Boricuas Seek Better Life, ‘Sunshine’ Outside of NYC

Aileen Torres and her husband Edwing Toro, were born in New York to Puerto Rican parents but now they're seeking a better quality of life and new horizons in the Sunshine State of Florida. When it comes to Puerto Ricans, they're not alone. (Photo by Jose Acosta via El Diario-La Prensa)

Aileen Torres and her husband Edwin Toro, were born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, but now they’re seeking a better quality of life and new horizons in Florida. When it comes to Puerto Ricans, they’re not alone. (Photo by Jose Acosta via El Diario-La Prensa)

Luis Deynes, a 58-year-old Boricua, already has his plane ticket and his bags packed to travel to Florida this month. Is he going on vacation? No.

After living most of his life in Manhattan’s East Harlem, Deynes has decided to follow in the footsteps of four siblings who have moved from New York City to the Sunshine State over the past decade.

Deynes is leaving for the same reason that his siblings – Edwin, José, Francisco and Rosa – settled in Orlando and Miami Beach: retirement and a better quality of life.

“My siblings retired from their jobs, their children are already grown, and they didn’t see a reason to stay here, putting up with the cold weather,” said Deynes, who came to New York with his parents and nine siblings in 1955.

“I was a superintendent of office buildings in Lower Manhattan for 37 years. My reason for leaving is to join my family, live a calmer life, far from crime, and to pay cheaper rent,” he explained.

The Deynes siblings belong to a wave of around 91,039 Boricuas who have left New York City for other states over the past 10 years, a migration that has led to a 11.2 percent decline in the number of Puerto Rican in the city – from 814,660 in 2000 to 723,621 in 2010, according to a study by the NYC Department of City Planning titled “Components of Change by Race and Hispanic Origin for New York City Neighborhoods.”

In East Harlem, a symbol of the Nuyorican community known also as El Barrio, the Puerto Rican population dropped by 12.8 percent in the north part and by 22.2 percent in the southern part during the same period.

Carlos Vargas Ramos, a research associate at the Hunter College Center for Puerto Rican Studies, said that Boricuas leaving New York City are following a behavioral pattern similar to that of other immigrant communities who arrived in New York City in the last 150 years.

“After one or two generations, they begin to move outside New York City,” said Vargas Ramos. He explained that Boricuas have also settled outside of the Big Apple, mainly in the tri-state area. “They’re usually middle class and aspire to own a home. It’s easier for them away from the city.”

“There are also Puerto Ricans who emigrate even farther than the tri-state area, seeking better working conditions and an improved quality of life, like in Florida, Texas, and Nevada,” added Vargas Ramos.

This is the case for Aileen Torres and her husband, Edwin Toro, both 34. They were born in New York to Puerto Rican parents and are thinking of moving to Florida for economic reasons as well as a higher standard of living.

“It’s hard to find a job in New York now and the cost of living is very high,” said Toro, who works in security. “I want to find a safer and more affordable environment for my family.”

Torres and Toro have two teenage sons and have lived in El Barrio their whole lives. Torres said she wants to do the same thing as her aunt Lourdes Cases, who bought a home in Florida, and her cousin Ruthy Laboy, who left the Bronx for Atlanta seven years ago in search of a better place to raise her children.

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