Sugar, Slavery, and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico

Univ of North Carolina Press, 18 .. 2006 - 304 ˹
The contributions of the black population to the history and economic development of Puerto Rico have long been distorted and underplayed, Luis A. Figueroa contends. Focusing on the southeastern coastal region of Guayama, one of Puerto Rico's three leading centers of sugarcane agriculture, Figueroa examines the transition from slavery and slave labor to freedom and free labor after the 1873 abolition of slavery in colonial Puerto Rico. He corrects misconceptions about how ex-slaves went about building their lives and livelihoods after emancipation and debunks standing myths about race relations in Puerto Rico.

Historians have assumed that after emancipation in Puerto Rico, as in other parts of the Caribbean and the U.S. South, former slaves acquired some land of their own and became subsistence farmers. Figueroa finds that in Puerto Rico, however, this was not an option because both capital and land available for sale to the Afro-Puerto Rican population were scarce. Paying particular attention to class, gender, and race, his account of how these libertos joined the labor market profoundly revises our understanding of the emancipation process and the evolution of the working class in Puerto Rico.


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1 Racial Projects and Racial Formations in a Frontier Caribbean Society
2 The Hurricane of Sugar and Slavery and the Broken Memories It Left Behind 1810s1860s
Strategies of Adaptive Resistance among AfroGuayameses
Tearing Down Slavery
5 The Contested Terrain of Free Labor 18731876
6 Labor Mobility Peonization and the Peasant Way That Never Was
7 Conflicts and Solidarities on the Path to Proletarianization

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˹ 80 - Slaves differed from other human beings in that they were not allowed freely to integrate the experience of their ancestors into their lives, to inform their understanding of social reality with the inherited meanings of their natural forebears, or to anchor the living present in any conscious community of memory.
˹ 80 - rights" or claims of birth, he ceased to belong in his own right to any legitimate social order.
˹ 40 - A racial project is simultaneously an interpretation, representation, or explanation of racial dynamics, and an effort to reorganize and redistribute resources along particular racial lines. Racial projects connect what race means in a particular discursive practice and the ways in which both social structures and everyday experiences are racially organized, based upon that meaning.
˹ 107 - the war in the United States is finished, and being finished, slavery in the whole American continent can be taken as finished. Is it possible to hold onto Spanish provinces while keeping this institution in the dominion ?" He said no. Dulce wrote about the same time that "I do not think it is possible to continue slavery.
˹ 40 - First, we argue that racial formation is a process of historically situated projects in which human bodies and social structures are represented and organized.
˹ 123 - British vice consul wrote that "when the emancipation was decreed . . . the 'libertos' were allowed to go altogether free, most of them left off work altogether, and only returned on the condition of exorbitant wages paid by the planters to get off their...
˹ 40 - Racial formation, therefore, is a kind of synthesis, an outcome, of the interaction of racial projects on a society-wide level. These projects are, of course, vastly different in scope and effect. They include large-scale public action, state activities, and interpretations of racial conditions in artistic, journalistic, or academic fora, as well as the seemingly infinite number of racial judgments and practices we carry out at the level of individual experience.
˹ 254 - Memoria acerca de la agricultura, el comercio y las rentas internas de la Isla de Puerto Rico
˹ 96 - An Account of the Present State of the Island of Puerto Rico (London, 1834). 7 "Cuestion de America," Revista espanola, March 4, 1834.
˹ 81 - It was this alienation of the slave from all formal, legally enforceable ties of 'blood,' and from any attachment to groups or localities other than those chosen for him by the master...

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Luis A. Figueroa is associate professor of history at Trinity College.