Hartford, the capital city of the state of Connecticut is situated on the Connecticut River and has enjoyed a vibrant and strong tradition of art and culture since it was established in 1623 by a group of Dutch colonists. In 1636, a group of English colonists, led by Thomas Hooker, emigrated from Massachusetts to be united with the new colony. Even in the beginning of its development, Hartford was a model for social development. Connecticut received its nickname “the Constitution State” because it was the first to establish a government by the consent of the people in 1639. Hartford was an important trading center on the Connecticut River and distributed molasses, spices, coffee and run. Ships also sailed from Hartford to England, the West Indies and the Far East. By the 19th century Hartford had established itself as a center for cultural and social change. During this time, activism within the city centered on three major issues: abolitionism, temperance, and women’s suffrage. Thirman L. Milner became the city’s first African-American mayor and the first black mayor elected in New England in 1981 and Carrie Saxon Perry was the first African- American woman mayor in 1987. The former home of Harriet Beecher Stowe is now a museum located on Farmington Avenue near the Mark Twain House.
Since the civil war to the middle of the twentieth century, Hartford enjoyed one of the strongest economies of the country, thanks to the businesses of insurances, the manufacture and the publishing houses. But, beginning in the fifties, the economy of the city decayed because of various factors; among them was the suburbanization of the Anglo-Saxon people that the city had enriched. The decrease in the urban population signified that businesses were suffering and the social discontent grew. Ghettos through the city they were formed and poverty and crime grew until 1968, when there were disturbances that caused the government to react and decide how to improve the quality of life. The government began a campaign to reestablish the city of Hartford as a desired destiny. They founded the community center of Hartford in 1975, and during the eighties Hartford began a tradition of electing mayors of diverse origins.
Hartford has a rich history as a destination for immigrants. This history has added to the city’s developing society and has helped to maintain a high level of diversity. Hartford is officially considered to be a bilingual city and as of 2003, more than 46% of the population reported that they spoke a language other than English at home. (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/09/0937000.html ). In fact, the current governor himself, Eddie Perez, is a native Spanish speaker.
In recent years, Hartford has experienced a significant amount of important economic growth. Additionally, the city advertises itself under the slogan “Hartford: New England’s Rising Star” in order to attract attention to the city as a desirable destination for anyone who appreciates rich and diverse cultures such as that which has developed from Hartford’s the unique composition of Hartford’s citizens. As governor Perez himself says, “The diversity of our people is our strength” (http://www.hartford.gov).
Some popular cultural places are the Wadsworth Atheneum (the first public museum in all the country), the Bushnell Theater, and the Charter Oak Center. Writers such as Mark Twain and Harriot Beecher Stowe have also contributed to the cultural richness of the city. Hartford is also the home of the Hartford Courant, the oldest newspaper in all the United States.
-Population: In 2005 Hartford had a population of 111,103 according the census (http://www.epodunk.com)
-Close to half of the population, 47,310 or approximately 43% come from a Latino background
-Size: Hartford is the third biggest city in Connecticut, following Bridgeport and New Haven.
The percentage of Latin Americans has grown continuously in the last thirty years; in 1980 they represented 20.3% of the population, in 1990 31%, and ten years later in 2000, 40.6%. Now, Hartford is the city that has the highest percentage of Latin Americans on the east coast, with the exception of Miami, and they represent 42% of the population (http://www.epodunk.com and http://www.hartfordinfo.org) since 2005. Historically, Hartford has been a prominent place for immigration, especially for immigrants from Latin American countries. In 2000, 32.56% of the citizens of Hartford were identified with a Puerto Rican origin, this was the second largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the continental US. Although there is evidence of Puerto Ricans living in Connecticut since the 1840’s, when the US offered citizenship to the Puerto Ricans in the year 1917, a large migratory movement from Puerto Rico to the northeast began.
After World War II, many Puerto Ricans came to the Hartford area because of a need for labor. In 1950, Puerto Ricans were few; nevertheless, a dedication to the common construction resulted in the formidable formation of organizations and Puerto Rican institutions. In 1955, the Association of Puerto Ricans was formed in Hartford with the goal to encourage the Latin American community to participate politically. In 1957 the Puerto Rican population reached 3,000, and between the years 1957 and 1959 this number doubled and the community responded. Several organizations that are focused on themes such as religion and work began to play an active role in the lives of the Puerto Rican immigrants. The fast growth in the population continued and in 1964, the city celebrated the first Puerto Rican parade in Connecticut. Social tensions between the Puerto Rican community and the remainder of the city created a series of violent disturbances in 1969, which agitated activists, including María Sánchez. In 1970, the Puerto Ricans began to gain political significance. These representatives served as a political to improve the labor conditions and life for Puerto Ricans in the city. During the period of 1980 to 1990, the Puerto Ricans continued to create groups of support and increased political participation. Today there is a strong presence of Puerto Ricans culturally and politically in Hartford. The present governor, Eddie Perez is a Puerto Rican immigrant who arrived at The United States when was 12 years old (Cross, Jose E. Identity & Power).
The city of Hartford has been one of the most popular destinies for Latino immigrants of other countries also. For example, the Peruvians have established a strong cultural identity inside the community of Hartford. In the 1950s the first Peruvian immigrants came to Hartford. In this decade there were few of them, but in the following years, the population of Peruvian people grew a lot which started the first initiatives of Peruvian groups. At the end of the 1960’s there were more than 1,000 Peruvians living in the city of Hartford. In 1966 the Sports Club Sporting Peru (or Club Peru) was founded for the Peruvian community in Hartford and in the following years many other Peruvian organizations began, like Gold’s Rosary Club, the Social Club Bolognesi, and the Brotherhood of the Mister of the Miracles. In the 70s and 80s the first Peruvian publications were published to educate the community on local themes and themes on Peru.
The cultural organizations and publications serve to preserve the pride of the Peruvians and to help to maintain a connection with their culture and country. Nowadays, they are one of the prominent groups in the Latino community. In 2002, the first Peruvian consulate in Hartford was established and in 2005, there were 25,000 Peruvian families living in Connecticut, mainly in Hartford, but the cities around also. The Peruvians have also earned a presence in the politics of Connecticut and there are prominent representatives in several political positions inside the government of the state. There are important resources for the Peruvian people such as the Association of Peruvian-American Professionals (APAPRO). Besides, the Peruvians have had a lot of success in the creation of a different Peruvian culture for the population in Hartford. Inside the city, there are many celebrations and processions of festivals or Peruvian events. Cultural elements such as the drinks, food, sport, religion, and music are important for Peruvians living in the United States.
Hartford has developed a vibrant Latin American community thanks to these waves of Spanish-speaking immigrants; the culture and the politics of the city have incorporated various Latin American aspects.
One of the most prominent examples of the Latin American influence is Park Street. Park Street serves as a common center for the Latin American population. There are business, churches, schools, restaurants, and other resources for the Hispanic-speakers located on Park Street. There is link between the Latin American community and the remainder of the city, for example with the education of the Latin Americans through the Hartford Studies Project at Trinity College. The Latin American influence is demonstrated by many regional festivals that celebrate the culture of South American countries. There are announcements in the periodic writings in Spanish (the newspaper is focused specifically in matters of Connecticut). Besides, the Hispanic Health Council does have an important role to the community and has studied about the health and how the health of Latinos can be improved with more detailed research.