Facts About the Puerto Rico
Author: Information Research Section, PRRA
Date: December, 1938
Publisher: Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration
Notes: A mimeographed report issued by the Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico, densely populated, with 506 persons per square mile—with
little industrial development—depends almost exclusively on its
agriculture for the support of the government and the subsistence of its
inhabitants. Economic and world wide political forces worked to bring
agriculture, in its various phases, upon the brink of an economic
crisis. The hurricanes of 1928 and 1932 ruined the fruit and coffee
farms. During the years of recovery, markets disappeared. One crop
farming, lack of emphasis on food crops, restrictions on sugar
production, all contributed to unemployment, concentration of population,
slums, disease, social unrest. It was to meet these conditions — to
relieve unemployment —to remove as far as possible the causes of
agricultural depression — to create new sources of wealth and income —
to establish new standards of living— that there was created by
Executive Order on May 28, 1935, the Puerto Rico Reconstruction
Administration (P.R.R.A.), as the agency through which sight be expended
such Federal work relief and emergency funds as were available for
Puerto Rico, towards the attainment of the above objectives.
The objectives of the program were defined by the President in a letter
dated August 1, 1935:
"The Administration's program intends not merely immediate relief but
permanent reconstruction for the Island. To this end the projects in
contemplation will see to insure every person on the Island a position
of reasonable independence and security. The economy of the Island is,
of course, agricultural and the solution of its problems must be in
terms of agricultural rehabilitation, It will therefore be sought to
secure for each citizen a place on the land which will give him a fair
share in the fruits of his own labor and a position of independence and
security. This will require the establishment of many persons on small
farming units. It will also require that these small farmers be insured
adequate processing and distributing facilities at reasonable cost.
Diversification of agricultural production will be sought by the program
in order that the Island may approach a self-sustaining status. Cheap
and available electric power, good roads, reforestation and adequate
housing are also essential to effect the Administration's program... I
am anxious that the Government of the United States shall discharge
fully its responsibilities to the Puerto Rican people...."
The program, which began in the latter part of 1935, has been financed
with allocations by the President from funds appropriated in the
Emergency Relief Appropriation Acts of 1935, 1936 and 1937, and by a
direct appropriation to the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration in
the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1938.
Immediately after the Executive Order was signed, by virtue of which the
P.R.R.A. was created, the offices of the agency were established and in
December 1935 the whole reconstruction administration program was
already functioning in a smooth and rapid manner.
The first program of the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration
consisted of 64 individual official projects approved by the President
for prosecution under the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935.
They covered a wide range of activities including rural rehabilitation,
rural electrification, forestation and reforestation, slim clearance and
low-cost housing, construction of buildings and improvements for the
University of Puerto Rico, construction of a cement plant, and cattle
tick and coconut bud-rot eradication. Under the provisions of the Act of
February 11, 19361 (Public No. 442, 74th Congress) the availability of
funds for these projects was extended to June 30, 1940.
Under the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1936 the President
approved some 33 individual Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration
work projects. While several of these supplemented certain projects
approved and prosecuted under the 1935 Emergency Relief Appropriation
Act, many represented new classes of projects, thus expanding the
program to include Federal and non-Federal projects for highways, roads,
streets, public utilities, public buildings, flood control and social
service and relief programs of a "white collar" type.
The twenty-nine individual Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration
Work projects approved by the President under the Emergency Relief
Appropriation of 1937 fell within the same categories as those approved
under prior relief acts. For the most part they merely supplemented and
made available funds for activities already under way. A new
administrative procedure, however, involving substantially the same
activities, was introduced, according to which the Puerto Rico
Reconstruction Administration administered and supervised five projects
of the Farm Security Administration relating to agricultural
rehabilitation in the Island. As of November 30, 1938 expenditures under
these five projects amounted to $85l,115.46.
The Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1938 contains specific
authorization for the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration to
administer a program involving loans, rural rehabilitation and certain
types of Federal and non-Federal projects authorized for the Works
Progress Administration. As of December 19, 1938, 26 work projects under
this authorization had been approved by the President. To a great extent
they merely continue projects begun under prior relief acts but as usual
the program embodies a few new activities.
By the summer of 1934 unemployment in Puerto Rico had reached a total of
approximately 350,000, which condition—directly or indirectly—is
estimated to have affected some 75 per cent of the entire population at
that time. The records of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration
for Puerto Rico show that in July of 1934 there were 126,917 relief
cases (heads of families or single persons), involving some 643,327
persons. In January of 1935 the figures had declined to 120,221 for
relief cases involving 604,449 persons. By November of 1938, 2 the
number of cases had risen to 222,606 involving 1,121,035 persons3, with
an estimated unemployment of 150,000.
Employment on Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration work projects
began in the fall of 1935. As the program got under way, employment
steadily rose, reaching a peak in. November of 1936 when 58,238 persons
were employed on work projects. The monthly employment on Puerto Rico
Reconstruction Administration work projects from the inception of the
program in 1935 through December 1938, reveals that Puerto Rico
Reconstruction Administration employment dropped sharply in July of
1937. In the eighteen months since then to the present time the general
level has been below the average prior to July of 1937. This situation
has been due to the facts that after July of 1937 the funds available to
the Administration were considerably less than in previous periods and
that the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration obligations against
all available funds have been limited to $11,000,000 during each of the
fiscal years of 1938 and 1939.
At no time has the percentage of Puerto Rico Reconstruction
Administration employees taken from relief rolls fallen below 90.7. On
December 31, 1938, the percentage stood at 98.9.
Up to October 31, 1938, Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration
employment on work projects had furnished approximately 108,658,865 man
hours of work. Because the plight of agriculture, which represents the
main source of Island income, was extremely serious in 1935, the Puerto
Rico Reconstruction Administration program has embodied extensive rural
rehabilitation activities accounting for more man hours of work than all
other types of activities combined— 57.7 per cent. Other long range
projects have, provided about 25.8 per cent of the total man hours of
work. Work relief projects not directly related to or under the long
range reconstruction part of the program are responsible for about 16.5
per cent of the total man hours.
With the wide range of its objectives, in a brief period of three years,
great accomplishment has been made by the PRRA. In the sugar program,
for example, the Central Lafayette and its properties located in the
municipalities of Arroyo, Patillas and Maunabo, on the southeastern side
of the Island, belonging to foreign proprietors, were acquired.
Central Lafayette consists of 4,427 acres owned by land cooperatives and
5,311 owned by the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration or a total
of 9,738 acres. The program involves loans totaling $4,414,943.11 to
land and mill cooperatives for the purchase and operation of Lafayette
Central and the construction of a butyl alcohol plant in connection
therewith, where sugar cane by-products are to be converted into
commercial chemical solvents.
According to the program carried on in Lafayette District, in the
marginal lands, 405 small farms have been created for laborers who work
at the Central, where they may devote their spare time in the
cultivation of minor crops. The balance of the lands has been divided
into farms of not more than 500 acres to be worked according to the
principles which operations compared favorably with the leading sugar
centrals in Puerto Rico. The PRRA has greatly improved the properties by
the construction of roads and dirt-roads in order to improve the means
of transportation; the construction of 405 concrete houses for members
of the cooperatives and 93 frame houses for laborers; the construction
of a modern hospital of two stories, three community centers for social
and educational work, the construction of three vocational schools
operated by the Insular Government to teach arts and trades to the
children of the laborers; and the establishment of a Central Service
Farm to assist the small farm-owners and to provide them, at the same
time, with seeds, agricultural implements arid fertilizers. It is hoped
to demonstrate at Lafayette that it is possible to operate a sugar
business on a basis that will result in general benefits for the
community arid profit for those persons engaged in the business.
