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Puerto Ricans in Wisconsin | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Puerto Ricans in Wisconsin

Puerto Ricans in Wisconsin | Wisconsin Historical Society
Dictionary of Wisconsin History.


Puerto Ricans began coming in large numbers to Wisconsin after WWII, although a few had settled  in Milwaukee by 1940. The first postwar immigrants came as agricultural laborers, first brought to Michigan to harvest field crops. After the harvest, many moved to Chicago and then on to Milwaukee. Other Puerto Ricans migrated to Wisconsin from Lorain, Ohio, an industrial community with one of the longest standing Puerto Rican settlements in the Midwest. From 1950-1952, many Puerto Ricans were recruited directly by Wisconsin employers through the Wisconsin State Employment Service in Milwaukee.

By 1953, more than 2,500 Puerto Ricans lived in Wisconsin, almost all in Milwaukee.  Many had followed family members or friends to Wisconsin though a smaller percentage had been encouraged to come by the Office of Puerto Rican Department of Labor in Chicago. In 1952, the "Puerto Rican Civic Committee" was formed by officials in Milwaukee to prepare handbooks in Spanish on city customs, churches, and schools to help recent immigrants assimilate.  Economic instability in the early 1960s led many Puerto Ricans to return to their homeland . The Milwaukee Puerto Rican community grew again in the mid-1960s with the return of some economic prosperity.  By 1980, more than 18,000 Puerto Ricans lived in Milwaukee, with a few more in scattered communities around the state.

Berry-Caban, Cristobal S. Hispanics in Wisconsin : a bibliography of resource materials; online at //

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