Puerto Ricans are intensely proud of their culture, a rich brew of Taíno Indian, Spanish, African, and American influence, and most relish showing off the best of it. Yet visitors will be just as struck at the worldliness of most Puerto Ricans as they are by the beat of salsa music, the symphony of flavor in a seafood stuffed mofongo, or the long line of master island painters, print makers, and song writers. That too results from its historic forging from several distinct world cultures.
For more than a century, Puerto Rico's political life has been dominated by its century-old ties to the United States. Those ties have been largely beneficial, and most Puerto Ricans cherish their U.S. citizenship and want to maintain the current political relationship, either through continued commonwealth status or statehood. A smaller percentage favor outright separation from the United States to make Puerto Rico a sovereign nation (the pro-independence party gubernatorial candidate usually gets 5% of the vote). Yet, the relationship with the United States is also the source of island society's central anxiety, which centers on the need for a "permanent" political status.
Millions of Puerto Ricans have flocked stateside over the last 6 decades in search of economic and educational opportunities and an improved quality of life, and they continue to do so. In fact, Puerto Ricans living stateside now just about equal the number living on the island: roughly four million. But for most stateside boricuas, their allegiance still belongs to their island homeland, which means frequent trips during vacations and holidays. A sizeable number of Puerto Rican passengers are on most planes from the states arriving at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan. They will burst into applause upon touchdown on Puerto Rican soil. Many others return to Puerto Rico after retiring.
The first wave of island migrants during the 1940s and 1950s largely settled in and around New York, and came seeking blue-collar jobs and the hope for a better future for their families. Today, the typical migrant is more likely a highly educated professional moving to south or central Florida pursuing greater career advancement opportunities and an improved quality of life.
Puerto Rican writer René Marqués, who came of age in the 1940s and 1950s when Puerto Rico was modernizing into an industrial economy and getting a big dose of U.S. influence, spoke of the dual nature of his island, which nevertheless contributed to its uniqueness. "Puerto Rico has two languages," he claimed, "and two citizenships, two basic philosophies of life, two flags, two anthems, two loyalties."
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