Negotiations are being carried on for the purchase of Central Los Caños
in the northern part of the Island.
Loans have been made to two cooperatives other than sugar, totaling
$231,000.00 for fruit canning and the purchase of agricultural supplies.
Broadly speaking, the rural rehabilitation program has fallen into five
main phases: (1) rehabilitation of privately owned farms under certain
conditions, (2) land acquisition for resettlement, (3) sugar program
about which we have spoken in referring to Lafayette Central, (4) loans
to cooperatives other than sugar, and (5) soil conservation and
The PRRI acquired in the jurisdiction of the municipalities of Ceyey,
Comerío, Aibonito and Ciales 4,322 cuerdas of land at a cost of
$302,420.88. These lands, belonging to the American Suppliers (an
absentee company), have been divided into 461 small farms, in each one
of which a concrete house with suitable farm buildings has been
constructed and turned over on a rental basis to former laborers or
landless farmers. This is the most important tobacco zone of the Island
and for that reason tobacco continues to be the principal product of the
newly created farmers, but, at the same time, they follow the
diversification and intensification of farming, devoting a large part of
their land to the raising of minor crops, vegetables for export, fruits
In the municipalities of Lares and Adjuntas, in the interior of the
Island, the PRRA purchased 1,645 acres of land at a cost of $163,905.25
and has established there 200 small farmers. These lands are unsurpassed
for the cultivation of coffee and for that reason coffee is its
principal product, but as in the above case, a large part of the farm is
dedicated to the raising of other products such as tung oil and vanilla,
perfume plants, rare fruits and vegetables. Puerto Rico is the only
place over which the American flag floats which grows vanilla and soon
it will become an important exporter of this product to the United
Following this same philosophy of reconstruction, the PRRI has acquired
a 1,526 cuerda farm in Luquillo at a cost of $87,153.63 which has been
divided into 198 parcels; another 433.87 cuerda farm in Trujillo Alto a
cost of $39,463.97 which has been divided into 240 parcels and another
255.51 cuerda farm in Mayaguez which has been divided into 86 parcels.
In nearly all of these parcels modern concrete houses have been
constructed. The farm acquired by the PRRA in Luquillo has been divided
into 123 farms of one cuerda each for farm laborers; 35 farms of 20
cuerdas each for farmers of experience, who desire to return to the land,
and 40 farms of 10 cuerdas. The farm at Trujillo Alto is a different
experiment. Because it is near Río Piedras and San Juan, a semi-urban
project has been undertaken there with the purpose of depopulating
congested areas in the cities mentioned. The dwellers in these parcels
may work in the city, for they have an efficient transportation system,
and after working hours are able to add to their income by raising every-day
products in their small farms.
The PRRA has extended these services of farming reconstruction to the
Island of Vieques, near Puerto Rico, through the acquisition of a 431.20
cuerda farm at a cost of $26,485.39 which has been divided into 156
parcels where the same number of houses were constructed and an equal
number of farm laborers wore resettled. In the Island of Vieques,
dedicated almost entirely to sugar cane and pasture, the cultivation of
products indispensable for daily consumption has been started as well as
the intensification of the production of "Sea-Island" cotton which is of
the best quality.
The rehabilitation of privately owned farms in the coffee, tobacco and
citrous areas through supplying relief labor, seedlings and fertilizers
to farm-owners, was undertaken during 1936 and 1937. It accounts for
40,514,538 man hours of work or 37.3 per cent of the total Puerto Rico
Reconstruction Administration employment afforded to October 31, 1938.
The condition prerequisite for receiving this aid in the first year was
that the farmer agreed to sell land to the government for resettlers or
agricultural workers at one-half its appraised value; in the second year
a farmer had to carry out certain soil conservation practices in order
to receive Federal assistance.
