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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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Chapter Two: A Changing World: The Atlantic World through the Eyes of Free People of Color

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Chapter Two

A Changing World: The Atlantic World through the Eyes of Free People of Color

Throughout the Atlantic World, the tumultuous generations between 1780 and 1850 experienced civil wars, political intrigue, and social change as the order of the day. The Industrial Revolution gained momentum, changing European and American economic emphasis from rural and agricultural to urban and manufacturing. Inspired self-proclaimed patriots fought for democratic ideals, toppled monarchies, and changed empires. Societies in ferment challenged cultural norms and reassessed racial and economic caste systems. The realignment opened doors for the expansion of new nations, new governments, and new ideologies. Social and political boundaries were redefined, which caused loyalties to shift in a changing environment.

Puerto Rico was not immune from these broad upheavals. Comprehension of specific world events is necessary to clearly understand the universe in which the people of Puerto Rico lived. This chapter provides a brief overview of explicit world rebellions and revolutions that had serious political and social implications that impacted the entire globe. Against this background, it explores important political documents that were relevant to free people of color in early nineteenth-century ← 13 | 14 → Puerto Rico. Placing Puerto Rico in a broader Atlantic, Caribbean, and colonial context will assist in exploring, more fully, the society and culture in which an unusually large population of free people of color survived and at times even thrived.

Revolutions, Rebellions, and Wars

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