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The Conceptualization of Race in Colonial Puerto Rico, 1800–1850

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Kathryn R. Dungy

With the growing interest in the history of peoples of African descent in the Americas, narratives addressing regions outside of the United States are becoming increasingly popular. The Conceptualization of Race in Colonial Puerto Rico, 1800–1850 illuminates the role people of African descent played in the building of a Spanish Caribbean society during the social upheaval of the early nineteenth century. This examination of cultural tensions created by changing regional and national definitions and the fluidity of identity within these structures will appeal to those interested in colonial race issues, Africans in the Americas, and gender and race stratification. Kathryn R. Dungy uses gender, color, and class differences as lenses to understand a colonial society that was regulated by social relationships within Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and the Americas. By examining slave and free status, color, gender, work, and immigration, she endeavors to stimulate current debate on issues of gender, color, nation, and empire, utilizing a unique population and culture in the Black Atlantic.

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Maps Caribbean Region Source: Map drawn by the Cartographic Laboratory, Department of Geography, Uni- versity of Wisconsin 98 the conceptualization of race in colonial puerto rico Puerto Rico Source: Map drawn by the Cartographic Laboratory, Department of Geography, Uni- versity of Wisconsin appendix 99 Tables Table 3–1. Populations of Free People of Color, Whites, and Slaves in the Caribbe- an at the End of the Eighteenth Century.6 Year Colony Free People of Color White Slave Total Island Population Free Colored Percentage of Total Island Population 1789 Martinique 5,235 10,636 83,414 96,158 5% 1789 Saint Domingue 24,848 30,831 434,424 490,108 5% 1775 Jamaica 4,500 18,700 192,800 216,000 2% 1786 Barbados 838 16,167 62,115 79,120 1% 1774 Cuba 36,301 96,440 38,879 171,620 21% 1775 Puerto Rico 34,510 29,263 7,487 71,260 48% 6Adapted from (Cohen and Greene, 1972, 335–39). 100 the conceptualization of race in colonial puerto rico Table 3–2. Racial Proportions in Puerto Rico, 1779 to 1830.1 9(Visitas, 1818–1824); (Fondo Gobernadores Españoles de Puerto Rico [FGEPR], Political and Civil Affairs. Censo y Riqueza, Caja 11–13). appendix 101 Table 3–3. Free People of Color as a Percentage of the Total Population of the Country. [Blanks are indications of lack of sufficient data].12 (Fondo Gobernadores Españoles de Puerto Rico [FGEPR]. Political and Civil Affairs. Censo y Riqueza. Caja 11 n.d., caja...

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