Our Landless Patria: Marginal Citizenship and Race in Caguas, Puerto Rico, 1880-1910

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Her teaching interests encompass 19th-century British literature and culture, Romanticism, Modernism and 20th-century British fiction. Jack Mitchell assistant professor, classics , earned his Ph.

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University and his bachelor of arts degree at McGill University, Montreal. His professional interests include archaic Greek poetry, ancient criticism, performance theory, intertextual theory and translation theory. Sara Gran Mitchell assistant professor, biology , is a geologist who earned her Ph.

Specializing in the evolution of landscapes, she has conducted field research in the Cascade Range of Washington state and in Israel, among other locations. Mitchell was awarded the Howard A. Coombs Fellowship for Teaching Excellence in ; additionally, she has contributed to a number of articles published in scientific journals, including Nature, Geology and Quaternary Research.

Sarah A.

[Read book] Our Landless Patria: Marginal Citizenship and Race in Caguas Puerto Rico 1880-1910

Petty assistant professor, chemistry , earned her Ph. Bianca R. Sculimbrene assistant professor, chemistry , earned her Ph. Most recently she was a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge—funded by the National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship and awarded to her in She found that the municipal government had duplicated her record, once under her name and again under her deceased husband.

When authorities asked for the receipt, Mercedes explained that because she was illiterate she never asked for or even thought of a receipt. However, authorities kept asking for a receipt, accusing Mercedes of fraud and disobedience. The landed peasantry had to pay taxes on their own subsistence while large landowners, who had the best soil in the territory, paid the same percentage for cash crops that yielded considerable wealth.

This system favored the accumulation of land to the detriment of small farms, prompting one local newspaper to predict the disappearance of small farms. Taxation was even worse for day laborers, who paid a third of their already miniscule annual income. This situation was exposed not only by ordinary taxpayers but even by honest councilors. In Miguel Puig, a tax commissioner who had joined the council in , denounced the corrupt character of tax revisions in Caguas.

He has another extensive property in Jagua in very good conditions. For these two properties, he obtained a reduction to seven hundred pesos less than half what the tax commissioners indicate. Sirs, is this equity? In the municipal government lowered the taxes of four individuals by a total amount of 1, pesos, which was redistributed among thirteen other property owners. Felicita understood [45], 6 Lines: 64 to ——— 0. One alcalde de barrio who formed part of a tax commission also lowered his own taxes.

For the landed peasantry and the working population, this was a severe consequence, and often taxes were simply too high to pay. His production was not even enough to pay an annual tax. The former owners became part of the landless peasantry that traveled around looking for a place to sharecrop or work. Spanish taxation made the living conditions of the landed peasantry similar to those of day laborers and sharecroppers because it impoverished them. Many landed peasants had to hire out their work temporarily or permanently in order to pay taxes and make a living.

This system of taxes was in effect until the U. In taxes were collected as usual, but on January 19, , the U. The Normal Pag new system also penalized absentee owners with a 50 percent surcharge. With the Hollander Bill of , U. Property owners across the island protested the bill, favoring the Spanish system as highly civilized and condemning the new one as hateful and abusive.

In practice, however, the law effectively released farmland from the control of local elites and made it available for U.

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Under the new law a central bureaucracy would direct and supervise taxes. From to , large farms gained about 4, cuerdas, but proportionally their territory remained the same see tables 1. Large landowners successfully maintained control of the land after too. Eventually, Caguas joined coastal Puerto Rico in the intensive production of sugar, but U. The local elite in Caguas continued controlling much of the land. They arranged the beginnings of foreign investment in Caguas and the formation of large-scale sugar factories. However, individuals of all social classes used principles of both private property rights and natural law; their choices and preferences were bound by the limitations and possibilities of their own realities.

In the late nineteenth century, Spaniards and many wealthy Puerto Ricans believed property rights in Puerto Rico had a positivist, modern character. Lawyers at the time maintained a vision of law as science in which the application of formal reasoning could resolve the problems of social organization.

