In 1999, about 24 percent of New York City’s 7.3 million people were of Hispanic descent, and Puerto Ricans
are the single largest segment of those Hispanics.
With those kinds of numbers, New York Puerto Ricans have an important say in how the city is run.
They have been represented locally by numerous political figures of Puerto Rican ancestry, including Bronx borough president Fernando Ferrer, U.S. congressman Jose Serrano, labor leader Dennis Rivera, and onetime New York schools chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez.
Perhaps the most visible sign of the Puerto Rican presence in the Big Apple is the heavy use of Spanish on signs, billboards, and public notices. Some Anglo straphangers get their first Spanish lessons reading subway ads for community health services and flights to Puerto Rico.
The phrase Se habla Espanol, “Spanish spoken here”, can be found in many shop windows. In neighborhoods where Spanish prevails, “English spoken here” can even be spotted.