As a result of this rehabilitation of privately owned farms, 1,668
coffee farm-owners, 1,611 tobacco farm-owners and 101 fruit farm-owners
received assistance, the PRRA providing them with laborers to clear
their farms, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides and offering to them
all possible cooperation.
Forty-one thousand five hundred and seventy-one acres of land,
comprising roughly eight separate developments located chiefly in the
tobacco, citrous and coffee regions, have been purchased or are
contracted for purchase, 32,330 acres of which are being subdivided into
small subsistence farms of varying sizes, on which 2,428 small concrete
houses, including a few rammed earth, brick and treated wooden houses,
have been erected for occupancy by agricultural workers at low rentals.
Five hundred and four additional houses are under construction.
The Rural Rehabilitation Program also includes the campaign against the
eradication of cattle tick for which 762 dipping vats have been
constructed, and 15 additional tanks are under construction, in the
rural zones of the Island, whereby the cattle owners are required by law
to take their cattle every 15 days to the vats until the insect that has
brought about such enormous losses to the cattle industry of the country
is entirely under control. A total of 470,799 cattle, mules, horses, and
goats has been dipped under the systematic program which began in May of
1936. Another rural rehabilitation program included the eradication of
bud-rot, the coconut tree disease that threatened to destroy the coconut
plantations in Puerto Rico, such as happened in Cuba several years ago.
The success of those works has been definitive. During 1936, under this
program for coconut bud-rot eradication, 1,790 groves in an area of
28,130 acres were cleaned out. One thousand seven hundred diseased palm
trees were destroyed.
The success of this program has been increased by the reforestation
development through which more than 22,000,000 trees have been planted
and there are about 7,000,000 trees in the several nurseries established
in the Island for future planting, thus reestablishing the forests that
were once devastated by the lack of vision of previous generations.
On the 21,835 acres of forest land already acquired or under contract
for purchase, three ranger stations and two buildings at the Forest
Experiment. Station have been constructed; 58 miles of roads and 61
miles of forest trails have been laid out; 10,096,700 mahogany and
spruce trees have been transplanted, most of the plants coming from
eleven nurseries constructed and now being operated. Eleven workers'
reconstruction camps were operated in connection with the forestation
and reforestation program until June 30, 1937.
In regard to soil conservation and agricultural development, activities
have been carried on during 1937 and 1938 in cooperation with other
Federal and Insular agencies. Among other things, this has involved (a)
the construction of 34 miles of outlet channels protecting 996 acres, 73
miles of hillside ditches protecting 273 acres, 551 miles of diversion
terraces protecting 173 acres, 8 miles of ridge terraces protecting 73
acres, 28 miles of bench terraces protecting 268 acres, 93 miles of
vegetable barriers protecting 205 acres, 7,276 miles of contour tillage
protecting 7,772 acres, 8 miles of wattles protecting 136 acres, 2,280
lineal feet of retaining wall, 37 acres of individual coffee terraces
and the collection of 32,000,000 bamboo cuttings; and (b) the planting
of 6,497 acres of land in resettlement farms, of which about 1,996 acres
have been harvested. Twelve central service farms have been constructed
and are being operated on which 1,287 acres have been planted to such
crops as coffee, plantains, bananas, oranges, avocados, grapefruit,
vegetables, cotton, etc. In these central service farms the resettlers
are being instructed in scientific cultivation and animal husbandry.
Selected seeds, plants, swine, goats, and poultry are distributed among
them. In connection with the central service farms there also have been
various community activities of a social, recreational, educational and
With the purpose of spreading supplementary products in coffee regions
and stimulating the creation of new industries, vanilla cultivation has
been started and a pilot plant for curing vanilla beans has been
constructed at one of the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration
central service farms. To date 45,203 vanilla and 60,643 bucare cuttings
have been planted on Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration lands. In
addition, 364,302 vanilla and 314,213 bucare cuttings have been
distributed among farmers for planting.
