Influence Of The Spanish On Puerto Rican Society

1292 words - 6 pages

Influence of the Spanish on Puerto Rican Society

In the histories of Colonial Latin America there is one common aspect and that is the importation of slaves as a labor force. The resulting consequences for the territory are vital if we are to understand the development of the society. In Puerto Rico these consequences deal mainly with African influence on the peasantry, the corrective measures taken thereafter to negate the African influence, and the results of these corrective measures.

The Tainos, the natives of Puerto Rico, were extensive agriculturalists as well as a highly organized people. They developed techniques, such as irrigation, which was new to agriculture and at the same ...view middle of the document...

” (González 10) The African presence was more of a factor in the formation process of the Puerto Rican identity. Of the massive numbers of slaves who survived the voyage there were those who were fortunate enough to escape into the hinterland. Here they found refuge from the hardship of plantation labor along with the opportunity to join the peasantry that also searched for refuge. The jíbaros “used the broken topography of the interior as an ally in its struggle with the expanding sugar plantations” (Scarano 6) This intermixing of the two cultures forged several similarities. These similarities were based on their common poverty. “The first jíbaros ...found” themselves “obliged to adopt many of the life-habits of those other poor people already living in the country, namely the slaves.”(González 11) Financial instability called for the same dress consisting of “the same simple, comfortable, cheap clothing...”(González 11) African presence was strongly felt on the island and has played a major role on the formation of Puerto Rican identity via the peasantry.

The widespread poverty of the island was a major concern for Spanish authorities. In efforts to revitalize the economy and convert the colony into a more profitable one it was encouraged to import foreigners who could establish a more stable economy for Puerto Rico. “English, French, Dutch [, and] Irish”( González 12) foreigners arrived after 1815. Shortly after “a second wave composed mainly of Corsicans, Mayorcans, and Catalonians”( González 12) arrived with the same intentions as the previous groups, that of amassing personal fortunes. Of this group the Mallorcans are of significant importance in that they employed circular migration. They were not concerned with the long term effects on the Puerto Rican society. “For the Mallorcan immigrants the coffee economy of Puerto Rico was a mechanism for capital accumulation.” (Bergad 163) The true goal of the Mallorcan immigrant was to support a wealthy lifestyle, through their “capital accumulation” (Bergad 163) back home. This pattern is shown by the eagerness of the males of the family to support the females overseas. “The male heads of the family, along with the male children, lived and worked in Puerto Rico while female family members resided in Mallorca” (Bergad 162) This continual practice, of attaining massive fortunes and taking them back to Mallorca, caused a rift between the exceedingly rich and the exceedingly poor. As the prices of land to rose, it became painfully obvious that the only people who could become and remain wealthy were the immigrants. The natives of the island could not afford these prices and so they did not own farms. The “domination by immigrants over agriculture” (Bergad) clearly eliminated the possibility of money for the Puerto Rican peasantry.

The difference in personal capital not only fostered a difference in living situations but an animosity between the two groups. It was their inevitable poverty that...

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