Latino Oral Histories
Rochester welcomed its first Latino residents in the late nineteenth century, but these initial migrants were few and far between. The local Latino community did not truly begin to grow until the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, when large numbers of Puerto Ricans, concerned about their island’s declining economy, began settling in the Rochester area. Their early employment opportunities were mostly in the surrounding counties as migrant farmworkers on seasonal contracts. Those who eventually relocated to the city worked in a variety of fields, including the local food production and clothing industries.
These urban migrants rapidly formed tight-knit communities, or barrios, in neighborhoods such as Brown Square, Marketview Heights, and Upper Falls. Other Latino groups, including Cubans, Dominicans, and Mexicans, also settled in these areas.
Rochester’s early Latino migrants faced a number of challenges in their new hometown, confronting limited housing and employment opportunities, as well as education and law enforcement systems that had little experience with Spanish speakers.
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