An Artful Success

Letter From Puerto Rico

Half a century ago Puerto Rico was the poorest country in the West, including Haiti. At that time I was living penuriously in what was to become New York's Spanish Harlem, then the preserve of Italian immigrants. This Little Italy of the Upper East Side was virtually ruled by the colorful communist Congressman Vito Marcantonio, my next-door neighbor. From here I was able to monitor the bias and bigotry directed against the incoming Puerto Ricans by the fly-by-night mayors of the period—"Fugitive Bill" O'Dwyer (who coined the term "milk-bottle thieves" to describe the new immigrants) and Vincent Impellitteri—as well as the local bank managers, numbers-racket "civics clubs," and street-side vendors. All this has altered for the better, excepting perhaps the fish markets, then located under the picturesque old El.

In Puerto Rico Hispanics have now created, out of the highest population density in the Caribbean and few natural resources, a model community (for the area) with a standard of living way above that of neighboring countries. The immaculate new American Airlines hub created in the tatty old Luis Muñoz Marin Airport is outstanding testimony to investor confidence. For Puerto Rico has not gone to sleep on the laurels of tourism, with all its ancillary attractions—the vast resort hotels of Condado and Isla Verde, the famous phosphorescent bay at Parguera, the Camuy...

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