March 22, 2011

Abolition Day – Puerto Rico
a.k.a. Emancipation Day

Although free men from Africa accompanied the Spanish Conquistadors when they invaded the island of Puerto Rico, the Spanish soon started bringing over slaves from Africa. The ugly reason was that the Spanish mining and fort-building operations depended on slave labor, and all the native islanders, the Tainos, died.

Eventually the gold mines of Puerto Rico were depleted, and the island became a garrison for naval ships. Slavery continued. As early as 1789, a Spanish decree allowed slaves to buy their freedom—but this decree didn't help most slaves. Over the years and decades, there were many slave revolts, and an abolition movement grew among free Puerto Ricans. Many slaves joined in the short-lived rebellion against Spanish rule in 1868. Finally, fear of more slave rebellions leading to more uprisings against the Spanish crown, added to the very good case made by abolitionists—and slavery was abolished on this day in 1873.

(Puerto Rico became independent of Spain in 1898, as a result of the Spanish-American War. The island became a protectorate of the United States—and it remains one today!)

Abolition Park in Puerto Rico
It's cool that the anniversary of the emancipation of the slaves is a holiday in Puerto Rico! Apparently people enjoy music, dancing, and special foods on this day. Some people honor famous black Puerto Ricans or teach about the history of slavery, abolition, and black people in Puerto Rico.

Explore some more...

Learn about Dr. Jose Celso Barbosa, a medical doctor and political leader, here.  This black Puerto Rican worked to make all Puerto Ricans citizens of the U.S.

Learn about Sylvia del Villard, an actress, dancer, choreographer, and Afro-Puerto Rican activitist, here

Enjoy a photographic tour of Puerto Rico here

Learn about the Puerto Rican coqui, a tiny frog, here

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