Archive for Spain

Slavery of Puerto Rico

Posted in HISTORY, Latin America with tags , , on March 22, 2010 by Mijiza Zeyzey

Unlike the slave trade in other parts of the world, Puerto Rico did not take part in the importation of captured Africans for forced labor until the eighteenth century. Other parts of the world began as early as the fourteenth century.  At the time the Puerto Rican economy suffered due to restrictions set during the colonization by Spain.

Puerto Rico became a colony of Spain in 1508. Under the Spanish rule they were prohibited from trading with other nations. In 1513, Portuguese traders brought enslaved Africans to the island. The society was poor and in 1530 Spain attempted to export slaves to subsidize the agricultural economy but could not afford the price to develop a sizeable slave population. In the seventeenth century San Juan became a military post. This change coupled with reoccurring revolts by the Africans, caused the effort to support the economy through agriculture to be abandoned.

In 1765, Puerto Rico was made into the main distribution port for African slaves being brought into the Caribbean Islands. Puerto Rico saw a second chance to develop a slave population to build an agricultural economy.

In 1773, the distribution port was moved to Havana, Cuba.  Puerto Rico had already begun to see increased production in coffee, tobacco, and sugar. Spain allowed trade and opened the slave labor dependency in which Puerto Rico used to develop a successful coffee, sugar industry during the early nineteenth century.

In 1808, Great Britain began an international movement to end the slave trade. Puerto Rico continued slave labor for 150 years before abolishing slavery on March 22, 1873. Today in Puerto Rico, March 22nd is “Abolition Day”. Puerto Rican culture is strongly influenced by African descendants. Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico has many words from the Bozal language that was spoken by the Africans. Bozal is a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, and a language spoken in the Congo.