Question of the Week

Which Caribbean Island nations had early roots in the colony of Pennsylvania?

Thursday, 3/20/14

Answer: Puerto Rico and Cuba.

September 15 through October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. Philadelphia’s connection with Latino culture and history stretches back to the 18th century, when the thriving colonial port began regular trade with Puerto Rico and Cuba. After the Haitian revolution in 1804, many Caribbean and Latin American nations began the struggle for their independence. Philadelphia, the capital of a new nation (until 1800) and a historic center of republican activity, became a destination for Latin and Central American revolutionaries living in exile.

While radicals, merchants, and diplomats from the Spanish-speaking world passed through colonial and early national Philadelphia, the formation of resident Spanish-speaking communities in the city dates to the latter half of the 19th century. Philadelphia became important in the manufacture of tobacco products and Cuban and Puerto Rican cigar makers settled in the area. Despite the Depression, the Spanish-speaking population of Philadelphia continued to grow into the early 20th century, forming enclaves in several Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Today, Philadelphia is home to several organizations that serve the city’s growing Latino community, including the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations, Inc. (Concilio) and Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Inc. (Congreso).

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania holds many records documenting the Latino experience. The Latino Project records (#MSS117), the Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia records (#MSS114), and Nelson A. Diaz papers (#3079) are just a few of HSP’s many manuscript collections related to Latinos and their history in Philadelphia.  Our library also contains several published works on the history of Puerto Rico and Cuba.For more information, visit www.hsp.org.

Image: "A New Map of the Caribee Islands in America, 1761", HSP collection of maps (Of 729 1761), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.                

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