Puerto Ricans, Immigration, Central Florida


As with many cities in Florida, Orlando is becoming a melting pot of various ethnic groups. In particular, the Hispanic population in Orlando and throughout Central Florida is steadily increasing in numbers and influence. Groups such as Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Colombians are enriching the area with their culture, language, and diversity. Puerto Ricans, the largest of the Hispanic groups in Central Florida, are also emerging as the dominant group in the region as evidenced by their common language, historical and cultural heritage, shared common interests, and in some cases, residence within clear geographical areas. Between 1980 and 1990, Central Florida witnessed its largest influx of Puerto Ricans. In 1980, Orange County had a little over 6,660 Puerto Rican residents, Seminole County had over 2,000 and Osceola County had a mere 417. These numbers rose steadily, and by 2003, the Puerto Rican population in Florida numbered 571,000, ranking second behind New York, and followed only by New Jersey. Central Florida has seen the biggest jump in these numbers and now has more than 250,000 Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin making them the largest single group of Hispanics in the region. They now represent 49 percent of all Hispanics living in Central Florida. My thesis examines the development of the Puerto Rican community in Central Florida, its impact, and its contributions by utilizing such sources as newspaper articles from local papers including Spanish-language papers, interviews with Hispanic community leaders, statistical data, and secondary literature on the overall Puerto Rican migration to the United States and their experiences once here. To fully understand why the Puerto Rican community is developing in the Orlando area, I first place the analysis within the larger scope of immigration history. In this section, I examine some of the debates and patterns in overall immigration to the United States by various groups. Next, I provide a brief introduction to the history of the Puerto Rican people and the reasons for their migration to the United States and how this migration fits into the patterns examined in the first section. Furthermore, this introduction leads to an examination of other cities with large Puerto Rican communities and a comparison between the development of Puerto Rican communities in these cities and Central Florida. Finally, I explore the origin of the majority of Puerto Rican's moving to Central Florida, to discover if they are coming from the U.S. cities that originally saw a huge influx of Puerto Rican immigration (such as New York) or if the population is arriving directly from Puerto Rico. This determination sheds light on why the Puerto Rican population is choosing Central Florida as a place for settlement. I analyze my findings by examining factors such as better employment opportunities, better educational opportunities, and an overall improvement in quality of life, which are drawing Puerto Ricans to this area, when compared to these factors or conditions in Puerto Rico or other cities in Florida. In addition, I seek to determine if there are specific problems occurring in Puerto Rican cities that are compelling native-born Puerto Ricans to leave. I also examine the ways that the growing presence of Puerto Ricans has changed Central Florida economically, socially, and politically. I also discuss the effectiveness of Puerto Rican organizations that have arisen to serve the needs of this population and I seek to gain some indication of the long term implications for the region as a whole, especially in terms of their voting trends. Culminating this section is a description of the unique cultural contributions that the Puerto Rican community is bringing to the area. My thesis proves that Puerto Ricans are finding the Central Florida area is offering them many of the opportunities that cities such as New York City provided them long ago. In addition, it offers the added appeal of a better quality of life than can be found in Puerto Rico or in other American cities, such as New York City. Among the important factors here are affordable housing, good employment opportunities, and more adequate schools.


If this is your thesis or dissertation, and want to learn how to access it or for more information about readership statistics, contact us at

Graduation Date





Martinez-Fernandez, Luis


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program









Release Date

May 2007

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)

Included in

History Commons