The Grito de Lares has become a fixture in all historical surveys of nineteenth-century Puerto Rico. On two dramatic days in September 1868, a small group of coffee planters, day laborers, and slaves seized the western mountain town of Lares, declared a republic for the only time in Puerto Rico’s history, and then were routed by Spanish counterattacks before the revolt could spread to other areas of the island. The chronology of events is well-known and there have been few deviations from the standard interpretations. These usually consider the revolt as part of an island-wide revolutionary conspiracy led by Ramón Emeterio Betances and a small nucleus of patriots guided by anticolonialism, abolitionism, and a commitment to political democracy.1

The political ideology of the urban leaders who presumably conceptualized but did not participate in the revolt has been seen as the motive force provoking the revolutionary rising. Accordingly, the social and economic structure of Lares preceding the revolutionary period has never been considered. That the local economy revolved around coffee production has been almost completely ignored.2 Yet the leaders of the insurrection were all coffee farmers. The working men who seized Lares were coffee pickers. And those arrested by the revolutionaries were the major coffee merchants and creditors of the town.

This article will examine the growth of tensions and conflicts in the municipality of Lares by focusing on the social and economic development of the town from its founding until the revolt. Lares was one of many communities in Puerto Rico’s rugged cordillera central making the transition from a subsistence to a market economy during the 1850s and 1860s. The growth of a coffee export economy transformed the organization of local society from the relative egalitarianism of subsistence farming to a society characterized by stratification and class tensions. The principal conflict was between immigrant merchants and criollo coffee farmers, and the economic struggle between these two sectors of the Lares elite eventually erupted in the uprising of September 1868.

Immigrants and Economic Development

The spread of sugar culture along the Puerto Rican littoral in the first half of the nineteenth century altered the island’s traditional economic and social structure. Slave-based plantation agriculture replaced the smallholder subsistence economy that had prevailed through most of the colonial period.3 Yet despite the growth of an export economy on the island’s coast, the mountainous interior remained an underdeveloped frontier area well into the 1840s. As population grew, land availability made the highland region an object of colonization for migrants from the coast who settled small subsistence farms where food crops predominated and coffee was sometimes cultivated for exchange.4 Mountain municipalities were established when population became concentrated enough to request municipal charters. By the late 1820s, the highland barrios of San Sebastián were sufficiently populated to petition the authorities in San Juan for the creation of a new town. In 1828 the municipality of Lares was founded.5

The town founders all belonged to the prominent criollo families of San Sebastián, although in the late 1830s and early 1840s this Puerto Rican elite was gradually replaced in local roles of power and influence by newly arrived immigrant merchants.6 These early entrepreneurs migrated to the highlands in search of commercial opportunities, often as representatives of coastal merchant houses seeking speculative investments in the interior. Migrants were instrumental in the development of an incipient trading system from Lares to the ports of Mayagüez and Aguadilla and were critical to the creation of credit facilities in most mountain towns. Although the local economy revolved around subsistence farming, market-oriented planters in the 1830s and 1840s depended upon coastal merchants and factors for finance capital and marketing services.7

But by midcentury the availability of commercial capital at the local level was eroding this dependence. Two sources were responsible. First, a nucleus of Mallorcan immigrant families arrived in the early 1840s and remained the most important creditors of the municipality until the close of the century. Second, coastal merchants began opening tiendas in the town.

The first Mallorcan to arrive in Lares was Pablo Pol, whose sons Andrés and Bernabé became important figures in the Grito of 1868. Pol married into one of the town’s founding families, the Segarras, and in 1836 was established as a small pulpero.8 By 1842 the patriarchs of the town’s most important Mallorcan families had arrived. Juan Márquez and Luis Vilella associated in that year as Sres. Márquez y Vilella, opening their business on the town plaza.9 By the 1880s, these two families controlled a large share of the municipality’s coffee trade as Márquez y Compañía and Vilella Hermanos, although in the 1840s they were clearly secondary merchants. The largest were Catalán trading firms. Amell, Sarda, y Coll came to Lares in 1842. Sres. Mercadal y Orfila, a Catalán company from Aguadilla, opened a branch store in 1843. Pablo Antonio Luigi, a Corsican, and Juan Antonio Cos, another Spanish merchant from Aguadilla, opened Luigi y Cos in 1841.10

The arrival of a steady stream of migrants during the 1840s contributed to the growth of a viable commercial infrastructure in Lares by midcentury. Immigrants had become the town’s largest comerciantes, while criollos opened pulperías in outlying barrios often with merchandise consigned from the town tiendas. In 1848, there were twenty-two merchants in Lares with a gross capital worth of 42,335 pesos. Immigrants controlled 74.5 percent of this total.11 By the early 1850s a fundamental prerequisite for the proliferation of market mechanisms in the municipality, credit and marketing services, had been established by merchants with well developed links to the international trading system. The transition to a market economy and coffee monoculture had begun.

During the 1850s and 1860s, the gradual spread of coffee cultivation affected the lives of nearly all the municipality’s residents.12 Landowners with farms of all sizes planted coffee. The landless were employed as coffee pickers at harvest time. Merchants traded primarily in coffee, although for a period in the early 1860s cotton was grown as a commercial crop because of high world prices induced by the American Civil War’s disruption of the international cotton market.13 Daily life in Lares gradually came to revolve around the yearly cycle of coffee planting, weeding, harvesting, and transportation to the coast. Land was purchased on credit with the mortgages to be paid in coffee, petty debts and rents were paid by the landless in days of labor on the cafetales, and cash and supplies were advanced with the promise of coffee deliveries during or after the harvest.14

The merchant class employed various mechanisms of speculation in the credit and coffee markets. Farmers securing provisions or working capital during the year were required to settle accounts upon completion of the harvest. Usually a specific weight or volume of coffee was promised in return for an amount of cash, or the value of merchandise advanced during the year.15 Thus, for example, six pesos in cash or manufactured goods would be advanced in return for the promise of one quintal of coffee. This system allowed profits to be generated in two ways. First, if merchandise was advanced a profit was derived from the difference between the retail and wholesale price minus transportation costs. If cash was advanced, interest accrued at rates varying between one and two percent monthly.16 Added to this were the profits produced by the difference between the credit price of coffee to be delivered by the farmer, and the actual market price of coffee at the time of delivery. This difference was often the source of substantial windfall profits. Before the coffee harvest of 1867, Fernando Pintueles y Compañía advanced cash and merchandise to the farmers of Ciales in return for coffee at the rate of six pesos per fanega, regardless of the farm price when deliveries were made. In August 1868 Pintueles sold this same coffee at 14.50 pesos per quintal.17

A three-tier coffee price system emerged at the local level. The credit price, lowest of the three, was the amount credited to an indebted farmer’s account for delivered coffee. In most cases this was arranged well before each yearly harvest at rates corresponding to the previous year’s price structure. There was also a farm price paid to growers delivering coffee without prior arrangements with the merchants. This price usually corresponded closely to the real price structure of the coffee market during the actual harvest. In 1867 when Pintueles was granting credit at 6 pesos per fanega, he purchased coffee from other planters at 7.50 pesos per fanega.18 This meant a twenty-five percent price loss for those growers who had taken advances during the year at the credit price. Finally there was the market price of coffee paid to the merchants of the interior by exporters operating from the major island ports.

