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Puerto Ricans in Chicago

Division Street (Paseo Boricua), facing east from Mozart Street, one-half block west of California Avenue.

Puerto Ricans in Chicago are people living in Chicago who have ancestral connections to the island of Puerto Rico. They have contributed to the economic, social and cultural well-being of Chicago for more than seventy years.


  • History 1
  • Present 2
  • Paseo Boricua 3
  • Puerto Rican Parade 4
  • See also 5
  • Gallery 6
  • References 7


The Puerto Rican community in Chicago has a history that stretches back more than 70 years. The first Puerto Rican migration in the 1930s to Chicago was not from the island but from New York City and many settled on State Street just south of the downtown hotels. Only a small number of people joined this migration. The first large wave of migration to Chicago came in the late 1940s where many settled in the "La Clark" neighborhood around Dearborn,La Salle and Clark Street just north of downtown. Starting in 1946, many people were recruited by Castle Barton Associates and other companies as low-wage non-union foundry workers and domestic workers who made hotel beds and cleaned private apartments. As soon as they were established in Chicago, many were joined by their spouses and families.

By the 1960s, Chicago's Puerto Rican community was displaced and moved north and west to Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lakeview and Wicker Park later centering in West Town and Humboldt Park on the city's West Side, but primarily first in nearby Lincoln Park just over the Chicago River to the east. Puerto Rican settlement also occurred in Lawndale also on the city's West Side. City hall sponsored gentrification in Lincoln Park would begin in the early 1960s and eventually displaced the entire Puerto Rican populace which was the barrio or the first Puerto Rican immigrants to Chicago. In reality, Puerto Ricans living in Wicker Park and Lincoln composed one large spread out barrio divided in half by the Kennedy expressway.

The events of June 12 through 14, 1966, constituted the first major Puerto Rican urban rebellion. The uprising happened at precisely the point when the Chicago Police Department began taking "precautionary measures" to head off potential rebellions of the type that had already occurred in Harlem, Watts and Philadelphia by the Black masses.


Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture.

The Puerto Rican resurgence is also being viewed as an important step in teaching the next generation of Chicago Puerto Ricans about the community's past. With the support of the community, Puerto Rican leaders in Chicago leased the historic Humboldt Park stables near Paseo Boricua that will house the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture. About $3.4 million was spent to renovate the exterior of the building and another $3.2 million for the interior.[1] The Puerto Rican Arts Alliance is similarly enjoying growth, with expansion to its second location in Avondale in a former firehouse at the intersection of Central Park Avenue and Elbridge Avenue.

According to the 2010 census, Puerto Ricans represented 3.8% of Chicago's population, with approximately 102,703 Puerto Ricans living in the city.[2] Puerto Ricans are the city's second largest Hispanic group after Mexicans, representing about 15-20% of the city's Hispanic population. Most of Chicago's remaining Puerto Rican community is found on the Northwest side of the city. The largest numbers of Puerto Ricans in the city are present in the Chicago community areas of Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Hermosa, Avondale, Austin, Belmont Cragin, Portage Park, and West Town, with Humboldt Park being the cultural and commercial center of Chicago's Puerto Rican community.[3][4] There is also significant Puerto Rican populations in Chicago's suburbs including Waukegan, Aurora, Cicero, and Elgin.[2]

Paseo Boricua

Fiesta Boricua on Paseo Boricua.
Paseo Boricua is the first location outside the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to be granted the right to fly an official Municipal Flag of Puerto Rico.

Paseo Boricua (loosely translated as "Boricua (Puerto Rican) Promenade") is a street section in the West Side of Chicago. It is located on Division Street, between Western Avenue and California Avenue, in the neighborhood of Humboldt Park. Paseo Boricua is microcosm of the Puerto Rican community.[5][6] It is the only officially recognized Puerto Rican neighborhood in the nation. New York, with its vast Puerto Rican population, does not have an officially designated Puerto Rican neighborhood.

Flanking this very flavorful strip on both sides are these fifty-nine feet tall Puerto Rican flags made of steel, 2 gateways that are the bookends of Paseo Boricua.[7]

Driving down this strip is like taking a trip to the Caribbean "Island of the Sun" without paying for a plane ticket. Many businesses are named after Puerto Rican towns. The façades of some buildings look like they belong in old San Juan with its Spanish Colonial architecture.

This street is dedicated to Puerto Rican pride including a walk of fame with the names of many outstanding Puerto Ricans.

The Humboldt Park Paseo Boricua neighborhood is the flag ship of al Puerto Rican enclaves This neighborhood is the political and cultural capital of the Puerto Rican community in the Midwest and some say in the Puerto Rican Diaspora.

Over time, Paseo Boricua became a place where Puerto Ricans could go to learn about their heritage. A culture center was established, and the offices of local Puerto Rican politicians relocated their offices to Division Street. Recently, the City of Chicago has set aside money for Paseo Boricua property owners who want to restore their buildings' facades.

Visitors can hear salsa, reggaeton, bomba, plena, and merengue music pulsating through the streets and smell the mouth-watering carne guisada puertorriqueña. A couple of grocers have set up shop to help buyers find those hard-to-acquire products from home, such as gandules verde, sazón, and naranja agria.

The area is visually stunning, having many colorful and historically important murals as well as two affordable housing buildings with facades and colors mimicking the Spanish colonial styles of Old San Juan. A tile mosaic of Puerto Rican baseball slugger Roberto Clemente greets visitors at one end of the street, near the high school that bears his name.

Several times a year, Paseo Boricua is fashioned in gala to celebrate important Puerto Rican holidays, such as the Three Kings Day, the Puerto Rican People's Parade, Haunted Paseo Boricua, and Fiesta Boricua with an estimated 650,000 attendees.

Puerto Rican Parade

The Puerto Rican Parade Committee of Chicago has been serving their community for over 40 years. Now in its 48th year, the six-day festival in Humboldt Park has become the largest attended Latino festival in the city of Chicago and in the Mid-West.

See also



  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "2010 Census". Medgar Evers College. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Paseo Boricua: Un Pedacito de Patria en Chicago
  6. ^ Paseo Boricua. Lonely Planet.
  7. ^ Paseo Boricua. Hispanic Magazine. May 2003.
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