History / Brief History of Puerto Rico
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Social and Economic Changes in the 19th Century

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Real Cédula de Gracias, a royal decree granted by Spain in 1815
After the Napoleonic forces were defeated in 1814, Spain’s new king decided that economic reforms would be the key to ensuring Puerto Rico’s continued allegiance. Fears of slave rebellions sparked by the recent revolution in Haiti led to campaigns for greater racial balance. The Real Cédula de Gracias, a decree issued by the Spanish Crown in 1815, stimulated the immigrationimmigration: Population movement consisting of the arrival of people to a country or region other than their homeland in order to establish themselves there. of white Catholics. Puerto Rico’s demographic makeup was transformed when hundreds of French nationals (mainly white Creoles from Haiti, Louisiana, Guadeloupe and Martinique), as well as Italians and Irish, arrived along with their slaves. Continued slave trade also brought many Africans to the island’s shores. By mid-century, new waves of immigrants arrived from Corsica, Mallorca and Catalonia.

The Cédula de Gracias had both economic and social consequences. It led to significantly increased development of three agricultural products: sugar cane, coffee (which was introduced in the mid-18th century and rapidly became a major export for European markets), and tobacco. The plantation system was adopted extensively on the island, and with growing sugar output there was also a rise in African slave trade, as in the rest of the Caribbean.

The ever-increasing demand for labor, and the greater difficulties in acquiring slaves given the restrictions on this trade, drove landowners to look to the island’s free inhabitants, which in number far exceeded the population of slaves. Landowners convinced the government to establish a mechanism that would force the landless poor—at the time a majority in Puerto Rico—to work as day laborers. These workers were also forced to carry identity cards, in which productivity and conduct would be recorded. This system, known as the régimen de la libreta (literally the "passbook system") lasted from 1849 to 1873.

By this time, a mainly urban criollo elite had begun to emerge and demand a greater role in the island’s affairs, which was in turn rejected by the Spanish government. Those who had money, or who could secure private scholarships, left to pursue university studies in Europe, after graduating from the Dominican Seminary in San Juan. In the 1840s, a group of young Puerto Rican students in Spain produced the first works of the island’s national literature, and introduced the emblematic figure of the jíbaro, the archetypal rural peasant of Puerto Rico’s mountainous interior.

Abolition of slavery and independence served as the most heatedly debated topics among the island’s more enlightened criollos, however political extremists were generally deported. While in exile, Ramón Emeterio Betances—a physician who had been educated in France and who went on to become the leader of the independence movement—organized the most serious revolt against Spanish control of the island. This uprising, the famous Grito de Lares, occurred in 1868, and was immediately quashed by the Spaniards. The abolitionists had better luck, and on March 22, 1873, slavery was officially ended under the First Spanish Republic.

In the mid-19th century, the same generation of criollos was also responsible for drafting far-sighted development projects, in part due to the crisis in the sugar industry, which had exposed Puerto Rico’s economic vulnerability. The new intellectual elite, which was mainly centered in the cities of Ponce and San Juan, sought economic, social, and cultural changes. They created cultural institutions, such as the Puerto Rico Atheneum in 1876, and imprinted their vision on literature (Manuel Zeno Gandía, Salvador Brau, Eugenio María de Hostos, and Alejandro Tapia, to name a few), painting (Francisco Oller, who had befriended Cézanne and Pisarro during his stay in France), and science (the agricultural projects of Agustín Stahl). Newspapers began to appear everywhere, providing a more channeled voice for these agents of change. This new generation had been fed on the most current progressive ideas (such as democracy in the United States, which by this time had become Puerto Rico’s second most important trading partner) as well as other influential events that were occurring across the globe.

The Canadian model of autonomous government inspired new plans among intellectuals in the southern city of Ponce, which led to the founding in 1887 of the Partido Autonomista Puertorriqueño (Autonomist Party), under the direction of Román Baldorioty de Castro, at Ponce’s La Perla Theater. That same year saw the rise of one of the most radical movements in Puerto Rico’s history, La Boicotizadora (literally "The Boycotter"), which drew its influence from the Irish Land League. This secret society boycotted Spanish businesses, promoting only those that were owned by Puerto Ricans. The Spanish government responded with a campaign of persecution and torture (the Compontes) of autonomists, and the group’s main leaders were imprisoned at San Juan’s El Morro fortress. Historians have referred to this as the "Terrible Year of '87." Ten years later, the Spanish government finally conceded by issuing the Autonomic Charter, reacting to pressure from the United States, which was now threatening to intervene in Cuba.

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4- Chronology of the Governors of the 19th Century
About San Juan
Agrarian Reform of 1941
Annexation of Río Piedras to San Juan
Architecture in Puerto Rico: A Defining Paradigm for Our Identity
Brief History of the Government of Puerto Rico
Environment, Geography and Natural Resources
Geographic Distribution of the Population, 1765-1980
Hacienda Santa Rita, Guánica
Historical Roots of Violence in Puerto Rico
Introduction to the project Puerto Rico in the world
Language and Literature
Natural Resources
Oller y Cestero, Francisco
Ponce, Former Banco de Ponce
Ponce, Former Casino
Ponce: Former Spanish Military Hospital / Home for the Blind
Ponce: Ponce High
Ponce: Regional Headquarters of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture/ Armstrong Poventud House
Puerto Rican Diaspora in the United States
Puerto Rico: A Historical Overview
Ramón Power y Giralt House, San Juan
The English Invasion of 1797