Together with the development of the rural rehabilitation program which
has been described, the PRPA has also undertaken important work for
health and hygiene and has developed a vast educational program in
cooperation with the Department of Education of Puerto Rico, for which,
to June 30, 1938, $1,491,909.05 and $1,107,000.00, respectively, had
been granted. In each of the farms bought, the Reconstruction
Administration established a number of labor camps, 19 in all, where
about 6,000 laborers received medical treatment end were given technical
and practical education, vocational and academic, hygienic and physical.
In each camp not less than 200 men were housed for a period of 6 months,
before they became small proprietors. During that time, these men after
working hours—40 hours a week—learned to read and write and were given
instruction in arithmetic, economic arid social problems, labor
legislation, geography of Puerto Rico, theoretical and practical
agriculture, aviculture and manual arts. In these camps special
attention was also placed on the recreational and social aspect; by
carrying out programs which included recitations, plays, regional and
classical music, indoor games, literary conferences and outdoor sports.
The workers' camps, exclusive of forestry camps, were discontinued as of
December 30, 1937, the units being dismantled for reconstruction us
vocational education schools, resettlement houses end central service
PRRA's educational program in its academic and physical aspect included
also the establishment of 160 recreational centers in the urban zones,
under the supervision of trained physical culture teachers.
But, perhaps, the most important aspect of this program has been the
creation of 15 vocational schools in the rural zones, that have been
transferred to the Insular Department of Education. In these schools,
approximately 3,000 students of school age and adults receive an
academic education and learn several trades among which are included
carpentry, plumbing, domestic science, furniture making and smithery.
Two hundred and ninety-eight public schools, rural and urban, have been
constructed or repaired. Thirty-four schools, involving 104 rooms, are
now under construction.
The development of these plans also includes the installation of
needlework training centers in the country. Nine needlework centers were
operated during the fiscal year 1938, and there are now eleven of such
centers in operation. A total of 2,490 women has learned to sew,
enabling them not only to sew and mend the family clothes but also to
aid their husbands with new means of income for their livelihood and to
serve as a personal inducement for future cooperatives or needlework
industries. Three hundred and ten of these women are now being
instructed to work on dresses, underwear and rugs.
For the establishment of ten demonstration canning centers $20,254.42
were assigned. Here country folk learn to can their products in order to
preserve them when there is a surplus in the market, so as to prevent
loss and to store for domestic consumption. One thousand thirty-four
rural families (mostly PRRA resettlers) have taken products to the
centers for canning. Twenty-six thousand, one hundred and ninety-five
cans of vegetables and 37,981 cans of fruit have been packed at these
The interest of the PRRI in the educational system of Puerto Rico,
guiding it toward definite objectives, is shown by the assignment of the
amount of $2,062,954.40 for the highest center of learning of the Island.
With these funds the following buildings have been constructed at the
University of Puerto Rico: an auditorium with a capacity for 2,000
persons; a library with room for more than 50,000 volumes; a home
economic building; a school of education; a biology laboratory; a
building for the College of Liberal Arts; reconstruction of the
administration building and an agricultural building at the College of
Agriculture and Mechanic arts of Mayaguez, affording work to more than
3,000 men. Aside from these seven buildings constructed at Río Piedras
and Mayaguez for the University of Puerto Rico, five others are under
construction or repair at the present time.
Three buildings for the School of Tropical Medicine are under
construction or repair. An animal house for the some institution has
In regard to the health program, it has included an intense
medico-social work which embraces not only the camp laborers where more
than 6,000 men were submitted to a complete physical examination and
treated according to the result thereof , but also approximately 510,000
patients who were treated in the medical dispensaries established in the
rural zone of Puerto Rico. In close cooperation with the educational
program, the medical division of the PRRA created a Social Service
Section which takes care of all the families connected with the Puerto
Rico Reconstruction Administration, as long as these families are in
need or are faced with problems that do not allow them to lead a normal
life. A Dietetic Unit in charge of graduated dietitians undertook to
teach the families of the laborers how to prepare and improve their diet,
using products within reach of their economic status. In order to
facilitate the work of the Social Service Section the PRRA has
established 20 community centers in the several rural zones where
agricultural programs of the PRRA are being developed, each one having a
social worker, an athletic instructor and a home demonstration agent.
