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Slave Families and the Hato Economy in Puerto Rico$
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David M. Stark

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813060439

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813060439.001.0001

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An Overview of the Hato Economy

An Overview of the Hato Economy

(p.18) 1 An Overview of the Hato Economy
Slave Families and the Hato Economy in Puerto Rico

David M. Stark

University Press of Florida

This chapter examines the rise and fall of the hato economy in Puerto Rico, with particular emphasis on the eighteenth century as the height of the Spanish Caribbean hato economy and the island as one of its key producers. While legal trade between Puerto Rico and Spain was practically nonexistent throughout much of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, an illegal trade thrived at this time. Puerto Rico’s agricultural economy was characterized by the exchange of livestock combined with foodstuffs or dyewoods and timber with adjacent islands of the non-Hispanic Caribbean as well as tobacco with Dutch traders operating out of Saint Eustatius and Curaçâo. Participation in the hato economy permitted a number of individuals to partake in the export economy through small-scale commerce. Hato owners often reinvested what they earned in workers, land, and equipment allowing them to partake in the commercial production of tobacco, coffee, and most importantly sugar. Though we often overlook the importance of the hato economy, it provided the foundation upon which the plantation agricultural model in the nineteenth century was constructed.

Keywords:   hato economy, Spanish Caribbean, plantation

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