Remembering the Corsican Influence
The island of Corsica lies to the south east of France and just west of Italy. The families that stayed on Corsica during the 1700s depended on agriculture as their source of income, but during the eighteenth and nineteenth century industrial revolutions and failing crops on the island lured its residents to seek employment and new lives elsewhere. The growing political situation in Europe also led to instability and many Corsicans were encouraged to relocate to Puerto Rico and Cuba, where the islands were almost the same geographically, but had more opportunities for the Corsicans to develop.
The hundreds of Corsicans that fled to Puerto Rico, especially between the 1830’s and 1850’s, made an everlasting impact on Puerto Rico and its economy, as the existing small scale agricultural developments grew into lucrative industries. The Corsicans settled into their new lives, occupying mostly the southwestern areas of Puerto Rico, such as Lares, Guayanilla, Adjuntas, Ponce and Yauco, and began cultivating crops of sugar cane, tobacco and coffee. The new settlers were so adept in their agricultural abilities that by the 1860’s, most coffee plantations were owned and run by Corsican settlers and soon Puerto Rico was put on the map as the leading producer of coffee.
The Corsicans created an industry in Puerto Rico that would strengthen its economy and built coffee empires that the island is still known for today. Their contributions to Puerto Rico can still be seen and felt. This is especially true in Yauco, where there are a few noteworthy sites and landmarks that stand as reminders to the Corsicans and the history of the island.
Most of the sights are now historic landmarks of the island that appear in the national register, and visitors will find them to be exquisite attractions. The 1907 Franceshi Antongiorgi House is a beautiful home that was once the host to lavish banquets, art exhibitions and concerts. The 1850 Negroni Mansion became the property of the Agostini family, who were major coffee exporters on the island, and one of its family members invented the coffee grinder. The 1914 Chalet Amill was converted into a luxury hotel in the 1920’s and the breathtaking 1893 La Casona Césari was bought by the Césari-Antongiorgi family, who became the major sugar industry developers in Puerto Rico. The Residencia Lluberas Negroni, constructed in 1880, is also amongst the landmark attractions that represent the Corsican era.
Yauco is the perfect destination to visit in Puerto Rico to explore the history of coffee and sugar industry developments. The splendor of the old buildings that carry with them the heritage of the island and the influence the Corsicans had, assist visitors to reflect back on a time of landowners, parties and unlimited wealth.