Another credit mechanism widely used during the 1850s and 1860s was the transfer of land titles from farmer to merchant in return for working capital. If the loan was repaid before its due date, the land was legally returned to the original owner.19 Even when these debts could not be paid, merchants surprisingly exhibited little interest in accumulating land. Commercial activities yielded higher profits than farming and debtors often survived difficult times by debt refinancing while interest accumulated.20 If land was foreclosed, more often than not it was resold or rented rather than used for agricultural investment.21

The Lares merchant class of the 1850s and 1860s was by no means rigid in its composition. The spread of coffee cultivation provided opportunities for a continual flow of Spanish immigrant merchants to the municipality. The poorly developed transportation system connecting the rural barrios to the town frequently prompted competing merchants to open branch stores in the major producing zones.22 Recently arrived nephews, cousins, or younger brothers directed rural operations supplying farmers with credit, consumer goods, and warehousing facilities during the harvest.23 Young men from Soller and Palma de Mallorca, or Barcelona, came to Puerto Rico as dependientes of established firms. Later they often went into business for themselves after accumulating a little capital and mastering the mechanisms of the local economy. Sometimes they became more prosperous than the firms they had served as employees, as was the case with Juan Alcóver.

A native of Soller, Mallorca, Alcóver arrived in Lares in the late 1850s to work for Márquez y Compañía. It is not known whether he was related to the family, but this was probably the case. By 1861 he owned a small portion of the company’s general acciones and shortly thereafter founded his own business, Juan Alcóver y Compañía. Alcóver sent for two other young Mallorcans, his nephew Jaime Frau and Miguel Oliver, who took over the company upon Alcóver’s sudden death in 1864. A will drawn up shortly before he died indicated that his net capital worth stood at 65,908 pesos, the greater part bequeathed to his parents in Mallorca.24 Oliver and Frau built the business into one of Lares’ more important merchant houses in the 1870s.

The expanding coffee economy drew these immigrants to the towns of the cordillera central where opportunities for speculation led to wealth and local power. Yet, the astounding profits generated so swiftly from the small mountain towns of the western highlands were usually transferred to the Peninsula or Mallorca. At the earliest moment when capital assets were secure, the immigrants returned to Europe leaving their Puerto Rican interests in the hands of relatives or trusted business associates. In 1856, thirteen years after his arrival in Puerto Rico, Juan Márquez lived in Soller de Mallorca although he maintained his business interests in Lares and periodically traveled to the island. The business incorporated by the four brothers with 1,200 pesos in 1853 was worth 129,437 pesos in 1865. In that year, however, none of the brothers resided in Lares on a permanent basis. Although continuing as general partners in the company, by the late 1860s they all made their homes in Soller. Márquez y Compañía was run by younger men, all related to the Márquez clan.25 When their fortunes were made, the immigrants returned to Mallorca or Barcelona leaving their Puerto Rican interests in the hands of another generation who repeated precisely the same pattern. Younger dependientes took over the business interests of those departing for the Peninsula.26

Regardless of their origins or degree of wealth when entering the island, by the mid-1860s immigrant merchants controlled the coffee trade of Lares. Below them in the social and economic hierarchy were the large commercial farmers and pulperos who operated the smaller stores of the municipality. Both of these groups relied on the immigrants for their capital needs. The pulperos were almost exclusively criollos while the larger commercial farmers came from diverse backgrounds, some Corsicans, others Venezuelans, and many criollos. Among these two groups were the Pol brothers, Andrés and Bernabé, Manuel Ramírez, Manuel Rojas, Joaquín Parilla, and Aurelio Méndez—all leaders of the 1868 rebellion.

Land Use, Tenure, and Production

The gradual population migration from coastal to highland zones paralleling the spread of sugar culture on the Puerto Rican coast turned on the availability of land in the mountainous interior. The municipalities dotting the highest regions of the cordillera central were carpeted with unsettled virgin mountain terrain.27 A sample of 5,050 Lares residents in 1846 revealed that only 21.5 percent were born in the municipality, and these were generally children under the age of ten. Over 60 percent of the population had migrated from towns that form a coastal arc around the Lares highland area.28

Land speculation by coastal entrepreneurs became an important dynamic in the 1820s and 1830s. The fertility of virgin mountain land implied future profitability if infrastructural links were developed to facilitate exports. Entrepreneurs sought to obtain grants of terrenos baldíos and to purchase undeveloped land at much lower prices than on the coast.29 Even fallow land could be used as a guarantee for credit or as a speculative investment. Turnovers were frequent in the 1830s.30

Yet before market mechanisms began their noted growth in the 1840s, most of the Lares farmers were squatters settling the underpopulated rural barrios surrounding the town.31 Most land sales in the 1830s were informal transactions never recorded by legal functionaries.32 However, preoccupation with establishing legal titles seems to have grown in the late 1830s and early 1840s, coinciding with the dissipation of the municipality’s baldíos. By the early 1840s, local officials continually recorded “sales” that were legalizations of transactions made informally some time before. A major factor was the appearance of merchants in the municipality who provided investment capital and credit only after legal obligaciones or mortgages were sworn before local judicial officials. Land titles became a prerequisite for the proliferation of rural credit. The number of titled farms in Lares rose from 131 in 1836 to 390 in 1848.33

The continued legal titling of land in the municipality, the arrival of migrants from the coast, and the increased level of merchant activity combined to drive land prices upward. Between 1835 and 1840 the mean price per cuerda of land sold in Lares was 4.9 pesos. From 1841 to 1850 this rose to 7.3 pesos.34

The tenure structure of titled farms also changed. In 1836 there were 20 farms under 20 cuerdas in size, 15.3 percent of the total. These farms controlled only 1.7 percent of the municipality’s land area. By 1848, 32.6 percent of all farms, 127 altogether, were less than 20 cuerdas in extension. However they consisted of only 4.2 percent of Lares farmland. Land concentration increased at the other end of the social scale. In 1836 the 4 farms larger than 500 cuerdas accounted for 17.6 percent of titled farmland and, by 1848, 8 farms of over 500 cuerdas controlled 30.9 percent of all land (see Table I).35

Farms of all sizes were extremely underutilized in the 1830s and 1840s. Large haciendas cultivated only a limited portion of their land. Toribio de Santiago’s 1,000-cuerda farm in Barrio Río Prieto had only 9 cuerdas in cultivation in 1839: 1 in coffee, 6 in rice, corn, and tubers, and 2 sown in cotton. By 1846 his farm had increased to 2,294 cuerdas, all through purchase, but aside from a notable growth of coffee cultivation to 16 cuerdas, the cultivation of other crops did not expand.36 There were few large commercial farms through the 1840s. Juan Bautista Plumey, a French immigrant, operated the largest market-oriented farm in the municipality. In 1846 his Hacienda La Esperanza reported 69 of 420 cuerdas sown in coffee.37 Nonetheless, underutilization, marginal production of cash crops, and widespread cultivation of food staples on small plots predominated, and smallholders commonly cultivated the same amount of land as the larger haciendas.

Land underutilization stemmed from three principal factors. First, the availability of land for squatters through the 1840s resulted in the virtual absence of a free labor market, thus creating a general scarcity of labor. The only way to guarantee labor availability for the production of cash crops was reliance on slaves which required large capital inputs. Indeed Plumey’s Esperanza was worked by thirty-three slaves in 1846.38 The second factor was the weak development of an export market for coffee before midcentury. The spread of sugar culture pushed coffee growers to marginal lands in the coastal municipalities. Between 1828 and 1848, Puerto Rican coffee exports declined from 111,609 to 92,130 quintales.39 The interior highlands were the natural areas to expand coffee production, but poor transportation links from the mountains to coastal ports raised production costs to unprofitable levels for planters. Finally, the lack of a capital market contributed to the low level of agricultural production. Only in the 1840s did the appearance of merchants in Lares begin to eliminate this obstacle to the spread of commercial agriculture.

