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Interpreting the Evidence

Planting Sugar Cane in Puerto Rico, c. 1940s

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    The Great Depression and WW II (1929 - 1945)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Planting Sugar Cane in Puerto Rico, c. 1940s in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Postcard of workers planting sugar cane in a field in Puerto Rico, ca. 1940s
Historical Context
Sugar cane has been planted on Puerto Rico for almost five hundred years. The first sugar cane farm was built in 1523 in Hato Ray by Don Fernando “the Catholic.” By 1530, sugar cane was Puerto Rico’s most important agricultural crop. By 1598, however, ginger had replaced sugar cane as the leading crop. Sugar cane is still farmed in Puerto Rico today, with about 25,000 acres being dedicated to its cultivation.
Essential Question
How does human migration affect the economy of a region?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain how human migration impacted the economy of Puerto Rico.
Historical Challenges
Sugar cane originated in the South Pacific. Who brought it to the Caribbean and why?
Many laborers like the ones shown immigrated to New York. What would motivate them to travel so far? What challenges would they face organizing their move and once in New York?
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Create an advertisement persuading Puerto Rican laborers on a sugar cane plantation to immigrate to New York. Be sure to include motivating reasons. Then, create a follow-up brochure that the immigrants would receive once they landed in New York. What would happen next?
Science: How is sugar cane made into sugar? Make a poster of the process from the field to the store.