Academic journal article Centro Journal

Adjustment Challenges: Puerto Ricans in New York City, 1938-1945. the Writings of Patria Aran Gosnell, Lawrence Chenault, and Frances M. Donohue

Academic journal article Centro Journal

Adjustment Challenges: Puerto Ricans in New York City, 1938-1945. the Writings of Patria Aran Gosnell, Lawrence Chenault, and Frances M. Donohue

Article excerpt

Thematic Analysis: Biographies, and Comparisons based on the insights of each author:

Lawrence Chenault was a trained sociologist who began his academic career at the University of Puerto Rico. Chenault then moved to New York where he worked at The Hunter College of the City University of New York and Columbia University. Lawrence Chenault's duality of experience with being an Islander and observing the social conditions in Puerto Rico firsthand; then, moving to New York gave him a better ethnographic lens to study Puerto Ricans and their migration patterns to New York. The authors believe that it was this "duality of experience" that provided Chenault with a better conceptual framework to understand the Puerto Rican culture of these migrants and the many hardships that they faced in arriving to New York. In his monumental book, The Puerto Rican Migrant in New York City, Chenault talked about the economic and social factors that prevented the Puerto Rican migrants at first from achieving upward mobility and acceptance from the majority white culture. These factors included lack of employment, poverty, language barriers, and cultural alienation that made these migrants feel more socially isolated and marginalized by the majority culture (Chenault 1938).

Lawrence Chenault's Contribution to Early Puerto Rican Migration History

Chenault in his book, The Puerto Rican Migrant in New York City (1938), sheds light on the migration trends of Puerto Ricans to New York City from the time period of the 1910s to the late 1930s. Chenault is quoted by Aran in her dissertation as saying that "the present significance of the problem lies not so much in the number of Puerto Ricans now residing in this country as in the fact that migration from the Island to New York will be greatly accelerated in the near future." According to Chenault, the past migration from the Island constituted "only a small beginning of the migration which will soon take place" (Chenault 1938, 47, 48). In a cutting-edge assertion stated at the time that he wrote his study, Chenault accurately predicted the future migration trends of Puerto Ricans to New York. He provided an accurate description of the social, family, health, educational, and economic characteristics of this migrant group. Chenault also provided an important statistical and historical narrative that Aran used to support the many arguments that she made in her dissertation. Chenault pointed out that the increased settlement in Harlem, which included "Negroes and other racial groups," made "the study of this Puerto Rican migrant group important historically" (Chenault 1938, 49).

Patria Aran Gosnell, was a doctoral student whose dissertation focused on the maladjustments which Puerto Ricans experienced vis-a-vis their migration experience to New York. Aran Gosnell was not a professionally trained sociologist like Chenault; as a result, Aran's worldview may have been somewhat limited. Hence Aran Gosnell's work focused on primary and secondary sources to explain the adjustment challenges and hardships that these newly arrived Puerto Rican migrants were facing in a cold, harsh, and unwelcoming New York environment (Aran 1938). These maladjustments ranged from problems with poverty, poor physical and mental health, illiteracy, over- crowded living conditions, and other obstacles that made it less likely that these Puerto Ricans would be able to succeed in the mainstream culture. Although Aran provided relevant information on the Puerto Rican migrants access to social services agencies and the results of those interventions, Aran fell short, by failing to publish subsequent work and detailed scholarship regarding the migrants' narratives about what it was like to live in a place like New York. It would have been interesting if Aran would have been able to produce additional scholarly work on these migrants and how they were able to evolve and eventually contribute to the New York Diaspora. …

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