Until the 1850s coffee production was a small-scale endeavor. In 1846, 71.0 percent of the 241 farms growing coffee in Lares cultivated under 2 cuerdas in the crop. Another 24.4 percent had between 2.5 and 10 cuerdas sown in coffee. Only 2 farms planted more than 30 cuerdas. The municipality’s cultivated acreage consisted mainly of food crops such as rice, corn, tubers, and beans—all considered frutos menores.40

The 1840s were a critical decade for landed society in Lares. Fundamental structural changes established the preconditions for agricultural growth. Immigrant merchants began to create a capital market that transformed the relationship between people and land. Property rights alone came to replace possession and property rights, once identical in the local value system. The transfer of land into a commodity was a fundamental characteristic of the 1840s and provided the conditions for the evolution of widespread agricultural commercialization.

The crisis in the Puerto Rican sugar industry in the 1840s was related to competition in the international sugar market.41 Rising production costs due to mechanization, beet sugar’s growing share of the world market, declining prices, and the incompatibility of slavery with the increasingly industrialized system of sugar production numbered among the central problems. The colonial authorities in San Juan, no doubt at the urging of the sugar interests, attempted to alleviate the question of labor supply through the juridical creation of a free labor market. In 1849 Governor Juan de la Pezuela promulgated the Ley General de Jornaleros classifying all nonprofessional, nonpropertied men on the island as jornaleros and requiring them to seek employment on the farms of the propertied.42 Their work records, behavior patterns, and insular movement would be recorded in passbooks to be carried at all times.43

In Lares three trends that had begun in the 1840s now intensified. First, the demand for land rose sharply since titles to tracts of any size exempted owners from classification as jornaleros.44 Second, the price of land continued its upward spiral. The mean price per cuerda of land sold in 1849, 6.66 pesos, nearly doubled by 1855 to 12.39 pesos.45 Third, the fractionalization of land and the proliferation of minifundia became a fundamental feature of the Lares land tenure system in the 1850s and 1860s.

Of 390 titled farms in 1848, 127 or 32.6 percent were less than twenty cuerdas in size. In 1851 the number of titled farms had increased to 576, but those under twenty cuerdas had more than doubled to 273 or 47.4 percent of all farms.46 By 1854 the situation had stabilized somewhat. Titled farms increased to 632, but those under twenty cuerdas remained almost the same at 270. Farms of slightly larger sizes, those between twenty-one and fifty cuerdas, grew from 145 to 212 between 1851 and 1854 (see Table II).47

By far the most significant factor shaping the development of landed society in Lares during the 1850s and 1860s was the spread of coffee cultivation. Total acreage sown in coffee increased thirty percent between 1846 and 1855, from 852 to 1,105 cuerdas, followed by more rapid growth from 1855 to 1865 when coffee acreage doubled to 2,203 cuerdas.48 Of several factors contributing to coffee’s growth, one was a slow but steady rise in the farm price of coffee.49 In addition, the number of well organized credit facilities proliferated throughout the municipality. In 1848 only twenty-two merchants appeared in the Lares commercial census, but by 1864 111 tiendas and pulperías served the area, many of them branch stores of the larger commercial firms.50 Moreover, land monopolization and rising land prices combined with demographic growth as well as the impetus of the jornalero law of 1849 to create a labor market.51 Finally, virgin mountain soils produced high yields despite the general lack of scientific farming.52

The increase of coffee production affected the cultivation of other crops. The transition from a subsistence to a market economy resulted in an increase of export crops at the expense of traditional food staples. Between 1846 and 1865, land sown in “minor fruits” (rice, tubers, corn, and beans) declined from 1,961 to 1,390 cuerdas. Population growth meant that the per capita decrease in these staples was even greater than the numerical decline.53

By the mid-1860s, coffee production generated the principal source of income for the farmers of Lares. In 1866, 490 farms (79.7 percent of the total) reported coffee output, but most growers were small-scale. Producers of under 10 quintales made up 72.9 percent of all farmers but accounted for only 19.6 percent of the municipality’s coffee production; 26 farms (5.3 percent of the total) produced over 50 quintales and 45.2 percent of the 7,206 quintales produced in Lares during that year (see Table III).54 The largest planter in 1866, Manuel Rojas of Barrio Pezuela, led the Grito de Lares. Andrés Pol, another major figure in the revolution, was one of the largest coffee farmers in the municipality.55

The growth of commercial agriculture in the 1850s and 1860s also accelerated the fragmentation—concentration of land and increased the municipality’s social stratification because of changing income distribution patterns. The continued mushrooming of minifundia was a prominent trait. The 270 farms under 20 cuerdas in 1854 (42.8 percent of all farms) occupied 7.2 percent of all titled land. By 1867 there were 324 farms in this category (52.1 percent of all farms) but their percentage of Lares’ titled land area remained stable at 7.4 percent. In this same period farms over 200 cuerdas increased from 32 and 5.1 percent of the total, to 45 and 7.2 percent of all farms. More significantly their control of land area increased from 42.9 to 55.2 percent of Lares farmland. Small marginal farmers gradually subdivided their resources while larger ones slowly accumulated more land at the expense of the middle sectors (see Table IV).56

Land prices continued to increase. Between 1853 and 1868, the mean price per cuerda of land sold in Lares more than tripled from 10.32 to 37.64 pesos. The largest rise occurred in the 1860s when prices doubled between 1860 and 1868.57

A comparative view of income distribution data from 1840 to 1867 reveals the development of a markedly stratified society. In 1840, fairly uniform income levels and subsistence farming dominated the local economy, with most of the population concentrated around lower income levels. Over 70 percent reported under 100 pesos in annual income, and only 1.8 percent had yearly incomes greater than 500 pesos. By 1867 distinct groupings replaced the homogeneity prevalent in 1840. The percentage of farmers reporting under 100 pesos in yearly income decreased to 46.4 percent, while those earning more than 500 pesos rose to 10.5 percent of the total. As Table V indicates, middle sectors drew away from the lowest income levels, but remained well separated from the wealthier elite.58

The shifts in land tenure structure and income distribution patterns indicated above underscored the hierarchical organization of society emerging in Lares between the 1840s and 1868. A reorganization of the municipality’s agrarian elite accompanied this trend. Of the twenty-eight largest landowners in 1848, only seven remained at the top of the landowning pyramid in 1867.59 It has been impossible to trace the other twenty-one, but their replacements were a combination of criollos who migrated from the coast and foreign immigrants from diverse places. These included Venezuelans, Canary Islanders, and Corsicans.60 One factor, however, remained constant between 1848 and 1867: the distinct division between the agrarian and commercial elites of Lares. In 1848, only two of the largest landowners appeared in the Lares merchant census of that year, José María Ferrer from Cataluña, and Pablo Antonio Luigi, a Corsican. In 1866 only one merchant, Juan Alcóver, was a major landowner.61 Thus, from the inception of commercial life in Lares and in the two decades preceding the Grito, a separation between agrarian and commercial wealth persisted. Control over capital resources by the merchants occasioned continual debt for the agrarian interests, a major factor creating the tensions leading to the rebellion of 1868. The nucleus of leaders directing the revolt consisted of large or medium landowners who operated smaller pulperías on their farms. The men they seized upon entering Lares on September 24, 1868, were the principal merchants of the town.


The evolution of population-land ratios and the spread of commercial agriculture shaped the development of a labor force in highland communities which became centers of Puerto Rican coffee production. As population and demand for land both increased, the percentage of the municipality’s landless families rose markedly.