The work of the Medical Section of the PRRA has also included dental
treatment to approximately 50,000 patients; the erection of 21 medical
centers consisting of 64 rural dispensaries which were turned over to
the Insular Government on June 30, 1938; the construction of 25 public
health units in different municipalities of the Island and the
completion of important works under repair. The extension of the School
of Tropical Medicine will be another important contribution in behalf of
The development of the hydroelectric resources is of extraordinary
importance to all aspects of Puerto Rican life. However, until the year
1915 the use of this energy was very deficient in Puerto Rico and was
almost totally in the hands of private capital. In that same year the
Insular Government become interested in the production of electric power
and in 1935 undertook a wide program to make use of the hydroelectric
power available in the Island, the Legislature having then passed a law
to that effect.
In 1935, an initial grant of $2,727,600 was made for hydroelectric
development. To date, three hydroelectric plants including transmission
and distribution facilities have been completed and turned over to the
Insular Government, there by increasing the potential output of the
Insular electric system by 28,000,000 kilowatt hours per year.
The three plants completed, by the PRRA are the following:
An extension of Central Hydroelectric Plant — Toro Negro No. 1. This
project, started on October 10, 1935 and costing $374,552.82, was
officially turned over to the Insular Government on March 22, 1937. This
extension increased the output of the plant to 18,000,000 kilowatt hours
Construction of the Hydroelectric Plant — Toro Negro No. 2. This project,
started on October 10, 1935 and costing $409,151.15, was officially
turned over to the Insular Government on March 22, 1937. The annual
output of this plant is 4,000,000 kilowatt hours per year.
Construction of Hydroelectric Plant — Carite No. 3. This project,
started on October 7, 1935 and costing $176,185.98, was officially
turned over to the Insular Government on January 10, 1937. This plant
was designed to produce 4,000,000 kilowatt hours per year.
Two additional large hydroelectric projects, designed to increase the
present potential output by 64,000,000 kilowatt hours per annum, are
under construction and, when completed, will likewise be transferred to
the Insular Government. One of these, Las Grazes, is being brought to
completion by the Public Works Administration at an approximate cost of
$3,875,000.00. The other one, Dos Bocas, is being prosecuted by the PRRA
at an approximate cost of $3,834,000.00.
The transcendental importance of these reconstruction projects requires
also a basic development of an economic character, and, therefore, the
PRRA has developed a broad program for the promotion of cooperatives.
To initiate, stimulate and develop the cooperative movement in Puerto
Rico, there has been established the Puerto Rico Self-Help Corporation
which is supervised by the PRRA. This corporation organized the
Cooperative Handicraft, Inc. of Puerto Rico which provides permanent
work for about 160 women, who make undergarments for men and women,
handkerchiefs and women's dresses, all of which are to be sold in the
local market or exported to the United States; the Corn Growers'
Cooperative Association, having a mill and a corn bin with capacity to
store and grind 50,000 quintals annually; and the Primus Potteries
Cooperative dedicated to the artistic creation of ceramic objects using
Puerto Rican motifs in order to create an authentic Puerto Rican art.
With the cooperation of the Cooperative Division of the PRRA, which
approved a loan of $75,000.00 to the fruit growers, the Arecibo Fruit
Growers' Cooperative Association has constructed a hurricane and
earthquake proof canning factory with a daily canning capacity of from
800 to 1,000 quintals of fresh fruits. If successful, similar
enterprises for the canning of orange juice, the prospective of which at
present is more promising than that of the coffee business, will be
enhanced. With the same purpose, the PRRA is closely cooperating with
the already organized cotton cooperative of Puerto Rico dedicated to the
cultivation and ginning of "Sea-Island" cotton, having 638 members. This
association produced in three years of operation 1,233 bales of cotton
that were sold in New York for $181,897.75. The "Sociedad Agrícola
Cooperativa de Puerto Rico", organized to enable farmers to buy
fertilizers, feeds, seeds, agricultural implements, etc. at low prices,
has operated successfully for the last thirteen months, and during that
short period of time it has bought 13,132.31 tons of fertilizers.
