Rural Puerto Rico in rare photographs, 1938-1943

In response to the Great Depression, during which unemployment, poverty, and the effects of the Dust Bowl ravaged the states in the 1930s, agriculture was launched by the government to provide loans to farmers, facilitate the removal of families from economically disabled cities. The Security Administration (FSA) was established. For resettlement in rural communities, and set up camps for migrant workers.

The FSAs are known for the impact of their photography program. Photographers and writers were hired to report and document the plight of the poor farmers. The Information Division of the FSA was responsible for providing educational materials and press information to the public.

Under Roy Stryker, the FSA's Information Division pursued the goal of "introducing America to the Americans".
Created by photographers such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahan, Jack Delano, Marion Post Wolcott, Gordon Parks, John Vachon, and Carl Mydanse, FSA's photographs form a comprehensive pictorial record of American life in 1935 and 1944. among.

The project produced a remarkable bank of more than 200,000 first-hand photographs, creating a memorable record of rural life and displaced Americans who were caught in the throes of natural and man-made disasters of the 1930s.

Today regarded as some of the finest examples of modern documentary photography, these images include poignant portraits of children, concerned parents, struggling workers and difficult life situations.

Coffee was a major industry in Puerto Rico prior to the 1940s. Arabica beans were brought to the island in 1736. After 1855, production in the Central Mountains increased because of cheap land, low wages and a plentiful workforce, good credit facilities, and growing markets in the US, Spain, and Europe.

The decline began after 1897, and ended with a major hurricane in 1928 and the Depression of the 1930s. While coffee declined, sugar and tobacco grew in importance thanks to the large mainland market.

The social and economic structure of the island was modernized after 1898, with new infrastructure such as roads, ports, railroads and telegraph lines, and new public health measures.

High infant mortality rates continued to decline in the late 19th century, thanks to basic public health programs.

In the 1920s, Puerto Rico's economy boomed. The dramatic rise in the price of sugar, Puerto Rico's major export, brought cash to farmers. As a result, the island's infrastructure was continually upgraded. New schools, roads and bridges were built.

The increase in private wealth was reflected in the construction of many dwellings, while the development of commerce and agriculture spurred the expansion of banking and transport facilities.

This period of prosperity ended with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929. Agriculture was the main contributor to the economy at that time. Industry and commerce also slowed down during the 1930s.

Problems escalated when Hurricane San Cipriani struck the island on September 27, 1932. Exact figures of destruction are not known, but estimates say 200–300 people were killed, over a thousand were injured, and property damage ranged from $30–50 million ($560 million to $940 million as of 2019). had increased.

Agricultural production, the major economic driver for the island, came to a standstill. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, a Puerto Rican Reconstruction Administration was authorized.

Funding was provided for the construction of new housing, infrastructure, including transportation improvements and other capital investments to improve the condition of the island.

In 1938, a new federal minimum wage law was passed, setting it at 25 cents an hour. As a result, two-thirds of the island's textile factories closed because they could not be profitable while paying workers at that level.

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