In the 1840s, however, labor demands on the smallholding and squatter population were minimal. Aside from the few slave-based coffee haciendas, most smaller coffee farmers relied exclusively on free laborers. The principal source was agregados, service tenants living on titled estates who exchanged usufruct rights to small parcels of land for various obligations. In 1846, 450 agregado families made up less than one-half of the total population of Lares, 2,395 people in all; 408 families had land titles and constituted a total population of 2,699. Of the agregado families, 84.2 percent enjoyed land usufruct rights and possessed small plots—over 90 percent were under five cuerdas in size. More than 70 percent of the total acreage occupied by the agregados was cultivated in food crops—plantains or “minor fruits.”62

The agregados lived in conditions similar to those of squatters or smallholders. They not only enjoyed usufruct rights to land, but also the possibility of participating in the broader cash or barter economy developing in the municipality. It is striking that almost all of the agregados possessing land usufruct rights received additional wages for their work on the landowner’s estate. In Barrio Espino, for example, nearly every agregado reporting land cultivation also noted yearly cash wages paid for work. In most cases the jornal was sixty pesos per year or five pesos monthly, although the monthly rate fluctuated, ranging from four to six pesos. Many of the agregados reported wages for only six or eight months during the year. They seem to have had no obligations strictly derived from their cultivation of land. Owners utilized land incentives to guarantee the presence of laborers who had to be offered wages whether residing on the estate or not. Labor “scarcity” meant that living and working conditions for the agregado population were favorable when compared to later developments that progressively compromised the autonomy and independence of the 1840s.

Between 1850 and 1868, the material conditions of the Lares non-propertied classes deteriorated while economic and juridical pressures intensified. Although the jornalero law of 1849 has received the attention of insular historians, an important aspect has not been emphasized. The law prohibited the maintenance of agregados on the farms of the propertied. Former agregados were to become either jornaleros, arrendatarios, or propietarios. All three categories would be closely monitored to assure that the old class of agregados did not reappear. The colonial government viewed agregados as the principal cause of labor shortages.63

This attack on the agregado population provoked three local reactions. The first was the quest for land titles by those who could secure the credit or generate the capital to purchase small plots that would legally exempt them from the jornalero classification. Second, many agregados legally became arrendatarios by appearing before the local notary and agreeing to contracts with established landowners. A third group of agregados formed the category of jornaleros or mozos de labor asalariados who were supplied with workbooks noting employment conditions, work records, and behavior. The rigid formality of contractual arrangements specifying obligations and benefits displaced the fluidity and informality governing the relations between landed and landless before 1849.

Clearly, those without land titles most dreaded the fate of classification as jornaleros. Most of the agregado population endeavored to retain the same relations with the landowners that prevailed before 1849 by becoming renters. Of the 728 men or heads of agregado families who were subject to the law in 1849, 69.8 percent became arrendatarios by September 1850. The remainder became jornaleros.64

The new arrendatarios had to pay rent to maintain this classification. Most contracts required cash, although this should not be interpreted as proof of an economy where money circulated freely.65 Evidence suggests that while rents were designated in cash values, they were really paid in days of labor on the owner’s estate. Almost all petty debts recorded in the Lares protocols between 1850 and 1868 were payable in trabajo personal usually at the rate of five pesos monthly, although often the rate was less.66 Thus, the law formalized the labor obligations of former agregados by officially sanctioning debts accruing in the landowner’s favor through the mechanism of rents.

Commercial farmers quickly took advantage of opportunities to legally bind their renters, and rental contracts invariably included intricate provisions. José de la Cruz, a large landowner from Moca, was a stickler for details. He usually stipulated how much of the rented land was to be planted in each crop as well as requirements for fencing in specific tracts of rented land.67

Yet, laborers were still scarce in the 1850s and, despite attempts to account for every individual in Lares, sizeable amounts of unsettled land throughout the cordillera central drew squatters fleeing from the legal and economic domination of the large landowners.68 Landowners competing for available laborers offered incentives to attract renters, who became the principal source of labor power for commercial farmers. In 1850, Manuel Román, one of the largest landowners in Barrio Espino, leased ten cuerdas to Gervasio Rodríguez, a former agregado. No rent was required although two stipulations were imposed on Rodríguez. First, he had to help during the harvest but he would be paid the standard wages. Second, he could not work for any other farmer.69 The labor shortage and competition for laborers revealed by this type of contract explain the efforts made by most commercial farmers to guarantee labor supplies. For example, Juan Bautista Plumey forbade all his renters to work on any other farm.70

By the early 1860s, however, Lares notaries recorded few rental contracts, probably reflecting a relaxation in the enforcement of the jornalero law’s provisions regarding agregados. However, enforcement of the stipulations on mozos de labor clearly remained. In 1865 a census of Lares jornaleros revealed 1,461 male day laborers.71 Local authorities exercised close supervision and rigorous vigilance over these workers. The libreta of José de Dios López, a twenty-year-old jornalero living in Barrio Pezuela, noted six different prison sentences for various offenses including public drunkenness, failure to carry his libreta, bad conduct, and breaking a work contract. Most of these sentences ranged from fifteen to thirty days in the presidio correccional.72

The 1849 law armed local authorities with the legal pretenses to control the mobility of the landless population, and the landed elite clearly utilized this power. Debt peonage seems to have grown considerably, especially in the 1860s when increased labor demands accompanied the spread of coffee cultivation. José del Río filed a suit against Rosa Vega for a debt of forty-eight pesos in February 1866. Vega acknowledged the debt and offered to pay it off with the labor of her son, Juan Chamorro, who would work at .75 pesos per week until the debt was paid. This meant sixty-four weeks of labor.73 The juicios verbales of Lares in the 1860s, as well as the Lares notorial records, contain case after case of similar proceedings.74

In 1870 a municipal census listed 655 propietarios, 967 peones, 2,120 jornaleros, and only 56 arrendatarios.75 The peones were probably analogous to the former agregados while the jornaleros constituted the free labor market that finally developed. The majority of Lares’ population did not have access to land.

The jornalero law was designed to create a free labor market by establishing juridical sanctions for the control of the local labor force. However, market conditions themselves regulated the application of the law. In the early 1850s when coffee was just beginning to expand and land was sparsely occupied, laborers were in short supply. Agregados underwent transformation into renters with few modifications of former privileges. But as market forces grew, especially after 1855 when coffee began spreading rapidly, downward pressures on the smallholding and landless population increased, resulting in burgeoning of minifundia and the rise of debt peonage. Market conditions exercised a critical function both for coffee and for labor. The landed elite utilized the repressive juridical provisions established in 1849 as tools of domination only when material conditions favored their use, and then the Jornalero population was increasingly exploited. Not surprisingly, on the morning of September 24, 1868, one of the first public actions by the revolutionaries was to gather and burn the libretas of Lares’ jornaleros.76

Social Structure and Class Conflicts

By the late 1860s daily life in Lares revolved around the production of coffee. The traditional smallholder subsistence economy before mid-century had been transformed into an export economy focusing on one major product. Social reorganization paralleled the economic changes. In the 1840s social stratification was minimal since middle sectors were almost nonexistent. The elite consisted of a few immigrant merchants and criollo landowners, and below them most of the rural population farmed small plots generating little surplus income. By the 1860s distinct social classes had developed. In broad terms the social hierarchy was ordered as follows:

A nearly total separation divided the agrarian and commercial elites. Conflicts between producers and merchants often took on national characteristics, usually aligning criollos against Spaniards. Although coffee planters included some immigrants, most were criollos. Immigrant merchants, mostly Catalanes and Mallorcans, exclusively controlled credit and marketing facilities.77 The control over finance capital exercised by these merchants and the resultant indebtedness continually incurred by the planters were a clear source of conflict. The case of Manuel Rojas, the military leader of the rebellion, offers an example.

