Puerto Rican influence in Holyoke
Beginning at the end of World War II, an influx of Puerto Ricans and other Latino groups began to immigrate to the Northeast United States, many worked on the valley's tobacco farms, and arrived in Holyoke in search of better job opportunities at the mills as previous generations had. By 1970 the number of Puerto Rican residents numbered around 5,000, however by that time of their arrival, many faced a city economy in free fall. Holyoke's mills had begun to shutter due to the changing economic landscape of early globalization and deindustrialization. Despite economic and social difficulties, the population grew significantly during the 1980s and from 1990 to 2016, the buying power of the Latino community at-large increased by nearly 300%. Today, Latinos form the city's largest minority group, with the largest Puerto Rican population per capita of any American city outside Puerto Rico proper, with nearly half of Holyoke’s residents being of Latino decent.
During the 2017-2018 school year, Holyoke Public Schools saw 235 new students enroll whose families were displaced during Hurricane Maria. In some cases, children were sent to live with relatives here in Holyoke temporarily while the island rebuilt. In 2018, San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz spoke in Holyoke, describing the gradual recovery of the island as well as its severe lack of resources. Cruz was presented the key to the city on April 28, 2018 by Mayor Alex Morse to honor that "in such a time of despair [she] provided a beacon of hope and opportunity for Puerto Ricans.