Historical Context

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 519

Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States in 1898 by the Treaty of Paris as a result of the Spanish-American War. U.S. citizenship was granted to Puerto Ricans in 1917, and during World War II it became an important U.S. military base. On June 4, 1951, Puerto Ricans voted in approval of a law which allowed them to draft their own constitution, and on July 25 of the following year Puerto Rico was declared a Commonwealth of the United States. As a result, Puerto Ricans share most rights of other U.S. citizens, although they are not allowed to vote and for the most part do not pay taxes. Although several elections have been held since 1952 to reinstate Puerto Rico's commonwealth status, not all citizens are in agreement over it; over the years different factions have advocated independence for the island, sometimes resorting to violence. Since 1968, governmental bodies in Puerto Rico have vacillated over maintaining commonwealth status, achieving statehood, or advocating independence. In 1993, 43 percent of citizens voted to retain commonwealth status, 46 percent advocated pursuing statehood, and 4 percent chose independence.

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Since World War II, when Puerto Ricans were drawn into the U.S. armed forces, migration between the Island and the U.S. mainland has been consistent. Ruth Gruber, in Puerto Rico, Island of Promise, writes, "New York has the same pull to Puerto Ricans that it had to the America-bound immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Their relatives are in New York; there is security in family." Before 1948, 95 percent of Puerto Rican immigrants to the mainland moved to New York. That statistic has diminished over time, but New York is still the traditional destination for Puerto Rican expatriates. Although Puerto Ricans leave the Island for a variety of reasons, most go in search of work, which is scarce at home, and a higher standard of living. Unlike other immigrants, who often come to the U.S. fleeing persecution or oppressive governments, Puerto Ricans tend to have tremendous national pride. The island of Puerto Rico, however, is too small and has too few natural resources to hold its people. The birth rate continues to soar, and population density is higher per square mile than any state aside from New Jersey and Rhode Island. As a result, unemployment and the resulting poverty is always an issue in Puerto Rico. Many Puerto Ricans, like Ortiz Cofer's family, move back and forth between the Island and the mainland because it can be done with relative ease, and because of the conflicting reception on the mainland. The rapid and voluminous influx of Puerto Ricans into New York in particular has resulted, as with any minority group, in slums, gangs, and a great deal of racial prejudice toward Puerto Ricans. Mainland Americans have tended to forget that Puerto Ricans are American citizens, and Puerto Ricans have historically been treated with the same disregard and exploitation as illegal immigrants. Over the last two decades, however, Puerto Ricans as a community have assimilated at a high rate and much of the community has moved into suburbs such as Paterson, New Jersey, as in Ortiz Cofer's stories.

Literary Style

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1430

Point of View
"Bad Influence" is a narration of Rita's summer according to her point of view, the account of which shifts over time. At the opening, Rita's narrative is intensely critical, sarcastic, and very funny. She is a classically exasperated, smart aleck teenager with typically hyperbolic, derogatory opinions about her elders. Everything about Puerto Rico is insufferable in her eyes until she spends a beautiful morning at the beach with her grandmother, while Papá Juan attends to Angela and her mother. Once she...

(The entire section contains 2169 words.)

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