Montana Puerto Ricans

Why would a Puerto Rican move to Montana?

The reasons people move all boil down to this: clean air, safe neighborhoods, good schools, reasonable cost of living. Quality of life. In Bozeman, Montana not only do people say hello to you on the street, they look into your eyes and they say it. That much kindness can freak out a person who grew up in cities where no eye contact is a matter of daily survival.

Of the total population of 27,509 in the 2000 Census, 46 hardy souls claimed a Puerto Rican identity in a place where winters are often 30 below zero. This is .17% of the total population. Thankfully I found some of the tribe, but had to do some digging in a town three hours away (Missoula, another lovely college town nestled in spectacular natural beauty) to find them. Cada dia estoy buscando Boricuas, its a funny life.

The Bozman Daily Chronicle, the local newspaper, has a daily Police Reports section. The March 26, 2007 edition, (section A, page 6) included:

“The Bozeman Police Reports for Saturday included the following:

A motorcyclist was arrested for drunken driving on West Babcock Street.
A worker on West Babcock Street said a stranger came up to him, took off his shirt and challenged him to a fight.
A man at a West Main Street bar got into a fight with two other men over who could hang drywall best.”

Now, despite the reputation as a redneck frontier town, time passes at a soft pace here and it is a rare person who locks their car doors. Some even leave the engine running to grab some milk at the store. This must be what the United States was like before nasty little modern inventions like carjacking.

Luckily I connected with Montana State University Latin American Literature and Latino Studies Professor Bridget Kevane. She is from the island and was careful to introduce herself as being from Puerto Rico. Bridget calls herself a “gringarican”. “I don’t say that I’m Puerto Rican, I don’t claim that identity. One parent is Irish and the other is Catholic!” There are many ways to be Boricua.

She met me for lunch with Silddy Atilano and her son Diego. He is an eight year old ray of sunshine. The three women talked of life and shared funny stories. Like all three have been told that they don’t look Puerto Rican. Then the inevitable question arose: What the hell does that MEAN anyway? There is always a green eyed cousin with black skin, or a niece with delicate features and an afro.

We look like everyone because we ARE everyone.

Getting back to Montana…everyone I’ve seen here looks rugged and robustly healthy. These people spend serious time outside, even in subzero temperatures during the winter. There are 3 men for every 1 woman here in town and frankly that can be a little distracting. I’m told Alaska is similar. Hum.

So I went to a party with Silddy and her boyfriend Saturday night, which we left because the DJ confused samba music with salsa music (odd, I know) and went to a bar to talk.

Silddy got off a plane from the tropical island of Puerto Rico and landed in Bozman, Montana as a 17 year old college freshman. She loved it so much she’s lived here for 13 years.


One Response to “Montana Puerto Ricans”

  1. Frank Medina says:


    My name is Frank Medina and I am the national director for an initiaitve that is seeking the Congressional Gold Medal (CGM) for the 65th Infantry Regiment, out of Puerto Rico.

    The 65th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Borinqueneers”, was the only Hispanic Segregated Active-Duty unit EVER in the US Armed Forces and saw combat action in all major campaigns of the US from 1899 up until the Korean War.

    The CGM is the nation’s highest CIVILIAN honor and parallels the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    Other esteemed minority-veteran segregated groups have well deservingly earned the CGM such as:

    1) Tuskegee Airmen
    2) Nisei Japanese Soldiers
    3) Navajo Code Talkers
    4) Montford Point Marines

    If awarded, the Congressional Gold Medal will break historic frontiers for ALL Latinos.

    Currently, there is legislation both in the US House and the Senate seeking to authorize the CGM to the Borinqueneers.

    In the House, we have achieved the minimum amount of co-sponsors necessary. (300+)

    However, in the Senate, we are only needing 10 x Senate co-sponsors to meet the minimum requirement co-sponsor threshold.

    We would like assistance in reaching out to the Montana Senators, Sen. Tester and Sen. Walsh so they can co-sponsor Bill S. 1174.

    I came across your article, and I would like to get in touch with Professor Bridget Kevane and solicit her assistance in contacting the Montana Senators.

    If you can facilitate communications with Prof. Kevane, I would truly appreciate it.

    Also, if you reside in Montana, I would also like to strike a dialogue with you and seek your assistance.

    Please check out our website for more information at:


    I myself am a former Army Captain, Iraq War veteran and West Point graduate.

    Please feel free to call me at my number below. I look forward in connecting with you soon.


    Frank Medina

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