A Venezuelan immigrant who came to Puerto Rico some time in the early 1850s, Rojas was established in Lares by 1857 as a small merchant in Barrio Pezuela, operating a branch store of Amell, Julia y Compañía, the Catalán company from Aguadilla.78 In that same year, the company acquired 569 cuerdas in Barrio Mirasol after foreclosing on José Cruz because of an unpaid debt. This land became Manuel Rojas’ coffee hacienda in 1862, and it was already planted in 146 cuerdas of coffee, 48 of plátano, and 12 of sugarcane when purchased.79 When Cruz lost this land, his outstanding debt to the firm consisted of 9,258.65 pesos. Yet Rojas bought the land for 23,000 pesos, the entire amount extended as credit. A payment of 4,000 pesos was due in 1863 and 3,800 pesos were to be paid yearly from 1864 to 1868.80 By 1866, Rojas was the largest coffee producer in Lares although it is evident that he was heavily in debt. Not only was his farm mortgaged to Amell, Julia y Compañía, but Francisco Ferret y Hermano, a Catalán merchant and the largest creditor in Lares, held a second mortgage on the property.81 Despite these substantial debts, Rojas needed still more capital to operate his farm. In May 1868 he acquired a third mortgage in order to finance the year’s harvest from Vivó, Méndez y Compañía, which agreed to advance 3,951.65 pesos through January 1869 so that the coffee could be gathered. Rojas already owed the firm 1,551,65 pesos and the entire sum would fall due after the 1868-1869 harvest. Interest of twelve percent yearly was levied on the debt.82 Despite his position as the largest coffee planter in Lares, Rojas was overextended financially, unable to generate enough surplus capital to finance his farm, and deeply indebted to merchants, all of them conspicuously Spaniards.

The principal leaders of the Grito appear to have been heavily in debt to the Spanish merchants of the town. In addition to their agrarian interests, many operated pulperías from their farms, adding another dimension to their conflicts with the larger merchants. First, they were indebted as planters, relying on the merchants for working capital as well as warehousing and marketing services. Second, the larger merchants supplied the capital and merchandise that kept the smaller pulperías operating. Andrés Pol, a general de división during the uprising, owned numerous pulperías throughout Lares as well as a large coffee farm.83 But like Rojas, he was not solvent. In June 1867, Pol owed the Mallorcan merchants, Juan Alcóver y Cía., 6,036.60 pesos past due from February 1866. Alcóver allowed him to set up a new repayment schedule that would begin in January 1868 at 600 pesos yearly.84

Conflicts between merchants and planters, peninsulares and criollos also involved a generational dimension. There is evidence that the older criollo agrarian elite which migrated to Lares in the 1830s and 1840s was heavily in debt by the 1860s. In 1864 Toribio de Santiago, the largest Lares landowner in the 1830s and 1840s, was forced to cede the title to his 800-cuerda farm in Barrio Río Prieto to Juan Alcóver y Cía. after he had become indebted to the company for 9,037.77 pesos. A provision of the transfer giving Santiago the option to buy back the land if the debt were paid was never exercised and the land was lost. It had been purchased in 1832.85

Despite the persistence of conflicts between criollo landowners and the landless population, the jornaleros ultimately held the merchant class responsible for the libretas which they perceived to be the source of their domination by landed society. However, certain mitigating factors did in fact reduce the enmity between planters and free laborers. Members of the agrarian elite resided on their farms rather than in the town. And although the coffee haciendas were commercial enterprises, traditional patriarchal elements in the relations between agricultor and peón survived. Resident criollo landowners of the municipality did not travel to Europe each year after the harvest, as was the custom with the merchants, nor did they live in a closed society interacting exclusively among themselves. Planters and laborers had formal and informal daily contacts at all times during the year, giving them an affinity, even if superficial at best, that did not exist between the Spanish merchant class and the landless population. The leaders of the insurrection were able to exploit this situation. Peninsulares rather than criollos promulgated the hated jornalero law of 1849 and the criollo elite absolved itself of responsibility.

The expansion of the coffee economy and the willingness of the agrarian interests to speculate in the coffee market both contributed to a rise in the general level of debt in the 1860s, further exacerbating tensions between merchants and planters. The account books of Márquez y Compañía indicate that the amount of credit extended between 1864 and 1868 increased almost eighty percent, from 70,700 to 126,572 pesos. Márquez classified his debts as malas, dudosas, and buenas. In 1865, only 1,464 pesos were considered malas and dudosas, but by 1868, this had grown to 8,361 pesos.86

The major conflict precipitating the rebellion was between the two sectors of the Lares elite. Productores criollos depended wholly on comerciantes españoles for finance capital and for the basic services needed to market coffee. The growing indebtedness of the agrarian elite paralleled the Spanish merchant class’ continuing accumulation of capital and domination over the local economy. Because the relative material conditions for most of the Lareño population deteriorated during the 1850s and 1860s, the leaders of the insurrection were able to exploit the general discontent resulting from the downward pressures on landowners and landless alike. Antagonisms toward the Spanish merchant community emanated from concrete experiences with individuals who were well-known to all sectors of local society. The Spanish merchant class was not a mere symbol of local oppression. Moreover, its conspicuous wealth contrasted with the impoverishment of the landless and the indebtedness of the landowners. When they entered the town, the revolutionaries arrested every Spanish merchant they could find and burned the account books recording the debts of the landowners. The libretas of the jornaleros were collected and put to the torch in a public ceremony.87 These dual symbols of Spanish oppression, libros de contabilidad and libretas de jornaleros, constituted a far more powerful influence over the revolutionaries seizing Lares than anticolonial ideology or notions of political democracy. They graphically reflected the exploitation that had become a part of daily life for a broad cross section of Lares society.


In the 1860s, vertical organization in distinct social groupings characterized Lareño society. Increasing pressures on the lower levels of society paralleled the growth of commercial agriculture. Smallholders and minifundia proliferated at the expense of one another, continually subdividing their resources. When demands on labor began to increase in the early 1850s, the landless population underwent more organized and systematic methods of exploitation. The growth of debt peonage was one manifestation. The expansion of the jornalero population at the expense of the other categories was another. In 1850 the ratio of laborers with usufruct rights (agregados, arrendatarios, and parceros) to jornaleros was 5:2. By 1870 this had shifted radically to 1:2.88 In two decades the greater portion of the Lareño laboring population had been deprived of land rights while being subjected to the repressive mechanisms for labor control instituted by the 1849 jornalero law.

Middle sectors also experienced downward mobility. Between 1854 and 1867, medium-sized farms remained near 18.5 percent of total landholdings. But their control of total acreage declined from 31.6 to 26.3 percent. The landed elite, owners of over 200 cuerdas, increased its control of Lares farmland from 42.9 to 55.2 percent of the total. The concentration-fragmentation of land developed at roughly the same pace as market mechanisms spread through the municipality.89

Immigrant merchants represented the dominant social class in Lares by 1868. Their control over capital resources and marketing facilities made the largest commercial farmers dependent on them for basic services. This was the root of the principal conflict in Lares in the 1860s. The expanding coffee economy stimulated speculative farmers to contract ever growing debts in order to finance improvements on their farms to increase production. Although the economy grew, the benefits of economic growth were not equitably distributed among the elite. The merchant class extracted the greater portion of surplus capital from the coffee trade through the mechanisms of the market place—interest, mortgages, debts, and profit margins. Somehow the planters were never able to bridge the gap separating solvency from debt during the same period when Spanish merchants were accumulating wealth, retiring to the Peninsula, and regenerating their ranks through continual migration.

