also left a mark on the local culture. The proliferation of bachata, a music genre serves as an example. There is an annual Dominican Parade held in the capital city.

The wave of Dominican immigration to Puerto Rico began many decades ago, as many abandoned their homeland in search for a better future. Many undocumented Dominican immigrants use Puerto Rico as a stepping stone to enter into the U.S. Dominicans and Puerto Ricans get along for the most part. However, there have been incidents in which Dominicans claim to have been victims of police brutality and discrimination. For the most part, there is no deep sense of animosity towards Dominicans, and no talk of passing a law similar to that of Arizona's SB 1070. Perhaps, most Puerto Ricans realize the importance of the Dominican community as a labor force and its contributions to the local economy.

(The image above was obtained from

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