The increase of the population of Puerto Rico with 40,000 births yearly
and a declining death rate, the exodus of farm laborers to the cities
due to the state of misery in which they find themselves in the rural
zones of the Island, and the concentration of the best lands in the
hands of absentee owners, are the main causes of the slum problem which
is being given careful consideration by the municipal authorities and
the Insular Government.
Here the PRRA undertook to point the way toward a new standard of living
for under-privileged families by constructing sanitary, comfortable and
low-cost houses in a healthy and decent environment.
On about 270 acres of land located at San Juan, Ponce and Hato Rey,
three urban or suburban projects have been constructed, providing a
total of 811 living units. Along Fernandez Juncos Avenue, between
Ledesma and San Juan Bautista streets of Puerta de Tierra, in San Juan,
the PRRA has constructed a magnificent apartment house, consisting of 18
units of three stories each, connected by portals which lead into stairs
giving access to four apartments on each floor. The building has 216
apartments with room for the same number of families and is constructed
of reinforced concrete, built to withstand fire, hurricane and
The second project of slum clearance has been constructed by the PRRA at
Hato Ray near the San Juan — Rio Piedras road. For the development of
this urbanization known as the "Eleanor Roosevelt Development", the
Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration bought 227.193 cuerdas of land
at a cost of $107,079.51. The "Eleanor Roosevelt Development" is a truly
modern city with paved streets, sidewalks and drains, water system,
sanitary and storm water sewerage, a school, a police station; 131 one-family
houses, 91 two-family houses, 4 block model units for 128 families and
eighteen three-bedroom houses — in all, 459 dwellings at a cost of
$764,465.95, in which 453 families live or a total of some 2,400 persons.
The PRRA has retained three houses for official use. Twelve additional
units are under construction.
The latest of these projects is the "Morell Campos Development"
constructed at Ponce on a 50.04 acre tract bought at a cost of
$21,583.23. In the construction of this development, the same model has
been followed as that of the above-mentioned project, although on a
smaller scale. Like the "Eleanor Roosevelt Development", the. houses of
"Morell Campos Development" have two or three bedrooms, kitchen, bath
room and a combination sitting and dining room. This development has 150
houses divided into 50 one-family houses, 30 two-family houses, and a
block model unit for 32 families, constructed .at a cost of $284,888.80.
The "Morell Campos Development" was designed to accommodate more than
Besides the aforementioned projects, the Public Works Administration (PWA)
constructed in one of the suburbs of San Juan, the Mirapalmeras
Development of 131 houses, 26 of three bedrooms, 92 houses with two
bedrooms and 13 of one bedroom, with space for 655 persons; and the "La
Granja" Development in the city of Caguas, containing 78 units, 31 of
which have one bedroom; 41 two-bedroom and 6 three-bedroom units. In all,
it provides housing facilities for 400 persons. These two housing
projects, once Completed, were transferred to the PRRA.
In addition to these projects, the Engineering Division of the PRRA has
undertaken important works for public welfare and to improve the
appearance of several towns of the Island. Foremost among these works
are the construction of sixteen Insular and two municipal buildings, and
the repairs of fourteen Insular and eleven municipal public buildings.
Thirteen water and sewer systems, involving 143,115 lineal feet of pipe,
have been constructed on Federal property; eight water and sewer systems,
involving 85,758 lineal feet of pipe, have been constructed on
non-Federal property; also 157.6 kilometers of road and four bridges.
