Massachusetts Early Latino Populations in Smaller Cities and Towns
Smaller cities in the commonwealth such as Lowell, Lawrence, and Holyoke also experienced a great deal of Puerto Rican migration, which in many ways paralleled that of Cambridge and Boston. In the case of Lowell, the initial group of Latinos came from the Puerto Rican towns of Comerio and Bar-ranquitas, both located in the interior of Puerto Rico, toward the eastern side of the island. The earliest group arrived in Lowell as a result of direct recruitment by manufacturing companies that were finding it ever more difficult to employ a cheap workforce. These companies focused their recruitment on Comerio and Barranquitas because they owned manufacturing plants there. This link between the two regions facilitated the location and recruitment of workers because company branches in Massachusetts employed individuals in Puerto Rico. Through this network, 43 Puerto Ricans were living in Lowell by 1960.
Early Latino migrants to the city of Lawrence were also from Puerto Rico; however, these individuals tended to come from two coastal towns, Juana Diaz and Guayama. Numbering a mere 28 people by 1960, this group arrived as a result of familial and kin networks. Lawrence emerged as an attractive location for the same reasons as Boston, Cambridge, and Lowell. The restructuring in the manufacturing industry deeply affected the local labor situation, as more low-paying, unskilled jobs became available, because the existing regional population refused to work for those wages. Additionally, in both Lowell and Lawrence the lack of job stability caused by the continual closing of factories and mills, paired with the difficulty that the community faced in integrating itself with the rest of the city’s resident led to the formation of a close-knit group.
Similarly to both Lowell and Lawrence, the city of Holyoke located in south central Massachusetts, on the Connecticut River flourished as a manufacturing center during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Holyoke industries focused predominantly on the production of paper created in mills powered by the flow of the Connecticut River, but deindustrialization took a heavy toll on the
manufacturing output of the city in the 1920s. Latinos, initially from Puerto Rico, began to arrive during the late 1950s as seasonal laborers working the local farms. At first recruited as agricultural workers, as the 1950s and 1960s proceeded, greater numbers of individuals stopped returning to their homes in Puerto Rico during the off-seasons, and they began setting up permanent residences in Holyoke, employed in either the agricultural sector or the dying manufacturing industry. Initially having a population of 99 Puerto Ricans in 1960, Holyoke now boasts the second-largest Puerto Rican concentration of any city in the United States.
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