Yet despite the vertical organization of society, the revolution launched in Lares united all of the non-Spanish social classes in the municipality. This vertical alliance was led by the large landowners and pulperos represented by men like Manual Rojas, Andrés Pol, Joaquín Parilla, and the Plumey brothers, Gavino and Leopoldo. These leaders organized a military force of over 1,000 men, an impressive figure since the total population of Lares in 1868 numbered about 15,000.90

The revolutionaries had one goal: removal of Spaniards from local and insular positions of power. The leadership reduced the antagonisms in the municipality to one fundamental conflict revolving around nationality. Patriots struggled against colonialists; criollos against peninsulares. These concepts were logical and comprehensible to the local population regardless of social class. The structure of political and economic domination in Lares was not diffused or cushioned by an organized bureaucracy representing the interests of the elite since there was virtually no institutionalization of local power. Authority and wealth were vested in individuals who were conspicuously visible to all members of the community. Everyone in the municipality knew the Márquez brothers, Caloca, or Ferret, the leading merchants. Well-known people rather than impersonal institutions wielded local power. For these reasons, the leaders of the insurrection succeeded in building a cross-class alliance in the national struggle against the Spanish merchants of Lares, despite the class conflicts existing at other levels of the social order. For all Lareños, the “Español” or “Mallorquín” did not represent abstract concepts of Spanish colonialism, but real local symbols of oppression. Spaniards were responsible for the enactment and enforcement of the hated jornalero law. Spanish merchants held mortgages and obligaciones on almost all strata of landed society from minifundistas to large coffee planters. After each harvest the coffee farmers of Lares settled accounts, renegotiated mortgages or overdue debts, and saw the coffee they planted and harvested become the source of extraordinary wealth to the Spanish merchants of the town.

The merchant class was a closed society regenerating its ranks through immigration rather than assimilation with the local population. From the early 1840s, criollo society watched as Catalanes and Mallorquines trickled into Lares, became local men of wealth, returned to Europe, and were replaced by younger men of the same mold. The revolutionary leadership had little difficulty portraying these men and the government they represented as outsiders, social types separated from Puerto Rican culture and society.

Yet if these outsiders controlled the local economy in 1868, they had also done so during the 1850s. Then, however, coffee monoculture was in its initial phase of expansion. By the late 1860s, the tensions and pressures resulting from the growth of commercial agriculture were sufficiently developed to make the area suitable for agitation by anticolonialist revolutionaries from urban areas of the coast. Increased coercion of the landless population, downward pressures on the medium and small farmers of the municipality, perpetual debt on the part of the coffee planters, and the very visible affluence of the local Spanish merchants made Lares receptive to revolutionary forces active throughout the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. The influence of ideology and political forces beyond the municipality on the leaders of the revolution has been documented.91 Nonetheless local conditions above all determined the revolutionary disposition of the Lares population. The revolution’s principal causes were local, not national in scope. The men who marched from Manuel Rojas’ farm in Barrio Pezuela knew exactly why they wanted to rid the island of Spanish colonialism. To them, “Viva Puerto Rico libre” meant depriving Spanish merchants of the control over the coffee export economy in Puerto Rico’s cordillera central.


See Lidio Cruz Monclova, Historia de Puerto Rico, siglo XIX, Vol. I: 1808-1868 (Río Piedras, 1970), pp. 439-465; José Pérez Moris, Historia de la insurrección de Lares (1872; reprint ed., Río Piedras, 1975); Manuel Maldonado-Denis, Puerto Rico: Una interpretación histórico-social (México, 1969), pp. 27-49; and Olga Jiménez de Wagenheim, “Prelude to Lares: The Events Leading to Puerto Rico’s Grito de Lares,” Caribbean Review 8 (Jan.-Mar. 1979), 39-43. All of the statistical material in this article has been based on computer analysis of various data bases created by the author using manuscript sources at Puerto Rican archives listed in the footnotes. This study has neglected the role of ideology and the importance of political factors beyond the municipality because they have been sufficiently discussed by the above authors and others.


See, for example, the article by Eugenio Fernandez Méndez, “El significado histórico del Grito de Lares,” Revista del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 40 (July-Sept. 1968), 2-8. Coffee is not mentioned once. This is typical of most works on the insurrection.


See Juana Gil-Bermejo, Panorama histórico de la agricultura en Puerto Rico (Seville, 1970), pp. 129-140. For a inore provocative view, see Sidney Mintz, “Labor and Sugar in Puerto Rico and in Jamaica, 1800-1850,” Comparative Studies in Society and History (Mar. 1959), 273-281.


Some colonization to the interior was due to developing markets for food on the coast. In 1833 George Flinter found that road building to the north of Ponce was undertaken specifically to exploit food-producing zones. George Flinter, An Account of the Present State of the Island of Puerto Rico (London, 1834), pp. 30-31.


See G. E. Morales Muñoz, Fundación del pueblo de Lares (San Juan, 1946).


Lares. Año de 1836. Lista nominal de los vecinos blancos propietarios de este pueblo … , Archivo General de Puerto Rico (hereafter cited as AGPR), San Juan, Records of the Spanish Governors of Puerto Rico (hereafter cited as RSGPR), Censo y Riqueza 1836-1839, box 14. In that year seven men were listed as comerciantes. Three were Catalanes, one was from Mallorca, one was French, and two were criollos. Fernando Picó has found the same process taking place in Utuado to the east of Lares. See Picó, Libertad y servidumbre en el Puerto Rico del siglo XIX: Los jornaleros utuadeños en vísperas del auge del café (Río Piedras, 1979), pp. 33-34.


Coffee was usually required to pay debts. For example, in 1842 the Catalán merchant house, Amell, Sarda, y Coll of Aguadilla lent the Lares militia captain, Ramón Cueto, 2,077 pesos for the development of his recently established coffee farm. The entire debt was to be paid during the coffee harvests of 1842 and 1843. AGPR-Fondo de Protocolos Notariales (hereafter cited as FPN), Otros Funcionarios, caja 1430, Lares, 1842, fols. 4-9.


Lares. Año de 1836. Lista nominal de los vecinos blancos propietarios de este pueblo … , AGPR-RSGPR, Censo y Riqueza 1836-1839, box 14.


AGPR-FPN, Otros Funcionarios, caja 1430, Lares, 1843, fols. 42-43.


AGPR-FPN, Otros Funcionarios, caja 1430, Lares, 1841, fols. 30-32, 1842, fols. 4-9, 1845, fols. 13-14.


Pueblo de Lares … riqueza comercial, 1848, AGPR, Diputación Provincial, Lares, caja 1.


This will be discussed in more detail in the sections on land and labor below.


Libro inventario perteneciente a la casa mercantil Márquez y Cía., AGPR, Libros de Contabilidad de Márquez y Compañía (hereafter cited as LCMC), Años 1864-1871. In 1864, 1865, and 1866, cotton was a major commodity traded by this company. By 1870 there was hardly any trade in cotton.


See, for example, AGPR-FPN, Genaro López, caja 1457, San Sebastián, 1855, fols. 126-127. Here Pedro González acknowledged a debt of 143 pesos to Francisco Ayala. He and his family agreed to pay this off by picking forty fanegas of coffee weekly during the harvest. Also see AGPR-FPN, Otros Funcionarios, caja 1431, Lares, 1850, fol. 110, where Manuel Román rented Ramón Méndez six cuerdas of his farm in Barrio Espino with the stipulation “solo si que en la cosecha de café le ayude a cojer café.” In the LCMC 1864-1871, almost every debt, regardless of size, was payable in coffee.


See, for example, AGPR, Libro inventario no. 6 de la Casa Mercantil Ferrer y Cía. 1856-1858, p. 61.


Information on interest rates is abundant in the account books located at the AGPR (see, for example, LCMC).


A fanega is a measurement of volume in Puerto Rico that approximates one quintal or 100 pounds. See Libros de Contabilidad de la Casa F. Pintueles (hereafter cited as LCCFP), Ciales, Puerto Rico, Diario 1867-1875, transactions of August through October 1867, August 1868. Also see AGPR-LCMC 1867-1868, Diario no. 4, pp. 4-5.


LCCFP, Diario 1867-1875, transactions of Oct. 1, 1867.


