It’s funny. So much energy expended in the discussion of building a wall to keep out the Spanish speaking hordes from Mexico, but an island famous for its walls is already inside “Fortress America” and the savage category 4 hurricane named María seems destined to bring hundreds of thousands if not a million of those Gringo Hispanos to the mainland. Already citizens, they can’t be stopped. No one can prove that the elaborate Chinese Global Warming Hoax played a role in the rapid strengthening of María to a Category 5 hurricane as it passed from Cape Verde to the Lesser Antilles, but I wouldn’t put it past those inscrutable bastards!
The data I’ve seen says that roughly 50% of Puerto Ricans who leave the island come to the Northeast, and roughly 10% of them choose Massachusetts. Springfield, according to some sources, has the 4th highest Puerto Rican population of any city on the mainland United States and Holyoke, part of the Springfield msa, has the highest percentage Puerto Rican population. In talking to my neighbors those numbers are about to increase. Of the 3.4 million people living in Puerto Rico today, an island already in the throes of a bankruptcy process and where out-migration was accelerating, how many will leave in the coming days, weeks, and months is anyone’s guess, but as full American citizens it is hard to imagine that many will not avail themselves of the option to ride or fly northward.
Their most popular destinations in the past include also storm ravaged Florida and Texas along with equally financially troubled Illinois and Connecticut. Some analyses show greater Springfield as having one of the most solid economies in the country…except in the area of growth where it stands in the “Lower 20”:
Prosperity though…”Upper 20″:
And what they deem the most important category, Inclusion, “Top 20”:
The growth in question here is economic growth not population growth, but if 5,000 or 10,000 people move to the area over the next few years looking for housing, excellent schools, and employment it could create some real growth in the overall economy.
As I compared the Silver Bullet development that is the MGM resort in the South End to the small scale infrastructural improvements in the North End the one thing both neighborhoods have in common is their dominant ethnic culture: Puerto Rican. Both have Boriqua owned businesses. Both have vacant lots and abandoned buildings. Both could easily accommodate an influx of hundreds of newcomers if given time to do so.
Schools might be the weakest link in terms of immediate accommodation; the Springfield Public Schools are already the second largest in New England with a population at or near its all-time high. The city has aggressively built, acquired, and renovated schools in the last three decades all while experiencing middle class flight to the suburbs. Families with school age children might very well be the first to leave the island if schools and medical facilities can’t be brought back online quickly.
The weeks ahead could tell an interesting tale. I’ve always found it interesting, even perhaps slightly ironic that at the entrance to Springfield’s most Puerto Rican neighborhood there is a statue honoring the soldiers who fought in the Spanish-American war of 1898. In Spain the Generación del ’98 grappled with the decline of their country, its loss of empire, and conflicts between tradition and progress. The nation which inflicted upon them the defeat which created such bitter awareness of their circumstances is now engaged in the same process, and once again Puerto Ricans, willing or not, are participants.