Synopses & Reviews
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. (Cesar 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)"
"An incredibly well-researched study. . . . Students and scholars of the Atlantic World . . . will benefit."
The Latin Americanist
"This study enriches our understanding of topics long overlooked within both the island and the region's historiography."
"Explores in great depth the antimodernist literary movement of the mid 20th century."
"Compelling. . . . Clearly provides important evidence to the hypothesis on racial/class exclusion of black Puerto Ricans."
Focusing on Puerto Rico's southeastern coastal region of Guayama, a leading center of sugar cane agriculture, Figueroa examines the transition from slave labor to free labor after the 1873 abolition of slavery in colonial Puerto Rico. Arguing that the black population and their contributions to the economic health of Puerto Rico have been distorted and underplayed, he corrects misconceptions about what ex-slaves did after emancipation and debunks standing myths about race relations in Puerto Rico.
About the Author
Luis A. Figueroa is associate professor of history at Trinity College.