See, for example, AGPR-FPN, Genaro López, caja 1459, San Sebastián, 1857, Ventas de Terreno con Retro. These “retro” clauses stated that the land could be sold back at the selling price before an agreed date.


See AGPR-FPN, Genaro López, caja 1459, San Sebastián, 1857, fol. 263. On May 26, 1857, María Lucía López transferred 16.5 cuerdas in Barrio Buenos Aires to Cristóbal Ferrer, a Catalán merchant, for 200 pesos in cash, due in January 1858. It was not paid and Ferrer extended the deadline to January 1861. By February 1863, this debt still had not been paid in full but López kept her land. There is no indication of the final outcome of this case.


See AGPR-FPN, Genaro López, caja 1469, San Sebastián, 1865, fols. 502-507. Here Márquez y Cía. acquired thirty cuerdas in Barrio Pezuela from Manuel Vega, but rented it immediately to José Coll.


AGPR, Obras Públicas, Caminos Vecinales, caja 1422, leg. 39, exp. 532.


In 1855 Márquez y Compañía was incorporated by Francisco, Baltazar, Antonio, and Juan Márquez as general partners. Each placed 300 pesos in the corporation. They immediately leased six cuerdas in Barrio Río Prieto for twelve years to open a branch of the business. See AGPR-FPN, Genaro López, caja 1457, San Sebastián, 1855, fol. 329.


See Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1864 a 65. Padrón de riqueza comercial … , AGPR, Fondo Municipal de Lares (hereafter cited as FML), caja 24 provisional. Also see Testamento de Juan Alcóver, AGPR-FPN, Genaro López, caja 1468, San Sebastián, 1864, fol. 623.


See AGPR-LCMC, Libro inventario 1864-1871. There is a listing of all the partners in the business at the end of each year.


The notarial archives of Mallorca could provide an interesting complement to information contained in Puerto Rican collections. The careers of most of the migrants upon their return to Mallorca remain largely unknown. Some indication is given by the case of Damián Morell, a general partner of Márquez y Compañía from the mid-1860s until his death in 1900. In the 1890s he founded a bank in Mallorca. AGPR-FPN, Salvador Picornell, caja 1412, Lares, 1900, fol. 779.


In 1820, for example, there were 10,000 cuerdas of tierras realengas in Utuado and 4,800 in Adjuntas, two municipalities bordering Lares. AGPR-RSGPR, Political and Civil Affairs, Censo y Riqueza 1801-1820, box 13, entry 9.


Censo de almas y estadística 1846, AGPR-FML, caja 42 provisional. The towns are Añasco, Aguada, Hatillo, Isabela, Mayagüez, Moca, San Sebastián, Quebradillas, and Rincón.


AGPR, Obras Públicas, Propiedad Pública, caja 96, Lares.


See AGPR-FPN, Otros Funcionarios, caja 1429, 1838, fols. 3, 32-33 for examples of land grants sold for profits by speculators.


See, for example, AGPR, Sala de Referenda, Lares, Libro de Actas del Ayuntamiento 1838-1840, June 26, 1839 and Oct. 7, 1839. In these sessions the ayuntamiento recognized the difficulty of establishing legal titles over land occupied by hundreds of families.


See AGPR-FPN, Otros Funcionarios, caja 1430, Lares, fols. 13-14.


Recaudación del subsidio, gastos públicos y dros. de tierra … 1836, AGPR-FML, caja 39 provisional. Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1848. Padrón de terrenos … , AGPR-FML, caja 22 provisional.


AGPR-FPN, Lares, Ventas de Terreno, 1835-1842, 1845-1847, 1849.


Recaudación del subsidio, gastos públicos y dros. de tierra … 1836, AGPR-FML, caja 39 provisional. Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1848. Padrón de terrenos … , AGPR-FML, caja 22 provisional.


Planillas de riqueza agrícola 1839, AGPR-FML, caja 25 provisional. Censo de almas y estadística, 1846, caja 42 provisional. For more on the low ratio of cultivated to total acreage, see Planillas de riqueza agrícola, 1849, AGPR-FML, caja 47 provisional.


Censo de almas y estadística 1846, AGPR-FML, caja 42 provisional.




Jorge F. Saldaña, El café en Puerto Rico (San Juan, 1935), p. 6.


1,961 cuerdas were devoted to frutos menores, 852 to coffee, and 679 to plátanos. Censo de almas y estadística, 1846, AGPR-FML, caja 42 provisional.


For a short discussion of this crisis, see Dario de Ormaechea, “Memoria acerca de la agricultura, del comercio y las rentas internas de la isla de Puerto Rico” in Cayetano Coll y Toste, Boletín Histórico de Puerto Rico (San Juan, 1913-1927), II, 226-264.


See Labor Gómez Acevedo, Organización y reglamentación del trabajo en el Puerto Rico del siglo XIX: Propietarios y jornaleros (Rio Piedras, 1970), and Sidney Mintz, “The Role of Forced Labour in Nineteenth Century Puerto Rico,” Caribbean Historical Review, 2 (1951). The best local level study on the development of the jornalero class is Picó, Libertad y servidumbre.


The law was particularly absurd since almost all the jornaleros and most hacendados were illiterate. In 1870, 93.5 percent of the total Lares population was considered illiterate. Censo de población 1870, AGPR-FML, caja 18 provisional.


Between 1845 and 1849 there were 65 land transactions in Lares. In 1851 alone there were 88. And in 1851, 1852, 1853, and 1855, 273 land sales were recorded. AGPR-FPN, Lares, San Sebastián, 1845-1855, Ventas de Terreno.


AGPR-FPN, Lares, 1849 and 1955, Ventas de Terreno.


Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1848. Padrón de terrenos … , AGPR-FML, caja 22 provisional. Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1851. Reparto del derecho de tierra … , AGPR-FML, caja 22 provisional.


Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1851. Reparto del derecho de tierra … , AGPR-FML, caja 22 provisional. Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1854. Derechos de tierra … , AGPR-FML, caja 22 provisional.


Censo de almas y estadística, 1846, AGPR-FML, caja 42 provisional. Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1855. Relación de los frutos menores …, AGPR-FML, caja 39 provisional. Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1855. Relación por barrios del número de cuerdas cultivadas de frutos menores …, AGPR-FML, caja 39 provisional.


Coffee prices rose from six pesos/quintal in the mid 1850s to between ten and twelve pesos/quintal in the mid-1860s. Planillas de riqueza agrícola, 1853, AGPR-FML, caja 25 provisional. Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1855. Relación de los frutos menores …, AGPR-FML, caja 39 provisional. Planillas de riqueza agrícola, 1868, AGPR-FML, caja 36 provisional.


Pueblo de Lares. Reparto del subsidio … 1849, AGPR, Diputación Provincial, Lares, caja 1. Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1864 a 65. Padrón de la riqueza comercial … , AGPR-FML, caja 24 provisional.


See the section on labor systems below.


For factors influencing coffee yields in Puerto Rico, see R. C. Roberts, Soil Survey of Puerto Rico (Washington, D.C., 1942), p. 96.


This was the same period that coffee acreage grew from 852 to 2,203 cuerdas. Population increased from c. 5,500 in 1846 to 15,074 in 1868. Censo de almas y estadística, 1846, AGPR-FML, caja 42 provisional. Pueblo de Lares. Censo de población … 1868, AGPR-FML, caja 39 provisional.


Relación de los vecinos … que han cosechado … julio de 66 hasta junio de 67, AGPR-FML, caja 49 provisional.


Rojas reported production of 300 quintales, Pol, 150 quintales in that year. Relación de los vecinos … que han cosechado … julio de 66 hasta junio de 67, AGPR-FML, caja 49 provisional.