These works include the installation of an electric plant in Vieques,
the construction of 16 deep water wells, an annex to the Girls' Charity
School, a Boys' Charity School, and the reconstruction of the Santo
Domingo Barracks, the Artillery Park and the Old Insane Asylum building
at "El Morro". These latter three are military buildings of great
historical value. Ten parks or other recreational facilities have been
constructed and one repaired.
During its three years of existence, the PRRA has given work to
thousands of persons. In September 26, 1936 there were 51,749 persons
working. In June 26, 1937 there were 46,538 persons, in March 26, 1938
there were 24,925 persons, and in December 29, 1938 there were 24,205
Twenty-six of the most noted historical and literary works of the Island
have been fully indexed, involving the preparation of 39,491 index cards.
A project involving triangular hurricane static research under expert
supervision has been carried on for the past two and one-half years in
collaboration with the Universities of Florida and Puerto Rico, the
United States Weather Bureau and Canadian agencies.
For the development of the program of the Puerto Rico Reconstruction
Administration, there has been allocated from Federal funds a total of
$57,953,189.24 through December 31, 1938. During the first fiscal year
of operations $6,188,264.88 were expended; during the second year
$21,639,931.52 and during the third year $13,324,175.53. From July 1,
1938 to December 31, 1938, $6,281,199.65 have been expended. These
expenditures are divided among some of the several projects mentioned,
as follows: $3,951,258.38 for wages to laborers in the coffee, tobacco
and fruit projects; $611,084.62 for soil conservation; $842,715.51 for
the eradication of the cattle tick; $5,631,180.29 for rural
electrification;$193,550.80 for workers reconstruction camps;
$757,228.43 for medical dispensaries; $309,420.46 for social work;
$2,294,443.94 for slum clearance; $1,700,479.57 for the construction of
streets, roads, etc.; $2,691,339.94 for reforestation and $5,458,663.67
for the purchase of lands.
However, an analysis of the total expenditures of $47,433,571.38, to
December 31, 1938, reveals the following important facts:
That approximately $8,267,032.22 or 13.21% was disbursed for the
purchase of materials and equipment produced wholly in the United States,
and therefore had little effect on either employment or Island economy.
That of the total expended, $25,985,853.03 or 54.78% went for labor or
other personal services. However, surveys made by the PRERA and the PRRA,
have disclosed that 79 cents out of each dollar put out for wages by
this Administration was spent by the recipient for those articles of
food and clothing imported, and were thus returned to the United States
within the third commercial turnover.
That $17,083,136.74 or 36.015% is represented in assets of the United
States Government, such as land and improvements thereto, houses, and
loans to cooperatives secured by first mortgages.
1 This act sets up (1) a special fund consisting of sums allotted to
projects in Puerto Rico under the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of
1935, which remain available for obligation until June 30, 1940 and (2)
a Revolving Fund derived from the operations financed out of the Special
Fund and the proceeds of disposition of property acquired therewith. To
date the only project financed out of the Revolving Fund is the
operation of the Office of Housing Management, which administers the
various Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration housing projects.
2 The investigation and certification of a larger number of relief cases
have been undertaken recently by the Puerto Rico Reconstruction
Administration in connection with the distribution to the needy of free
food stuffs obtained from the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation.
3 Unemployment has been increasing in the Island at an accelerated rate
during the fall of 1938 as result of several factors, among them the
decline in the production of sugar due to quota restrictions; the
decline in profitable markets for Puerto Rican tobacco and coffee; the
decline in needlework production due to competition with China and the
Philippines (which in turn rests on the present wording of "the most
favored nation" clause under the Swiss Trade Treaty) and to the effect
of the Fair Labor standards Act on the needlework industry in Puerto
Rico, and to a lesser degree on the tobacco industry. It is anticipated
that if the contemplated agreement between the United States and Cuba
revising downward the tariff on Cuban sugar is consummated, the trend