In pursuit of this goal, the state called all social sectors to work and commit to the improvement of private property. But social progress also demanded the commitment of people without economic resources. In particular, progress demanded that rural laborers and peasants contribute their labor to the advancement of the general welfare. In a society where wealth measured progress, social order, and the general welfare, workers were judged by their contribution to economic growth. The guards caught Ysidoro de la Cruz with a sack of tobacco; he was tried and sentenced to two months and a day in prison.

In the U. After losing control of the police, large landowners and liberals of Caguas were no longer sure of the social order established by the police. Some political leaders even opposed the creation of a centralized police force. La Democracia published multiple examples of police abuse and political partisanship, forcing the governor to order an investigation. During Spanish rule, they strongly supported the power of the police, when their political standing within the municipal government allowed them to control the police.

From a position of power, they proclaimed a world where everyone, including people without property, followed the rules of private ownership.

[Read book] Our Landless Patria: Marginal Citizenship and Race in Caguas Puerto Rico 1880-1910

However, when the police were outside their control and when the U. In fact, the social role of the police that protected private property continued without much alteration from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. Natural law acquired greater value after precisely because it was in jeopardy. As mentioned earlier, the landed elite had at its disposal the police and the municipal government to enforce boundaries and protect private property.


Policing and protecting private property became a priority of the municipal government. After there was an expressed zeal in favor of private property that condemned any other form of property or appropriation. People with property titles grew less tolerant of popular forms of redistribution and had the police at their service to express this intolerance. Intolerance was exacerbated by economic circumstances, such as the drought of , wood scarcity, and increased competition [51], 12 Lines: t ——— 0.

Aggravating circumstances, as Astrid Cubano Iguina observes, subsistence agriculture and fruit cultivation were practically destroyed during the s in order to reorient resources toward export agrarian production.

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Commercial agriculture in this decade depended on currency devaluation to compete in the international market. This strategy helped Puerto Rican merchants improve and advance competition in the international arena, but it also had devastating consequences for the rest of the country, impoverishing the whole economy. In fact, currency devaluation and salary reductions went hand in hand.

In the currency was devalued 14 percent. By it had been devalued by 70 percent see table 3. The wages of urban workers suffered a gradual, parallel deterioration, as did their living conditions. Life in the countryside became very expensive because most resources were used for commercial agriculture, decreasing the overall food production for the island. Food imports were expensive, and with pauperizing wages the rural poor had to face unbelievable obstacles just to stay alive.

Therefore, people sought alternative forms of economic subsistence, based on previous experiences and traditions but with new consequences. The lowest social classes responded to harsh conditions by squatting, which in the last two decades of the nineteenth century became harder than before because of land privatization and the increased policing of fences and titled property.

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  6. The poor in the rural barrios turned their attention to the products of the land, which were easier to appropriate than land itself. Some intellectuals wrote about the communal understanding of property with alarm. Or if he does believe it, it is not because he is convinced that such an act is wrong, but because he knows that he will be punished if he is caught. On the contrary, natural law made natural resources available to everyone but differentiated the individual capacity to work and obtain natural resources.

    Greater capacity to work resulted in greater results from nature. However, in the context of the s natural resources had social and political constraints because the land was being privatized. In this sense, enacting natural rights was often against the law, showing some characteristics of social banditry. As Eric J. Social banditry is also a modest and nonrevolutionary protest and seeks certain limits to traditional oppression. However, people who held the principles of natural law were not always outside the realms of the law.

    Our Landless Patria: Marginal Citizenship and Race in Caguas, Puerto Rico,

    Natural law did not exclude private property rights because the goal of many people was to guarantee access to the land, and privatization was the ultimate, best-known way to do so. The main objective was to legitimize use as a form of privatization. Fair distribution of resources was an important principle for laborers, sharecroppers, and even the landed peasantry because practicing it became a matter of survival for the lowest social sectors of the countryside.

    Land ownership ranged widely, from. Ownership of land parcels of different sizes and values was the common characteristic among the landed peasantry. But while their titles of ownership separated them from the sharecroppers and rural workers, their vulnerability to scarce resources often pushed them toward the poorest end of the economic spectrum.