Padrón de terrenos … 1866-67, AGPR-FML, caja 24 provisional.


AGPR-FPN, Lares, 1853-1868, Ventas de Terreno.


Año de 1840. Reparto del subsidio .… , AGPR-FML, caja 39 provisional. Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1866-67. Padrón general de fincas rurales, AGPR-FML, caja 24 provisional.


Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1848. Padrón de terrenos …, AGPR-FML, caja 22 provisional. Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1866-67. Padrón general de fincas rurales, AGPR-FML, caja 24 provisional.


Prominent immigrants included Manuel Rojas (Venezuela), Buenaventura and José Delgado (Canary Islands), Lorenzo Ferri (Corsica), and Juan Alcóver (Mallorca). Padrón de terreno … 1866-67, AGPR-FML, caja 24 provisional.


For merchants in 1848 see Pueblo de Lares. Reparto del subsidio … 1849, AGPR, Diputación Provincial, Lares, caja 1. For landowners in 1848 see Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1848. Padrón de tierra … , AGPR-FML, caja 22 provisional. For merchants in the 1860s see Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1864 a 65. Padrón de riqueza comercial … , AGPR-FML, caja 24 provisional. For landowners see Padrón de terreno … 1866-67, AGPR-FML, caja 24 provisional.


Censo de almas y estadística, 1846, AGPR-FML, caja 42 provisional. There are no data of this type on agregados after 1846.


See Pueblo de Lares, 1850. Documentos concernientes … jornaleros, arrendatarios, propietarios … agregados, AGPR-FML, caja 49 provisional.


Pueblo de Lares, 1850. Documentos concernientes … jornaleros, arrendatarios, propietarios … agregados, AGPR-FML, caja 49 provisional.


76.8 percent of the total rental contracts signed in 1850 required cash. AGPR-FPN, Otros Funcionarios, caja 1431, Lares, 1850, Arrendamientos.


This was equally true in the 1850s and 1860s. See AGPR-FPN, Genaro López, caja 1457, San Sebastián, 1855, fols. 126-127, and Juicios Verbales, 1866, AGPR-FML, caja 4 provisional.


AGPR-FPN, Genaro López, caja 1457, San Sebastián, 1855, fols. 251-252.


The Junta clasificadora de vagos y amancebados was constantly finding people who were denounced as vagos but had left the municipality for parts unknown. Actas de la junta clasificadora de vagos y amancebados, 1850-1868, AGPR-FML, caja 4 provisional.


AGPR-FPN, Otros Funcionarios, caja 1431, Lares, 1850, fols. 52-53.


AGPR-FPN, Otros Funcionarios, caja 1431, Lares, 1850, fols. 39-44.


Padrón general de jornaleros, 1865, AGPR-FML, caja 39 provisional.


Pueblo de Lares. 2° trimestre de 1866. Alta y baja de jornaleros. Oct. 23, 1865, José Ds. López, AGPR-FML, caja 23 provisional.


Juicios Verbales, Feb. 19, 1866. José del Río contra Rosa Vega, AGPR-FML, caja 4 provisional.


See, for example, AGPR-FPN, Evaristo Vélez, caja 1425, Lares, 1867, fol. 58.


Censo de Población 1870, AGPR-FML, caja 39 provisional.


Cruz Monclova, Historia de Puerto Rico, 1, 454.


Pueblo de Lares 1864 a 65. Padrón de riqueza comercial …, AGPR-FML, caja 24 provisional.


AGPR-FPN, Genaro López, caja 1466, San Sebastián, 1862, fol. 441.


AGPR-FPN, Genaro López, caja 1459, San Sebastián, 1857, fol. 365.


AGPR-FPN, Genaro López, caja 1466, San Sebastián, 1862, fol. 441.


AGPR-FPN, Evaristo Vélez, caja 1426, Lares, 1868, fol. 329.


AGPR-FPN, Evaristo Vélez, caja 1426, Lares, 1868, fol. 329.


Pueblo de Lares 1864 a 65. Padrón de riqueza comercial … , AGPR-FML, caja 24 provisional.


AGPR-FPN, Evaristo Vélez, caja 1425, Lares, 1867, fol. 231.


AGPR-FPN, Genaro López, caja 1469, San Sebastián, 1865, fol. 351; caja 1426, Evaristo Vélez, fols. 201, 324. There are many examples of this type in the Lares protocols. In early 1868 Francisco Ramírez, the president of the short-lived Republic of Puerto Rico, was given the legal responsibility of paying the debts of Ramona Vélez, the widow of Concepción María López, a prominent merchant and landowner in the 1840s. On his death, López was in debt to Márquez y Compañía for 6,595.35, which was paid by ceding 302 cuerdas of land in Lares and Adjuntas. There was also a debt to Amell, Julia y Cía. of 9,400 pesos. A 183-cuerda farm in Barrio Bartolo was ceded to pay this debt. See AGPR-FPN, Evaristo Vélez, caja 1426, Lares, 1868, fols. 232, 355.


AGPR-LCMC, Libro inventario perteneciente a la casa mercantil Márquez y Cía., 1864-1871. The hurricane of October 1867, San Narciso, may have contributed to the rise in the level of debt at the local level since the coffee harvest of 1867-1868 was affected by the storm. However, most of the intense damage caused by San Narciso was concentrated around the Cayey area and in the eastern sector of the island. The western highland region seems to have experienced some damage but not to the extent of San Ciríaco in 1899. See Luis A. Salvia, Historia de los temporales de Puerto Rico, 1492 a 1970 (San Juan, 1972), pp. 190-195. Cruz Monclova, Historia, I, 447, believes increased tax assignments to the municipality to have been a cause of the rebellion. However, a careful examination of the Lares tax records indicates only a slight rise in tax assignments from 1863 to 1868. In 1863 the municipality was responsible for 4,464 pesos in total taxes; in 1868 this had risen only 15.2% to 5,140. Moreover, the tax assessments to the leaders of the insurrection did not rise notably. For example, in 1865 Manuel Rojas was required to pay 62.50 pesos for the subsidio. In 1868 this had risen to 77.46 pesos, hardly a strain on the largest coffee producer in Lares. See Padrón de las riquezas y reparto de subsidio … 1863; Reparto de contribuciones … 1864 a 1865; Reparto de contribuciones provinciales y municipales … 1865 al 66; Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1866/1867. Reparto subsidiario para el año espresado; Año de 1867 a 1868. Reparto de la contribución subsidiaría … ; all in AGPR-FML, caja 24 provisional.


Pérez Moris, La insurrección, pp. 144-149.


See Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1850. Estado formado con arreglo a la circular del superior gobierno no. 99 de 2 septiembre corriente, AGPR-FML, caja 49 provisional. In 1850, there were 508 arrendatarios and 216 jornaleros. In 1870 there were only 56 arrendatarios, 967 peones, and 2,120 jornaleros. Censo de población 1870, AGPR-FML, caja 18 provisional.


Medium-sized farms averaged between 51 and 200 cuerdas. Pueblo de Lares. Año de 1854. Derechos de tierra … , AGPR-FML, caja 22 provisional. Padrón de terreno … 1866-67, AGPR-FML, caja 24 provisional.


Pérez Moris, La insurrección, p. 144.


Rojas was a personal friend of Betances who had connections with the Cuban revolutionary movement and liberal Spaniards on the peninsula. See Luis Hernández Aquino, “Figuras del centenario: Manuel Rojas, un precursor inolvidable de la independencia Puertorriqueña” in Revista del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 40 (July-Sept. 1868), 61. Among the slogans chanted in Lares after the alcaldía was seized was “Viva Betances.” See Cruz Monclova, Historia de Puerto Rico, I, 455.

Author notes


The author recently received his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. He would like to thank the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies for providing a research fellowship to support this study.