The History of Puerto Rico and Impact of Spanish Colonial Rule

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The History of Puerto Rico and Impact of Spanish Colonial Rule

Studying the history of Puerto Rico under Spanish rule helps us to identify the problems found within modern notions of Puerto Rican identity. Such notions of national identity stem from the belief that Puerto Rico is a "self-defined community of people who share a sense of solidarity based on a belief in a common heritage and who claim political rights that may include self-determination" (Morris 12). However, such modern notions of solidarity contradict the fact that by 1898 Puerto Rican society was characterized by great racial and class differences. As claimed by José Luis González in his "Puerto Rico: The Four Storeyed Country," these differences made "Puerto Rico […]
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Also, and more importantly, it suggests that a notion of solidarity could have existed amongst the Puerto Rican people during the 19th Century because forced slavery was not widely practiced. This would serve as a precedent for modern uses of history to reinforce notions of national identity.

Unfortunately, the evidence surrounding the Puerto Rican social and economic structure at the time, prevents its history from serving as a model for national unity. Fig. 1.1 entitled "Wholesale Value of Puerto Rican Sugar, Molasses, and Coffee in New York, 1828-52" shows how sugar, particularly in the middle 1840s came to be very important in the international market (Scarano 9). The Industrial Revolution in Europe and the United States, produced new technologies which allowed sugar cane to be more quickly be processed and consumed by a growing middle class (Figueroa Oct. 1). This created a new demand for labor by the Spanish empire which would transform Puerto Rico from a dependent colony on the outskirts of the empire, to a profit making colony. However, did Puerto Rico in the 19th Century have an alternative free labor force to substantiate the claims made above that African slave labor was not important to its sugar economy?

The evidence suggests that the free population could not fulfil the economic goals of the Spanish empire. Scarano claims that "the haciendas needed a mass of inexpensive disciplined workers, and for nearly

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