Ethnic identity and ethnic maintenance in the Puerto Rican community of Philadelphia

Cheryl L Micheau, University of Pennsylvania


This study examines five themes related to ethnic identity and ethnic maintenance in the Puerto Rican community of Philadelphia: (a) the development of ethnic identity; (b) the definition of Puerto Ricanness; (c) ethnic maintenance attitudes; (d) ethnic maintenance behaviors and activities by individuals and institutions; (e) factors which affect maintenance efforts. Data for the study were collected ethnographically in community institutions and homes. The results of the analysis of the data indicate that ethnic identity development on the mainland is a dynamic, lifelong process of additive biculturalism. Furthermore, the actual content of ethnic identity seems to vary from Puerto Rican to Puerto Rican, determined by individual interests and experiences. In answer to the second research question, seven elements seem to figure strongly in the ethnic identity of Puerto Ricans in the community: island ancestry, mixed ethnic origins, knowledge of and/or pride in Puerto Rican culture, Spanish language, Puerto Rican values and morals, political consciousness, and a sense of responsibility to the community. The attitude toward preserving Puerto Rican identity in Philadelphia is overwhelmingly positive, but opinions as to the necessity of active maintenance vary. The dissertation describes in detail activities in the community which reinforce the seven elements of Puerto Ricanness and fulfill the various functions of maintenance such as preserving, teaching, promoting "new culture," instilling pride, and spreading the message. Next, factors such as a cultural renaissance, dynamic leadership, and social problems are cited as important in affecting the ethnic maintenance process. Finally, two unifying themes are discussed: the accommodation in ethnic identity, ethnic group definition, and maintenance by mainland Puerto Ricans and the multifunctionality of culture.

Subject Area

Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Latin American literature|Caribbean literature

Recommended Citation

Micheau, Cheryl L, "Ethnic identity and ethnic maintenance in the Puerto Rican community of Philadelphia" (1990). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9026610.