The often-romanticized ambiance of San Juan, Puerto Rico, can overshadow the everyday struggles of its diverse population across time. Indeed, historians have often paid more attention to the capital’s architecture than to its people. Women in San Juan thus presents a refreshing perspective of the city’s peoples, physical landscape, and socioeconomic growth. Matos Rodríguez depicts nineteenth-century San Juan as a site of intense social transformation and spatial reconstruction. It is also a site of cultural transgression, where women “found ways to circumvent the system in order to improve the quality of their lives or just to survive” (p. 1). In this environment, women from different class and racial backgrounds faced the new moral order of modernity promoted by colonial authorities, the elite minority, and the church.

The book uses the lens of women’s experiences to examine the social history of San Juan from...

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