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

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Old 29th October 2007, 11:58
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Sugar, Slavery, and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico


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.


"The reconstruction of the process of emancipation and its aftermath presented in this book simply has no parallel with anything ever published about Puerto Rico in either English or Spanish. It is a landmark work in the scholarship of the Caribbean. The questions Figueroa asks violate a number of taboos existing in Puerto Rican culture about a supposed heritage of racial democracy. The answers provided debunk - permanently, I believe - standing myths about race relations in Puerto Rico."

- CÚsar J. Ayala, University of California, Los Angeles

"An illuminating microinvestigation of the much wider and diverse phenomenon in the Americas of the transition from slavery and slave labor to freedom and free labor. This thoughtful analysis arrives at finely nuanced, textured, and empirically grounded conclusions by exploring the roles of such societal forces as class, gender, and race in shaping new contexts and environments after emancipation."

- David Barry Gaspar, Duke University
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Old 25th January 2011, 08:22
Radrook Radrook is offline
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Slavery in Latin American countries was quite different from the animalistic slavery practiced by the Anglo. Slaves had a right to work and buy themselves out of slavery. Family members were not separated one from another at a master's whim. Neither were former slaves socially stigmatized to the same degree as in these other non Latino countries. In fact, some rose to very prominent social positions after being emancipated. That's because under the Latin system there were laws protecting the slaves and guaranteeing certain human rights-something which was inconceivable in England and her colonies and in the USA. In any case it's rather ironic that after Puerto Rico did away with individual slavery the island itself fell into a slave-like situation with another country as it's master. In fact, it was simply given to the USA as spoils of war with nary a whimper from the islanders. Quite to the contrary, There were celebrations involved. In fact-they are still celebrating! Weird!
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